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

Ask PFW Part I: More Brown reaction

The Troy Brown emails keep flowing in and many of this week's were in reaction to some that came in last week. Here is my long-winded take:

I must say some of the emails were ridiculous. I'd give back three Super Bowls to keep Troy Brown? C'mon people. Isn't that a bit irrational? There is no doubt that Troy Brown epitomized what it meant to be a Patriot in this team first time. He always has been someone that blue-collar New Englanders could relate to because he started low and developed progressively into a star. He did it quietly through hard work and selflessness. He overcame limitations and odds. He made an impact in the community, never did a thing to tarnish his reputation and helped impress on young players the importance of working hard and finding a role. For that, he will be forever remembered. He should be in the Patriots Hall of Fame someday.

It's understandable for fans to be emotional about the team's decision to let Brown go because of his $5.7 million cap number and $5 million in new money due this year. But the situation is no different than that of Ty Law. His cap number was too high for his projected production. I think the Patriots would like to re-sign Brown, but the financial discipline for which Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli have been lauded cannot be just thrown out the window because we all love a guy. Then the next guys walks in and says, "I did everything you asked. I played offense and defense when you asked me to. I played special teams when you needed me. I worked hard, spent extra time preparing and worked with the young players. Why don't you make the exception for me too?" It's easy for us to say, "Well, you're not Troy Brown." But that's a precedent that BB and SP don't want to set nor answer to. We don't have to answer to it.

Troy Brown has a value like everybody else. I don't know what that value is, but I'm guessing BB and SP factor in his leadership and selflessness when determining it. Sure he sacrificed his offensive production to play defense last year, but how much production? He had 17 receptions and didn't reach any incentives in 2004. In 2003 when he didn't play defense, he had 40 catches and he didn't reach his incentives then either. I happen to think that looking at Troy's stats is a bit unfair to him because I would have to see when those 40 catches came to truly judge his production. I seem to recall a few big catches in the 2003 playoffs … a fourth down catch that set up the winning field goal against Tennessee in the playoffs and a terrific leaping catch on the game-winning drive in the Super Bowl. Troy has more value than the average 40-catch receiver, but how much more and where do you draw the line? Joe Montana and Jerry Rice left the 49ers. Emmitt Smith left the Cowboys. I think you have to accept NFL realities and move on all the while appreciating everything Troy Brown did as a Patriot and hoping that he returns to finish his career here. That would be nice. The business side of the game can suck the joy out it, but it is reality. Include me on the list that is sad to see Brown go and hopeful that he will return. But if not, I know it's not personal. I know that it's a product of the system and the way the Patriots have chosen to navigate the salary cap landscape. I accept that because I believe in the way they have managed it and built their team. I would be a hypocrite to criticize that now just because I like Troy Brown. I posted a few of your reactions below before moving on to the next topic.

I read the 3/8/05 news blitz this morning, and frankly I'm shocked by the fan response to Troy Brown's release. Get over it, people. You all need to chill. I dug Troy Brown as much as any Patriots' fan, but he's getting up in years and he wasn't worth the extra $5 million the Patriots would've been forced to pay him to keep him on the roster. He was a special player for many years, but it's time to move on. Several fans even suggested Brown's release violated the Patriots' team-first ethic. That's horse doo doo. The team-first ethic says that no player is more important than the team, which means Troy Brown is not more important than the team. Anybody who thinks Brown's release violates the team-first ethic isn't seeing the big picture. Again, get over it, people. And one last point: the anger many fans hurled at Bob Kraft for Brown's release was misplaced and disingenuous, in my opinion. For the record, Bob Kraft is one of the best owners in the NFL, and possibly in all of professional sports. He listens to fans, he doesn't meddle, he spent $300 million of his own money to build Gillette Stadium, and he's an articulate, energetic man. If you're willing to kick dirt on the guy for allowing Bill Belichick to release Troy Brown, which is a good business move by any standard, then I say you don't deserve to be a Patriots fan. We don't need that sort of vicious, ungrateful attitude from anyone in New England. Give the guy his props and move on. Thanks guys! Keep up the great work on PFW.
Jeff Burton

