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Patriots Replay Thu May 28 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Moving on -- Part I

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Hi, I guess a lot of Patriots fans might still be sore of what happened this season but let's get over it. I'd like to look forward. I hope you don't mind that I have a lot of questions. 1) I'm curious about Brian Hoyer's potential as the eventual successor to Brady, does BB regard Hoyer as such? 2) I'm also excited about the defense, I believe a current defensive player would reveal himself as the heart of the defense. If you guys agree, who would you say it would be? I believe it's James Sanders. 3) I have already accepted that Matt Light, Ben Watson and Logan Mankins would be going to other teams. Vince Wilfork is just too important for the defense so I'm hoping he stays. And with Welker out for half next season we need a running game. Assuming all that is true, I'm going for this priority list this off-season: 1- Offensive Line, 2-Pass Rushers, 3- Running Back, 4- Wide Receiver. What do you guys say? As always keep up the good work and thank you!
David Liongson

There's a lot here, David, but that's appropriate since I think the Patriots have a lot to consider/deal with this offseason. So let's get to it!
1--I don't know for sure how Belichick sees Hoyer, but I'm not sold in any way that he's the QB-in-waiting. He looked OK in some of his limited game action, buy that's a huge projection to make. Plus, I thought he lacked the leadership and arm strength in a lot of his practice reps last August. The former can be learned, the latter can't. I'm still not sure he has the throwing ability to be an NFL starter. But he's already taken steps to building a career as a backup. Time will tell.
2--I love Sanders more than anyone else on the planet other than maybe his own family. But if this team is going to go where it needs to on defense then I think Jerod Mayo has to become the heart of the unit – both as a playmaker and a leader. He's the centerpiece and a top-10 pick. Hopefully he was slowed by his knee injury this season and makes a huge jump in Year 3 to become the player everyone seems to think he can be.
3--First, I don't necessarily agree with all your assertions. I don't think Mankins is going anywhere, certainly not as a restricted free agent this year. I'm also hoping that Wilfork stays, but I wouldn't overpay to keep him. Use the franchise tag and try to get him signed long-term to a manageable deal under the new CBA when it comes. Regardless of those details, I think pass rusher is the team's No. 1 need. I'd follow that with wide receiver. If Welker is missing early next year, which is what I expect, then I think you need to add at least two guys this year with a legitimate chance to contribute (either in trade, free agency or the draft) to the passing game. After those two needs, then I'd fall in line with your list of offensive line, running back and depth across the board on defense.
Andy Hart

This question is pretty unrelated to the happenings around Foxboro but I was curious as to what you guys think on this. The two teams most hated by Patriots Nation are playing in the AFC championship; who are you guys rooting for?
Sam Frankel

As always, Sam, I assume you want me to be Frankel with you. I'll be rooting for the Colts on Sunday. I've never hated them; I actually respect the things that both Peyton Manning and Bill Polian have accomplished as professionals. Plus, it really bothered me that Rex Ryan thought his team was eliminated from the playoffs in December but now is on the verge of going to a Super Bowl. If you don't know enough to know you're still in postseason contention, then you don't deserve postseason success. Hopefully that comes to an end Sunday in Indy. And if you want to take a twisted view on the game, wouldn't it be great if the Colts win the Super Bowl and have to live with the possibility that only they cost themselves a chance at the NFL's first 19-0 season? That would eat at them forever.

(P.S. – Be sure to check back to Patriots.com on Friday as this could very well be our Debate Friday topic! You'll find out who Erik, Paul and Fred will be rooting for this coming weekend.)
Andy Hart

Everyone is saying we need another receiver. I was wondering whatever happened to the 3rd-round pick Brandon Tate? I know he was injured when drafted but he was supposed to be skilled and he got better and played in a game then we never heard of him since.Mark Smith

Tate saw action in two games (against Tampa Bay in London and against the Dolphins) as a rookie after coming off PUP. He never caught a pass, but did return four kickoffs for a 26.5-yard average. Unfortunately he went down with another knee injury, one that some have indicated could be another ligament tear. After closing his final college season with a severe knee injury and then suffering the same fate as a rookie in the NFL, I'm not sure how much you can count on Tate moving forward. He was a speed-based, athletic guy but two major knee injuries in less than a year have to cloud his future a bit. It will be interesting to see if he's healthy enough to open camp next summer.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, what changes/upgrades would you expect to see, both from and to the coaching staff. With coach Pees stepping away for whatever reasons and no named O-coordinator (that wasn't a shot at coach O'Brien) what names have been thrown around in the PFW circle of trust?Don Schobel

