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Ask PFW Part I: Moss, Meriweather and much more

Could you explain Randy Moss' contract next year? I heard the Pats absorbed the 9.75 mil to get him, but ripped up his old contract and offered him a 1 yr deal. What's his cap hit if he makes the team? I love how the Pats didn't offer him any guaranteed money.
Moses Ip

With so much banter about Randy Moss becoming a Patriot, I had to ask this question. In several interviews with Bill Belichick, including one this afternoon on Sirius NFL radio, Coach Belichick used the term VERSATILE to describe Randy Moss. Now I know that at one point in his career, Moss was considered the best deep threat in football. Did he start returning kicks recently? Has he lined up as a nickel back to help on defense? Does he block particularly well? Is he a great special teams player? Is he strong in picking up blitzes? These are all skills that I think of when the term VERSATILE is used to describe a New England Patriot. If you could help me out with understanding exactly what Bill meant when he used this term, I'd really appreciate it. I mean, 'In Bill We Trust' only goes so far. Yes, the acquisition is a good one but VERSATILE, come on Bill. I'd rather have you dry and using the old, 'we'll do whatever we need to do to improve our football team' rather than try and sell me THAT bill of goods!
Pat Keogh

I am not usually pessimistic, but in this case... Do you really think that Belichick can really straighten Moss out? I will be happy if they can get anywhere near a 750 yd season out of him without any disciplinary problems. At least it only cost the Pats a 4th round pick. I wonder what the Vegas odds are that Moss will even last the whole season with the Pats?Pat Connolly

Why on God's green earth would Bill consider putting a fungus like Randy Moss on the team? He has proven time and time again that he is not a team player. Our team has been the role model of teamwork and to add someone like Randy will only tarnish our good name that we have worked so hard to establish. We have no controversy only good football playing. He will bring controversy. I am a 25-year fan and living in Minnesota but am sad by this decision. Can you tell me why?
Michael Bastos

The Moss trade is an interesting topic because of how polarizing a figure the talented by sometimes-troublesome receiver can be. Questions surround his track record as a teammate, worker and citizen as well as whether the 30-year-old WR still has the impressive physical tools that made him the most explosive playmaker in the NFL.
Here is my take. In terms of production and team issues I think it was a no-brainer. There is very little risk and the potential for a very great reward. Moss immediately becomes the most physically talented wide receiver Brady has ever played with. (A category in which, if you think about it, he's likely followed by fellow spring addition Donte' Stallworth.) Brady, one of the team's key leaders, was clearly on board with the move and showed that by tweaking his contract to get Moss in town. Moss then signed a deal that forces him to make the roster and remain for the season if he is going to make even decent money by his standards for the 2007 season. Moss is scheduled to have a salary of $2.5 million, with a reported roster bonus of another $500,000 and incentives that could add up to another reported $1.5 million. While it's a misrepresenting the facts to say he gave up $9.75 million to play here for less (he was likely going to get cut by if he wasn't traded, therefore he would have had no salary for 2007, not the $9.75 million that everyone likes to throw around), he is on a team-friendly deal. Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him and that's a good recipe for at least a one-season honeymoon in New England. I really do think he'll be on his best behavior looking to revitalize his career while making plays for a potential championship team.
We've known for years that Bill Belichick had at least a mild interest in Moss and his talents. Despite what many misinformed fans and media members believed Belichick was willing to consider the possibility of bringing Moss to New England. He did his research on Moss over the last couple of years, talked people around the league and in the end decided Moss was worth whatever risk he might represent.
The only thing I think that can even remotely be criticized surrounding the deal is the fact that I've often heard Scott Pioli and others say something along the lines of, "We're not collecting talent we're building a championship team." The Moss trade, and entire offseason in general, has a feel of collecting talent. But that collection of talent is now the undisputed favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLII. As always Pioli, Belichick and the rest of the organization did their research and made the decision that was in the best interest of the team.
As I said, the risk is far less than the potential rewards. I think it was a very good move and one that will pay off in the short term. My guess is Moss will be a perfect Patriot this fall. Since he's only under contract for one year and took only a fourth-round pick to acquire, the short term gains are all that matter. No ifs, ands or goal post rubbing butts, this was a great move.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, great job as always. I was just wondering, with the all the recent wide receiver additions, wouldn't it just make perfect sense to go ahead and re-sign Troy Brown for chemistry reasons. I remember back in the late '90s and early 2000s, Randy Moss was on his very best behavior when he had a "big brother" type to kind of keep him from derailing. Also Troy Brown can contribute to the system in so many ways, it would be an absolute shame not to sign him. Maybe Troy can be Randy's new Chris Carter. Love to know your thoughts.Ralph Seymoure