Dear PFW, I had to write after listening to all the "Die Hard" Pats fans vent their frustrations about losing their "favorite" players i.e. Brown, Andruzzi, Law etc. Then say they'd trade in Super Bowls for their dignity (compassion for the players). Enough already!!! It's a business people, and the only thing that I can say about BB and the Patriots is that he has this TEAM playing like a TEAM. Winning is what the true Die Hard fans really want. The Championship at all costs. I don't watch the team to watch a specific player, its nice to see different players contribute week in and week out. And that's due to hard work put in by the coaching staff and the players. I have the confidence no matter whom BB puts in. If he's playing on the active roster, he's ready. We all probably held our breaths when Ty went down, or Ashworth and Klemm went out and rookies had to be placed in the lineup...it's all about winning. I love T. Brown like the rest of you, Come to think of it, does anybody really care right now that Drew is in Dallas? NO! Why? Cause you have T. Brady and you are WINNING!!! So stop WHINING!!!
Dean Symes
Nova Scotia, Canada

Ok still basking in the Glory of our 3rd Super Bowl, then the offseason comes. What are the Pats thinking? Troy Brown Released?? Forgive me for thinking this but is the management of the PATS on drugs or just on vacation? A player of Troy Brown's caliber does not come along often. Time to rethink your motives PATS MANAGEMENT. A team player and a leader should at least be given the chance to end his career with the PATS.Jim Rogers

Team Player! Mr. Versatility! Offense! Defense! Special Teams! Sacrifice the body! The Heart! Veteran! Professionalism! Tact! The Three Rings... MY PRECIOUS! Dynasty! Sportscenter top 10 nominee! The fans love him; Kraft built the team on fan support! Business is business! Sometimes you got to manage from the HEART! It's not too late! Change the fate! Sometimes you have to break the LAW, but even Brady would rather not have saw, this to be true: HE'S THE GLUE. Bring him back.
Brent Rittersdorf

After closely following what is unfolding this offseason, I just can't stand it any longer. What we as youth sport coaches always instill in our young players, "Best efforts that each individual puts into each play makes for the best team". So what are you showing to the youth of our proud Nation? That hard work and dedication to a team will lead to your being cut? I've been following MY beloved Patriots since I was a young boy growing up in Abington, Mass., and can't believe what is happening! I'm proud of all the players and coaches that have given us the opportunity three times over to celebrate a total victory. But now it's time to look at the whole picture. It's not just a simple matter of running a business, it's about loyalty, honor, courage and dedication. Please understand that adults are not the only ones that follow and watch what is reported in the news or posted on the Internet. But cutting Troy Brown? Please hit me with a 2x4 and wake me up from this bad dream!
Don Mahanor USN Retired
Virginia Beach, Va.

OK guys...I'm one of the die-harders that lives from Tuesday to Tuesday to share the share the luv of our long-awaited dynasty. But I was alarmed at last week's testimonials, threatening to rip up their Gino Cappelletti rookie cards and vow to never again watch America's greatest "team" over the Troy Brown dismissal. Nobody can argue that Brown represents the karma of this organization--and we all admire his gutsy play. But last year he caught about a dozen tosses from Tom Brady, played solid corner, and provide average kick returns...thems the facts. His value goes beyond his on-field play, no doubt...but $5M seems more than a bit steep. It appeared the drill was to clear the cap quickly and get Brady on a long-term deal--that has to be the #1 priority (and hopefully done by now). And you can't fault the coach or Bob Kraft for the Ty Law or Andruzzi losses--as it appears both are understandably trying to cash in big before hanging up the cleats. It's a shame we can't freeze time and keep these legends in place, but no NFL team in history has put together a winning formula--given today's free agency challenges--better than Scott Pioli & Bill Belichick. Personally I'd like to see John Hannah manhandle the defensive rush while Brady drops for a deep post to Stanley Morgan, but they have to move forward. Yes, let's all pray Troy returns at an affordable price. But if he doesn't, true fans will support this world-class organization and trust these guys know a whole lot more than we do about signing the right guys at the right price. If the Troy Brown incident is too much to bear, then feel free to hop off the bandwagon. The rest of us will still be here on Tuesday...
Tom from Virginia