I wouldn't trust those of us in the PFW circle, but this is a topic we've discussed a bit in the last few days. Obviously the most common scenario in New England is all about promoting from within. That leads everyone to believe that either Matt Patricia or Pepper Johnson could be promoted to defensive coordinator. My money is on Patricia. But there is also a part of me – and this is pure speculation – that thinks we could see some more shakeup than that. Unsubstantiated rumors have linked Bill O'Brien as possibly landing as the playcaller at Syracuse with Doug Marrone, a guy he worked with at Georgia Tech. I hope this doesn't happen because I think the oft-criticized O'Brien is a bright offensive mind and would like to see him get more time with Tom Brady and Co. But I also wouldn't be surprised if Pees isn't the only guy who's not back in New England next season. The next few weeks should shed some light, if there is any, in that area.
Andy Hart

I was wondering your opinion on Randy Moss this season. His numbers for this year are not that bad, but it seemed he disappeared in a lot of games. I also heard reports Wes Welker could be ready for next season. Is this realistic? I just don't see how that's possible from an injury of that magnitude. Nobody puts more strain on his knees than Wes does running those routes. Does Brandon Tate have the talent to fill in or replace Moss or Welker, or even finally give us a legitimate 3rd receiver. Thanks, it might help me to decide whether to come off the ledge or not.Darrell Fitzsimmons

I need you to promise to come in off the ledge before I answer these questions honestly. Promise? OK. I thought Moss had a crazy year. His numbers were more than "not that bad," they were borderline great. But he did disappear for too many games, being completely shut down too often for my liking. Not sure if that was motivation, as was theorized at times, the signs of an aging star coming down the backstretch of his career or him dealing with injury (maybe the back issue that flared up early in the season) throughout the year. He clearly showed he can still be great at times, maybe just not quite as often. Heading into a contract year, I do think 2010 could/will likely be his last season in New England. As for Welker, I don't think there is much chance he's ready to open the season. You are right about the stress he puts on his knee with his lateral quickness and cuts. Plus, he went down late in the December. That's a quick turnaround to get surgery and be ready for September. And, more bad news, I think the same thing for Tate. He's hurt his knee in two straight falls. So when he'll return and at what level are questions that I'm not sure anyone can answer at this point. Heading into September I think you'll have to count on the aging Moss, the still-green Julian Edelman and whichever other players the team adds to the depth chart this offseason – guys who'll have to prove the ability to learn the system much more quickly than Joey Galloway did last fall. Boy, I'm sure glad I urged you in off the ledge before you read the rest of my answer!
Andy Hart

Well, it's time to ask the question that must be asked after watching the last Pats game. Has the time come to send Brady out west, to San Francisco or Oakland? I pick those two cities because Brady is from the west coast. The Pats no longer have the defense to cover for his mistakes, and right now he's worth two first rounders. He wont be in two seasons. I say trade him now. So PFW what do say?Martin Rodriguez

Is there anything I can really say to this suggestion, other than naughty responses that might get me both fired and lectured to by my mom? I mean, come on Martin! He may not have been up to his own high standards, but Brady compared more than favorably to other NFL quarterbacks this year. (Part of why His numbers were career-bests aside from his 2007 record-setting season. And "cover for his mistakes?" Despite have only two receivers who knew the offense to open the season, returning from a year off to a major knee injury and battling a slew of other injuries all fall, Brady threw just 13 interceptions. It's the seventh time in his eight full seasons as a starter that he's thrown between 12 and 14 picks. Sounds like he's about the same in terms of turnovers as he always was. He tends to throw them in bunches, as he did in the Wild Card Weekend debacle. But if I were the Patriots I'd be focused on getting Brady a contract extension to run beyond next season, not trying to trade him home. Not many teams in the NFL have stability at the QB spot. The Patriots have had that for nearly a decade. Why would you choose to end that for no reason? Why, Martin? Why? And by the way, if he's as bad as you seem to think he is, how the heck are you going to swindle a pair of first-round picks out of another team? Even Al Davis?
Andy Hart

Hello, Dear PFW Friends. Now that the postseason is upon us can you basically say which players you think will stay and who will go, plus also who you think will probably get a chance but shouldn't. Cheers.
Brad Roberts

PS. Love you guys, your reporting is top shelf, unbiased and at times probably what we as fans don't want to hear. Hard being a Pats fan in Australia as a 1:00pm game means a 5:00am kickoff here plus it's usually via the web. PFW (& Patriots Today) make it both enjoyable and accessible.

