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Ask PFW, Part I: Brady, Moss, and T.O.

In this week's mailbag, we kick things off with some of the biggest names in the NFL possibly coming to, staying with, and/or leaving the Patriots.

I have two questions for you guys. Tom Brady, of course, is the king of the Patriots and will continue to be for as long as he wants to, I hope. I have been reading the article about his not deserving or not going to get a huge deal because of his age. How do you guys feel about this situation? I think that Brady deserves his deal and should retire with us. My next question is about the backup quarterback situation. [Brian] Hoyer did a good job from what little I saw him play last year. I think we got a great deal getting him as an undrafted rookie free agent, but do you see him as being the future for the Patriots or do you see him still being second string and maybe drafting a quarterback early in the first or second round next year to learn from Brady? Thanks guys!
Jesse Muse

We've discussed Brady's situation at length on recent episodes of "PFW in Progress" and all feel that Brady will re-sign with the Patriots eventually. It's looking more like later rather than sooner, for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement and Brady's new role with the players union. Re-signing, however, doesn't guarantee that Brady will retire a Patriot, as Paul Perillo and I argued in the June 25 edition of Debate Friday.

I still think Brady's one of the best in the game, currently and all-time, and his competitive nature is evident when he's on the field. That said, the reality is, he's getting older and there will come a day, perhaps in the not-too-distant-future, when he won't be quarterbacking this team. It would behoove the club, therefore, to be on the lookout for his replacement at all times from here on out.

Is Hoyer that guy? Probably not. He's a nice guy and a decent player who's improving each time we see him, but the odds of an undrafted rookie free agent becoming a starting-caliber NFL quarterback are pretty low. If there's a Sam Bradford-type, consensus franchise QB available in the 2011 draft, maybe New England will try to nab him by packaging their two first-round picks. Perhaps they'll seek to acquire a free agent or trade for another team's proven backup, the way Houston did with Matt Schaub a few years ago.

My point is, it's extremely rare – nearly unprecedented, in fact – for a team with a Super Bowl history to transition directly from one championship QB to another. The only example I can think of is the San Francisco 49ers in the late 1980s, who acquired Steve Young and groomed him to be Joe Montana's replacement. Worked out perfectly for them, as Young guided the team to a Super Bowl following Montana's departure. It would be darn near a miracle if the Patriots could duplicate the Niners' golden formula.
Erik Scalavino

There has been a fair amount of rumbling as of late that Brady could "possibly" skip training camp as his way of taking a "stand" against his lack of contract extension. Personally, I don't buy it, because really, why would he go to voluntary workouts and then not training camp if he was trying to make some kind of statement? Do you think there is any chance he doesn't show up? On another Brady-related note, why do you think it is that the media is so much harder on Brady/the Patriots then they are on Manning/the Colts? There have been no mutterings of Manning skipping camp and few, if any, negative clippings about him being dissatisfied and "disconnected" from his team in terms of his contract. He is in the exact same place as Brady but Brady is painted as this greedy malcontent, while Manning maintains his perpetual halo. Seems pretty biased. And in a lot of ways untrue. Any opinion on why that is, other than the obvious and ever-popular "maybe the sports media just hates the Patriots?"
Kristen Shilton, Canada

I agree with Kristen's first assertion. If Brady held out, even for a day of training camp, I'd be stunned. It just doesn't seem like his style. However, I do think Brady is unhappy with the situation. Again, it's not his style to come out and say so publicly, but he knows enough influential people in the media that, if he wanted that message to be delivered, it could easily be done. That might, in part, explain the inordinate amount of coverage we've seen of Brady's contract versus Manning's.

I'm less inclined to buy the media-hatred-for-the-Patriots argument because, above all, the media loves a story – good or bad. They loved New England when they were the up-starts beating the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI and couldn't wait to turn on the Pats during the start of the 2007 season (no need to go into detail, but you know what I mean). That same year, they were also talking about an undefeated Patriots team in Week 2 and would have loved to have written about a 19-0 coronation – but the Giants' upset made for an even better story. Manning has cultivated his "aw-shucks, good-guy" image with all his self-deprecating commercial endorsements, but Heaven help him if he's ever involved in a Tiger Woods-type scandal … the media will turn on him in a nanosecond.