I have read all the fan comments posted on this site and to a person they are angry and disillusioned over Troy Brown's release. I think I have some perspective that everyone should keep in mind. Troy Brown has not been mistreated. He was an 8th round pick when he came out of Marshall. Was cut by Parcells after an excellent rookie preseason, and then re-signed. Early in his career, Brown was a raw talent with the ability to make some plays, but not consistent or good enough to crack the lineup. He worked extremely hard and earned the respect of his peers and coaching staff; eventually becoming a star receiver for the team as it was at its worst state personnel-wise. I believe 2000 and 2001 were his best years, statistically. In 2001, he championed, along with Patten, an overachieving receiving corps and helped produce the most unexpected World Championship in NFL history during a rebuilding year. His production over the last few years has steadily declined, in part because the Pats are much more talented at the receiver position then they were a few years ago, but primarily because each of the last few years, he has battled constant injury problems, and his skills have diminished measurably. That doesn't mean he still can't make plays and still isn't clutch. Just that he's not $3.5million clutch. Fans need to realize that if you're going to keep guys like him around and pay them top-level money while their skills erode before your eyes, well then, be prepared to become the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones had your attitudes about "taking care of the boys" back in the nineties, and they've been in the toilet for close to 6 years now. Do you want to go through that again? I'm thankful that Belichick is planning for the future, not just glorying in past accomplishments. I want this team to be in the hunt every year. That requires paying the big money to the people who are earning it on the field. Troy Brown is a great guy and a leader, but you can't lead from the sidelines because you're hurt all the time or just aren't good enough anymore. Move on. This isn't your job, guys. In the NFL, they don't hand you a gold watch and a corner office because of years of service. Every year is a new team. Get used to it. Someone like Minnesota or Arizona will sign him to a lower-tiered salary and he'll catch 30-40 balls and return a few punts and then retire. In the meantime, he won 3 championships here for which we are all thankful, (including him), and we now have the money to keep guys like Jarvis Green and David Givens (who has been a major upgrade). I'll miss Troy, too, but wake up and smell the salary cap, dudes.

OK people. That's enough. Thanks for all your passing and opinions on this. Two weeks of Ask PFW have been dedicated to this issue and deservedly so. But let's move on to other issues.

Keep Eugene Wilson at safety. He is a quality safety in the NFL. As a fan it would scare me to see him move to CB, where he hasn't started since college, I would rather see a rookie CB who has at least been a CB recently. Is it possible to sign Edgerton Hartwell and Will Witherspoon? This would be a massive step to young LBS who can do the job for the next 5-10 years?
Tim Hart

I understand your comfort level with Wilson at safety, but he has played corner during his two years here in some sub situations. When Wilson was a rookie, the Patriots stayed with four defensive backs in many nickel situations because of Wilson's corner skills and assigned him to cover a man. He also played some corner last year. I know that Bill Belichick likes having Wilson's flexibility at safety because it allows him to do different things schematically to keep an offense off guard and guessing in situations. But if there is a safety that would upgrade the team more than an available corner, then I would have no problem signing or drafting the safety and moving Wilson back to corner full-time. He still would give you depth at safety if it was needed and has shown that he can be a physical presence in the secondary regardless of his position. My first choice, like yours, is to leave him at safety, but I think you have to be open-minded on that one depending on the players that are available. As far as the linebackers go, I'm surprised that New England hasn't shown much interest in Hartwell, a 3-4 inside linebacker who is still young. Witherspoon is a restricted free agent who requires first round draft pick compensation, making him a no go.

Hey Guys! I love the column, and I'm a PFW subscriber as well. Being in Cincinnati, you guys really keep me in the know about the Patriots. My question is that everyone heard on ESPN and through the Patriots News Blitz that Tom Brady and the Patriots were close to a new deal that would keep him with the team for 5 or 6 years and pay him consistent with the top three QBs. What happened with this? Are they still working on his deal or was there a snag? Did they get a deal done and just not announce it? Also, there is a "freeze period " in dealing with players beginning on March 15. Is this only for free agents or does it apply here as well? Thanks!
David Varney

I'm not positive about Brady's deal but have a hunch that is worked out with maybe some minor details required to finalize it. I would guess that the bonus structure and payment schedule needs to be ironed out, but Brady will remain a Patriot for the foreseeable future. Both sides seem quiet on this topic now, which I think is a good sign. Also, that period to which you refer is not a freeze. It is a period for franchise players where teams that negotiate a deal with a franchised player then lose their right to use the franchise designation for the life of that contract. The period runs from March 16 to July 15.