I really am shameless, and the P.S. got this guy posted. It's a pretty broad question, but I'll throw a few names out there. I'd be stunned at this point if Adalius Thomas is back. (Although the Patriots need to watch out, or he could be putting up eight sacks and a few big plays for the Jets next season. I'm just saying.) My guess is that Bodden will get some money on the open market in an uncapped year and could be gone. Watson is gone. The name I'm most intrigued by is Light. People seem to think he could get cut. But in an uncapped year, wouldn't you keep him around at least until the end of training camp? Then, if nothing changes and you don't want to keep him, you can cut him then. My guess is that he'll be here in 2010. I think Faulk and Maroney will be back, unless something dramatic changes with a high draft pick at running back. I think Neal will retire. Green is likely gone. Mankins, Gostkowski and Wilfork will be back under tenders/tags. As for guys who'll get a chance but probably shouldn't – that's a tough one. But as it stands today, and with my prediction about Light aside, it sounds like maybe Nick Kaczur could get his job back at right tackle if Sebastian Vollmer takes over on the left side. I don't think Kaczur is a starting-caliber player on a good offensive line. As Simon would say on American Idol, "Sorry!"
Andy Hart

How many draft picks do the Patriots have in this year's draft (2010) and how many in each round? Also, I find it very frustrating to see that every year BB and or the Patriots brain trust do not seem to value drafting and developing young wide receivers. I believe they should use at least two of there higher draft picks on receivers and (let them develop!!!) into quality NFL receivers. Look at New Orleans, Arizona and Green Bay, I'm jealous of their wideouts. No offense to Moss and Welker, luv them. What do you think?
Kevin Henderson

The Patriots currently have eight picks in April's draft, including four in the first two rounds. New England's own first-round pick is No. 22 overall. In addition to its own second rounder (53rd overall), the Patriots have second round picks from the Jaguars and Titans. Losing its third and fifth round picks trades, New England then has it's own pick in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. It also has an extra seventh rounder courtesy of the Eagles. This does not take into account any compensatory picks the team may be awarded for the losses of guys like Jabar Gaffney, Heath Evans, Lonie Paxton and others compared to the signings of Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Chris Baker and others.

As for the receivers, the Patriots have tried to develop talent at the position over the years with varying degrees of success. Deion Branch and David Givens developed so well that they ended up getting paid by other teams. Bethel Johnson and, maybe the worst example, Chad Jackson failed to develop so miserably that they were cut in New England. Had Jackson developed into what I thought he could be, and probably what the Patriots thought he could be, the outlook at the position would have looked very different over the last few seasons. But, alas, that never happened. By the way, the issue at receiver was depth. Moss and Welker measure up statistically to any tandem in the NFL. But it's what's beyond them on the depth chart that led to problems.
Andy Hart

Any chance the Pats go after Julius Peppers?Richard Cerullo

I was just wondering with the obvious need to improve the defense is there any way BB might try trading for Peppers this year? We know he doesn't want to stay in Carolina anymore. I know he didn't seem like the unbelievable playmaker this year he has been in the past he is a little older but still light years ahead of anything our beloved pats have on D. Or is his price just to high?Luke Golke

Let the Peppers talk for 2010 officially begin! While nothing ever came of the rumors last spring regarding the athletic pass rusher, why not make another run at it this time around? As with all moves this year, the uncertainty of the CBA and the labor situation will play a role here. Peppers was good but not elite this year. His 10.5 sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles certainly would have looked good in a Patriots uniform. He seemed to, as he's been accused of in the past, turned his motivational switch on and off at various times. His best stretch in the middle of the season came after teammate Jon Beason called him out on the radio. Peppers' franchise tag number will be $20-plus million this year. I've heard people say that could force the Panthers hand. Why? If they were able to swallow $16-plus million under the cap last season, why wouldn't they go for $20 million in an uncapped year? Are they really going to not use the tag and risk him just walking away? It's never great to pay a guy $20 million for one season, but it could be easier this year than any other. There have been some reports that he's happier now in Carolina than a year ago when he seemed to be trying to shoot his way out of town. Clearly the Patriots top need is an elite edge player, a guy like Peppers when he's at his best. Also, with the Patriots playing more four-man fronts last year using Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain at end, I think Peppers transition to the New England defense would be easier than a full-time jump to a true outside linebacker. If I were New England, I'd look into adding Peppers. Now, what the Panthers want to do with him will go a long ways toward whether there will ever be any fire to go with the smoke from this rumor over the last year. I'd love to see it happen, much more now than how I felt a year ago, but I certainly wouldn't count on it at this point.
Andy Hart