Which brings us back to Brady … he is a popular subject because he's the better story at the moment. Never has a quarterback with his credentials (i.e., three Super Bowl rings) gotten this close to free agency. Furthermore, perhaps Manning isn't as concerned about where things stand on his end. He might be of the mind that he knows he'll get paid one way or another, so why sweat it? We're not directly involved or have close enough ties with either player to know for sure, but those seem like the most plausible explanations for the disparity in coverage.
Erik Scalavino

There are two players I want to ask about, the first purely theoretically and for the second I'm asking for a type of a player profile. First, is Terrell Owens. I'm aware that if given the ultimate choice, none of the PFW writers would sign him. All I want to ask is, in a perfect world where T.O. would deign playing backup how would his skill set as of now project on the current New England roster? How would he fit (ignoring obvious questions whether he'd maintain some form of sanity) and would he even benefit New England at this point? And second is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Running back is a popular topic due to concerns in what we currently have, and he is a fairly popular player among New England fans. Would you mind giving a Sporting News, Athlon, Streets and Smiths type player profile on Ben? Play the scout. Just explain what you like, dislike, if you see anything in him at all, whether you think he has a legitimate spot on the team and if given the chance whether he'd be capable of contributing. Obviously when this is answered we may have Unga on our roster making Ben expendable and at that point an afterthought but for now I'm just curious as to what you think. Thanks for taking the time to read my questions.Gage Brown

In fairness to Gage, his question came in prior to Owens' recent statements expressing a desire to play for the Patriots and prior to the NFL's Supplemental Draft (Harvey Unga went to Chicago, by the way). However, shame on you for not having read the March 4, 2009 edition of Debate Friday on, when my colleague Andy Hart argued for the Patriots signing T.O. He did so again in our latest Debate Friday. Meantime, Paul Perillo and I remain consistent in our refusal to accept T.O. in New England.

Owens' comments on a Boston radio station have not only rekindled the T.O.-to-N.E. debate, but also appear to have swayed public opinion among Pats fans in Owens' favor, as the current Debate Friday suggests.

But look, Gage – and the rest of you enamored with the notion of T.O. in Foxborough – if the Patriots wanted him, they could have signed him already this offseason. They obviously felt better going after the likes of Torry Holt and David Patten to vie for that complementary, veteran-nearing-the-end-of-his-career role on the wide receiver roster. If Owens were here, though, he'd be in that same position. The guy's 36, and he drops far too many catchable passes for a player of his caliber, but he can still contribute in someone's offense, I'm sure, as his stats from last year in Buffalo attest.

T.O. in N.E. would certainly make for an exciting story line in 2010. But the fact remains, the Patriots don't need him to succeed.

Now, to your question about Green-Ellis. Team PFW has been a fan of his since he got here. His college credentials speak volumes, rushing for thousand-yard seasons in both the Big Ten and SEC. When he's gotten the chance to play in the NFL, he's performed admirably. He's a compact player who's a better tailback than a blocker at this point, although he has lined up in the lead blocker position on occasion. He could probably improve in the pass-catching department as well, but to be fair, he hasn't had many chances for us to see him do that, so it's tough to say with any certainty. He seems to have the ability to run between the tackles and to kick it outside. And he has a nose for the end zone in goal-line situations.

There's clearly a spot for the guy in this league, on this team, even. I firmly believe he could challenge Sammy Morris for playing time, or even Morris' roster spot, this summer.
Erik Scalavino

What's the chance of T. O. being signed by the Pats?
Tony Vincent

Less than 50-50. Far less, in fact. I'm no bookmaker, so this is completely subjective speculation, but I'd put the number somewhere between 10 and 25 percent. And closer to 10 than 25. In other words, I won't rule out the possibility, but it's a remote one, at best.
Erik Scalavino

You guys do a terrific job in keeping the Patriots fans far and wide abreast of the comings and goings in Foxboro so was wondering if you could answer this question: with all this talk about Terrell Owens possibly joining the Patriots, wouldn't a better move be to offer San Diego a second-round pick for Vincent Jackson?
David Beckett, UK