Hi guys. Best Pats feature anywhere. Keep up the great job. I'd like to know how much Salary Cap room the Pats have now, how much cap space the draft signings typically use up, and how things are likely to change with a new Brady deal, etc. I know it's a complex topic, especially this early in the year, but since it affects free agent signings, I think people would be interested. Go Pats!
Brian Delfino
Coventry, RI

According to John Clayton's numbers on ESPN as of March 4, the Patriots were $3.3 million under the cap. They have made some roster moves and re-worked some deals since then making the numbers I have outdated on some guys. I did go check out what Miguel had on patscap.com because his diligence impresses me and while his numbers are certainly unofficial, a point he makes clear, they aren't generally far off. He uses media reports and the players association web site to keep his cap page updated and sometimes the media reports vary. Ty Law's salary reports were a good example of that including one I read today that reported his base pay for 2005 at $8.75 million, a figure that did not include his workout or reporting bonuses, which totaled another $1.1 million. It also would not have included any Super Bowl bonus Law had. I know he had a $500,000 SB bonus in 2003, but am uncertain if he had the same provision in 2004. I assume he did. Anyway, Miguel does a good job updating his site and he has the Pats at $2.3 million under the cap. As far as the rookies go, they will make room to accommodate draft picks when they are required to do so, but they have a pool of money that is a subset of the cap that they can use on the draft picks. That pool will be determined after the draft depending on where the Patriots make their picks. There has been some speculation that Brady's cap number will be lower this year. My figures have his 2005 cap number at $8.3 million, which doesn't include any not likely to be earned incentives that he may have earned last year, which would then count against this year's cap. Miguel lists his number at $10 million. To get it much lower than that, the Patriots would have to structure a deal creatively. If he gets a $25 million bonus over 5 years, that's $5 million against the cap right there and I don't think his deal will include a minimum base salary early in the contract only to see it spike dramatically later. I think the Pats will try to balance the deal better than that and keep the cap number rising, percentage-wise, along with projected increases in the cap. That, to me, would be the prudent, long-term way to structure that. So while he might bring a small savings in year one, and I stress maybe, it won't be much.

I'm a Patriots fan living in Cleveland, and have been since the 70s, let me just say, I don't care what moves Bill Belichick makes. He will Always!! have my support. I love football, I love playing it, coaching it, watching it. I just love the game. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that the Patriots would win 3 championships while I was still living. I will never forget. To all the fine people at PFW I have no question, but I have a comment: how can we all be so down on the way things are going? I'm still enjoying 3 championships...my cup runneth over with joy. God Bless PFW & the whole New England Patriots Organization, you are truly the BEST!!!!.
Mark Pavkov

Thanks Mark. It's funny how changed expectations have such a profound effect on people's perspective. Yours is refreshing.

Where do you think the pats will be looking to in the draft? What will be the major positions they will look to add to in the first 3 rounds?Dave Barbrick

OK, on Day 1, they won't draft a defensive lineman. They won't draft a quarterback. They won't draft a tight end. Everything else is in play. I would say their three biggest needs are a young inside linebacker, a first-round caliber cornerback and a wide receiver. I think the offensive line could be addressed as well, but they would only draft a tackle on Day 1, not a guard. To me, an inside linebacker is the top priority, but I don't think the Patriots will use their first round pick on one because of the quality or lack thereof at that position. I say corner with the first pick and then a linebacker. That said, I think the Patriots are unpredictable. I don't think I was the only one surprised when they drafted Benjamin Watson at 32 last year. I say LSU cornerback Corey Webster will be the pick if the Pats stay at 32 this year.