I have noticed, or should say an out-of-state friend of mine has noticed the different design of Tom Brady's helmet ... being higher in back. Could you possibly explain this to me so that I might pass this along? My friend is in very poor health so this would serve as a huge distraction if you could possibly find the time to do this. Many thanks ... you all are the best.Ruth France Litchfield

I think the reason for the difference in Brady's helmet is that he still uses the same helmet he's used for the bulk of his career. It's an older design from Riddell that looks different than the more modern one's the company puts out that many players use these days. I haven't asked him about it, but my guess is that it's strictly a comfort/preference thing for Brady and nothing more than that. Hope that helps!
Andy Hart

Hi guys. After a disappointing loss to end our season, I have a trade that I'd like to have your opinion on. How about Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas and 4th round draft pick, for Julius peppers? I don't think Thomas will do anything next year, and I don't like the way Warren has played lately. I don't think he's that good anymore. And we have 3 second rounders so I don't think a 4th round pick is of any use to us this year. And I think Banta-Cain, Mayo, Guyton and Peppers would be a good linebacking core. That of course stating we keep Wilfork. Also, I'd like to know if you think we might pick up guys like Fabian Washington, or get back Ellis Hobbs? I think if we re-sign Bodden and pick up Hobbs or Washington, in addition to Butler and Wilhite, I think we'd have a pretty good defense. So can we do any of that? And do you think we might? Thanks.
Rafi Hamzy

Sorry, but I don't think your trade makes any sense from a Panthers perspective. Why would they want a low pick, a linebacker who's not living up to his contract and Warren for an elite player? I know one man's garbage is another man's trash, but I think the Panthers are smarter than that. I agree that having Peppers join Mayo and Co. at linebacker would make for a much better group. I'd love to see it, but it's not going to happen with the trade you outlined. It's going to take more than that. At cornerback, I have no interest in Washington or Hobbs. Do we forget how much fans hated Hobbs when he was here? I don't think either of the guys you mentioned would upgrade our corner spot. I'd like to see Bodden back, but I don't think that's a slam dunk. Springs was better later in the year. I think Butler is going to be a very good player and playmaker. If I could add an elite corner to the group – like Asante Samuel – I would. But neither of the guys you mentioned are anywhere near that category.
Andy Hart

Gentlemen, I want to thank you for your evenhanded comments about the Patriots this year. I have been living in D C. for the last three years but grew up with the Patriots from the start in 1960. The playoff game with the Ravens was a complete disappointment, because I saw something I never witnessed in all the years I watched them as the team just seemed to quit. What are the chances that some former players who left for greener pastures and more money might return?
Wayne Weiner

Not sure exactly who you have in mind here. Samuel seems quite happy and successful with the Eagles. One guy who could be in the mix for an NFL homecoming is Deion Branch. Injuries have derailed his time in Seattle and a rising salary could earn him a pink slip. If that were to happen, I'd love to see him back in New England. I think Tom Brady would too. But beyond Branch most of the guys that left here are aging guys that I don't want back like Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Adam Vinatieri and others. They moved on. We've moved on, too. But I'd take Branch in a heartbeat to add depth and proven production at the wide receiver spot. He just won't get his old No. 83 back. That belongs to Welker now!
Andy Hart

We have a stable of running backs...I love Faulk in his role, Taylor showed some potential before he got hurt and Morris showed some brilliance. I've never liked Maroney and have never considered him a feature back...or a starter for that matter. Do you see the Pats being able to go from a stable to one or two backs either through draft or free agency? And if so, who?Nolan Michalski

Maroney is the guy that's kept the backfield a committee in recent years. He never developed into the feature back most thought he could be. Because of his inconsistency and injuries the team hasn't been able to count on him as the "the guy." Now, getting a new guy to fill that role isn't easy. That's how you end up with the type of committee we've had. One intriguing name is C.J. Spiller from Clemson. He's a speed burner, playmaker, new-age running back. He can make plays in many roles all over the field. But he's also going to be a very high draft pick. Other than that, I'm not sure there's a guy I'd target with any real passion. It might be at least one more year of committee action in the backfield. One other prospect to keep in eye on would be Buffalo's James Starks. He missed last season to injury and didn't play at the same level as Spiller, but has some pretty impressive talent and college production to his resume. With injury concerns he could present value based on his potential.
Andy Hart

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