Another topic/scenario we've talked about at length on "PFW in Progress." We'd all prefer to see the Patriots acquire Jackson instead of Owens, even though Jackson will miss the first three games with a league-imposed suspension for his own off-the-field troubles. At this point in their careers, Jackson is the more attractive talent. He's in his prime, meaning he'd be a long-term addition to the Patriots, rather than a short-term option like Owens. Makes sense to us, but PFW doesn't make the personnel decisions around here. We just critique them.
Erik Scalavino

When I first thought about T.O. joining the Pats I felt that it would kill the locker room and the chances for a postseason game. After I thought about it more I realized that there were some positive affects that T.O. would have. First I think he still has some talent in him, which really could complement moss and the other receivers while giving other DC headaches (not nightmares, but definitely headaches). My second, and for me the most important aspect, is that T.O. and Moss could really "fire-up" and challenge the defense, at mini-camp, in a way that would really help both the chemistry and the talent in the defensive backs. I'm sorry this wasn't a question but I wanted to know what you thought and didn't know where to send it!
Daniel Johnson

Normally, we don't post non-questions in Ask PFW because, as its name suggests, this is a forum for our vast audience to ask us for our opinions, not to submit their own. However, we do welcome comments like Daniel's and dissenting opinions alike at the PFW Blog. Please pay a visit there if you'd like to share your thoughts with us on all Patriots-related topics.

Erik Scalavino

You guys are fantastic at PFW. I am a huge fan of your work. I was listening to the replay of "PFW in Progress" about [Randy] Moss going somewhere else next year ... Really do we want to lose Moss? Should Mr. Kraft not wish to give a three-year extension, do you see the franchise tag going on him? This also includes the fact that Brady's deal will have come through by that point. PS ... If possible, please ask Mr. Kraft to consider playing a game up in Canada at Rogers Center. Nothing is better than watching the floundering Buffalo Bills lose to the Patriots with my Brother-in-law (Bills fan) watching in dismay. WINS 14 and 15 in a row baby.
Kristopher Jones, Hamilton, Canada

You seem to have forgotten, or simply chosen to forget, that it was Moss himself who first announced, earlier this offseason, that this was most likely his last year in New England, because, as he put it, "you know the Patriots don't really pay." He brought it up, not us. We're simply reacting to what he said. Moss clearly feels he has another big-time contract left in him, and doesn't expect it to come from this team.

As far as franchising Moss goes, depending on what happens with the new CBA, there might not be a franchise tag, so you can't necessarily rely on that option if you want to keep him here.

I can't speak for the rest of the organization, but the PFW boys would certainly be up for a trip north of the border to play the Bills. We thought that might actually be an option this year before the schedule was released. Ah, well, maybe next year. I'd be willing to bet the Patriots and Bills meet in Toronto within the next five years, if not sooner.
Erik Scalavino

What do think about giving Moss a two-year, $20 million contract with, say, $8 million of it guaranteed, would that be enough to keep him? I think he is worth it for a couple more years, and if anything else we know he won't go to the Jets!
Matt Rea

I'd take it, but my guess is Moss will be looking for an even bigger payday than that (maybe $10-$12 million guaranteed???), from whatever franchise is willing to give it to him, especially if he has another highly productive season in 2010.
Erik Scalavino

I recently found out that the Steelers will not give [outside linebacker LaMarr] Woodley an extension before the end of the season. Is there any chance the Patriots would want or will try to pick him up next offseason?Anthony Ottaviani

Really? A 2011 free agency question on the eve of 2010 training camp? OK, I'll bite. By "found out," I assume you mean you read the same ESPN article I did. The answer to your question is, of course there's a chance, but so much can and will happen between now and next offseason. What if Shawn Crable suddenly emerges as a 10-sack stud? Or rookie Jermaine Cunningham shocks us with a Rookie-of-the-Year-like performance? What if Woodley gets hurt? What if the Steelers change their minds and give him an extension after all? What if they franchise him (assuming the tag still exists in with any new CBA)? What if there's a better prospect in the draft? It's just a waste of time and energy to consider seriously such scenarios at this point. Besides, why are you so anxious for next offseason already? We have the entire 2010 season ahead of us. Let it play itself out first and see what happens, OK?
Erik Scalavino

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