I have been following your explanations about the salary cap, but I have 2 questions that need clarification. With regards to Tom Brady, I see he is in the 4th year of a 5 year $30.5 million salary with this year having a base salary of $5.5 million, but a cap value of $14 million. Does this mean $8.5 million of signing bonus is allocated to 2005? The numbers don't add up. Also, when a team is at their cap limit, and a series of injuries hit their team (like the Pat's secondary in 2004) does the league permit exceptions to sign additional players to replace those on IR? Fantastic work, but could you throw in an occasional 'eh' for us fans north of the border?
L Wood
New Brunswick

I believe your cap number on Brady is incorrect, eh? But some of his cap number is from his original signing bonus and some is from him tweaking his deal in past years and taking some his base pay as guaranteed or bonus money, which then gets spread out over the life of the contract like a signing bonus, ya know. I'll explain. I sign a five-year, $30 million contract with a $5 million bonus and $5 million per year in base salary. My cap number in each year is $6 million – the bonus prorated over the five years, plus my $5 million base pay for each year. After the first year, the team comes to me and wants to lower my Year 2 cap number to get some relief to sign another player. So they reduce my base salary to my veteran minimum of $540,000 and guarantee the remaining $4.46 million, which gets paid to me in a bonus. That $4.46 million is now spread out over the final four years of the deal. So my first cap number, which I already played under, was $6 million. My second year cap number after the restructure is $2.655 million (a cap savings of almost $2.4 million). But my cap numbers in Years 3, 4 and 5 increase to $7.115 million (the original $5 million bonus prorated portion of $1 million, the $5 million base salary and the new $1.115 prorated portion). So any time Brady has re-worked his deal, it has elevated the cap numbers for the remainder of his contract. On the other issue, the league does not give cap relief for injured players. The teams have to manage their cap accordingly and take into account that there will be injuries and, in turn, replacements signed. They either have to leave enough room to sign replacements or create the room as needed.

Hey guys, keep up the great work, been following the pats since I was a kid. Anyway I have been wondering; the Dolphins just released David Boston. Now I know that he has had some on and off the field issues, but in 2000 and 2001 with the Cardinals, he had over 1,000 receiving yards, and more than 5 TD catches. He also is a big physical run blocker and considering that Givens (may not be a Patriot in 2005) and Patten (who already signed with the Redskins), a big stout receiver could help out with Dillon and his outside running game. In the end I think that Boston could complement Branch, Johnson, and Sam, as with our TEs. Do you think that that the Pats will take a look at him?
Jim Smith

No. I don't think the Patriots would touch him. I didn't think they would trade for Dillon last year either so take it for what it's worth, but I don't think there is any chance whatsoever that the Patriots would sign Boston. None.

I'm a long time Patriots fan could you please tell me if there is any validity to the rumor of Plaxico Burress coming to the Patriots or is Tim Dwight more likely? Also I've noticed that the Patriots are holding an open door invitation for DBs. Who is Ike Charlton? Who did he play for last? Now that Teddy Bruschi is a question mark will they make a push for a possible replacement?Charles Champagne

Obviously, you know by now that Tim Dwight signed. I don't think the Pats had interest in Burress, who might be too pricey for their liking. As far as a replacement for Bruschi, I think the Pats needed a young inside linebacker to develop anyway and now the need for one is even greater. Dan Klecko is learning to play that position, but there is no telling how long that transition will take. Ike Charlton has been in the league since 2000. He played two years for Seattle, one for Jacksonville, one for the Giants and last year was on the Raiders roster, but did not play in a game.

Do you think Brady will ever have to go the route of Joe Montana and leave and go to another team to continue his career?
Keith Graham

No.

I'm a huge fan of Tedy Bruschi, and was wondering how he was doing. I've checked back at Patriots.com nearly every day, and haven't seen any news updates. All the best to the team during this offseason!
Linda Yeo

Hey Linda, you haven't seen an update because we don't have one. I'm sure Tedy appreciates your support. Let's all hope he makes a full recovery.

Wouldn't it be great piece of mind to have Doug Flutie on the bench behind Tom Brady for the 2005 season?
Jim Tully

I don't know about that one. Flutie seems ageless, but I wonder what he really has left. Nothing he does would surprise me so I could see him continuing his career. His might be a situation where he stays in shape, works out and then waits for the phone to ring when someone loses a quarterback and needs Flutie at that point.

Hi all you PFW guys. You do a great job of getting me that little football fix every week to stave off the terrible offseason withdrawals. It is now Sunday and I wrote a few days earlier about us grabbing either Knight, Sharper, or Surtain. Well, I guess other teams were ready to pounce because Knight and Sharper are off the market signing five and four year deals respectively elsewhere. That only leaves Surtain. Do you think Bill would part with our second round pick in the upcoming draft? Or do you think Saban will only trade Surtain out of the division? Keep up the great work.
Scott Papillon
Chicopee, Mass.

If Saban is willing to trade Surtain, I don't think the team matters as long as he gets his asking price. I don't think the Patriots would trade their 2 for him because of his big 2005 salary and the fact that they already traded away their 3. According to the NFLPA, he's in the final year of his contract and is owed $5.85 million in base pay. Unless the Patriots could reach a reasonable long-term extension with Surtain, who will be 29 when the season starts, there would be no deal.

I see that X-Mas this year falls on a Sunday this year. What do you think the chances are that the Patriots will be playing on X-Mas day? Also, do you think the NFL will schedule more games on perhaps Thursday, Friday and Saturday to avoid any issues with the X-Mas holiday?Stephan Murphy

I think the NFL will schedule off-day prime time games, which will become regular parts of the television package. I don't know if they will do it specifically to avoid a huge number of games on Christmas. For them, that's a great day to play games because everything is closed and everyone is home. TV ratings would probably go through the roof. That said … a majority of the games will be played on the Sunday, which means there is a good chance the Pats will play on Christmas. As the two-time defending Super Bowl champs, there also is a good chance that they play a prime time game on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. So the answer is, I have no clue. Sorry about that Stephan.

Short and simple, with the release of Andruzzi, Law, Patten, and especially Brown, I don't know if we will be Super Bowl material next year. We are good, but with these guys leaving I'm a bit worried.
Mark Finni

Don't be. Make your reservations for Detroit. Why not believe? Also, Andruzzi and Patten were not released. They were unrestricted free agents who signed with other teams. Brown wasn't technically released either. The team declined to pick up a 2005 option.

I was wondering what your take on Edgerton Hartwell is. He's the best linebacker still on the market and he's not too old. The Tedy Bruschi situation concerns me and I think Ed could fit in well in the 3-4 if Bruschi cannot play. With the Ravens the last couple years he has played alongside Ray Lewis on the inside so he has experience there. If we do need an inside linebacker he should be it because the draft is a little thin at middle linebacker and I couldn't see any of those outside guys moving inside. Does this sound like it could work?
Will Perez

It does sound good to me. I don't know a ton about Hartwell, but he would seem to be a good, young fit for the Patriots at a position of need. He visited with Seattle Monday and his experience in a 3-4 would be good for the Patriots. But he is still out there so maybe teams don't think he's that good and that he benefited from playing on a star-studded defense and beside Ray Lewis. Maybe the team knows something about Tedy Bruschi that I don't and doesn't see inside linebacker as a huge, immediate need.

Do you think the Patriots might select Corey Webster of LSU as their first round draft pick if he is still available. I have read that he is one of the most technically sound cornerbacks in the draft. Also, I was thinking about how quickly Randall Gay fit into and understood the defense as an undrafted rookie after playing for Nick Saban at LSU.
Ben Curwin

I do think so Ben. That's my prediction as of March 15.

The Patriots now have a 2nd chance to sign this WR that they past up the first time for Seymour; thank goodness I might add. Wasn't he Brady's #1 target at Michigan? I think that alone mandates at the very least a look. He still has potential and showed flashes. Brown, Patten and the Super Bowls proved that smaller receivers can prosper in the Pats system, but gosh it would sure be nice to see what they could do with a quick tall guy. Oh well, at least we got a stud last year in Dillon. Can't have everything right? But it sure would be a whole lot of fun to watch!
Michael Tollefson

Looks like he's signing with the Giants. I don't think the Pats wanted him now any more than they did back in 2001. Boy did they nail that one by not taking the wide receiver.

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