Based on everything we've heard, Brown should have a "role" with the Patriots this fall. While he's not under contract at this point, he's said he wants to come back and Belichick has said he wants him back. So it doesn't sound like there should be a problem there. Maybe both sides are just waiting for Brown's knee to recover from offseason surgery before moving forward.
Whether he truly meant it or not I found it very interesting and intelligent on his part for Moss to praise his fellow Marshall alum during Moss' introductory conference call with the New England media. There is little to argue that Brown can be a solid team leader, versatile contributor and is coming off his best, healthiest season in years. Everyone says he'll be back and I hope he is. Whether Brown can act as Moss' "big brother" or not, I don't know. But it can't hurt to have him around the locker room and in the wide receiver meeting room.
Andy Hart

My question is about the recent draft; aside from Meriweather in your opinion what new players have a legit shot of making the Patriots Roster for 2007-08?
Brendan Sheehan

It's hard to make assessments on players before we've even seen them in rookie mini camp, but I'm not going to duck this one. All the coaches out there would hate even considering such an idea, right Bill? But I'm not a coach (just likes he's not a doctor, but that's a different topic for a different day), I'm in the media so I'll feel free to throw out some early thoughts on this rookie class.
I think Meriweather will obviously make the roster and will also be an immediate contributor on both defense and special teams. Depending on how the rest of the secondary plays out I expect the first-round pick to be, at the very least, a factor in the team's sub defenses early in his rookie season. I also think that DT Kareem Brown will make the roster. I liked what I saw from him on tape at Miami. I think he's athletic enough to show some versatility along the front line but also stout enough to develop into a potential backup nose tackle in the 3-4. It will take plenty of development on his part but I think he'll find a roster spot and maybe a rotational role along the defensive line down the road.
After that I think the rest of the draft picks are practice squad and developmental types. The only two guys I could see even getting on the roster in 2007 are sixth-rounders Justin Rogers (LB) and Mike Richardson (CB). I think Richardson's secondary versatility, special teams willingness, heady makeup and experience in a pro-style defense under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame could make him a candidate as an emergency call up during the season. Rogers will have a lot to handle converting from defensive end to linebacker, but when injuries hit he could be a special teamer/depth guy if the linebacking corps gets too thin. But I think both would be long shots to get on the field as rookies.
Clint Oldenburg sounds like Tom Ashworth in the making so I think his athleticism and up side make him a candidate for the practice squad and Dante Scarnecchia's world class offensive line development program. Justise Hairston has intriguing size and potential, but anything more than a developmental practice squad role is a lot to ask from a I-AA running back regardless of his impressive production at that level. And the Patriots final three selections – tackle Corey Hilliard, linebacker Osar Lua and center Mike Elgin – need to stay healthy, take as many reps as they can in the next few months, make plays in the preseason and simply show up if they are to remain on the Patriots radar after training camp cuts.
There, I did my best evaluating the rookies' chances without seeing them in action. I'll have much better analysis when I finally see them on the fields at Gillette Stadium and certainly by the time padded work comes around in training camp and the preseason.
Andy Hart

I'm sick of the Randy Moss talk. I've got a more general question. A number of you guys at PFW think JaMarcus Russell will be a huge bust, and I'm curious why. All the draft analysts use words like "best" "greatest" "fastest" "most amazing", etc... describing him. I don't trust them, (Bobby Beat-hard on Moss trade: "great move for Oakland"). I love your honesty to come out and say that a guy stinks. It's refreshing, keep it up. Thanks
Will Bortolin

Russell has ridiculous measurables in terms of size and arm strength. Those things cannot be argued. But a lot of guys have come into the NFL with great numbers and limped out of the league without ever making a mark. Russell is a raw QB talent being thrown into a tough situation in Oakland. He's going to have a lot of pressure on him, may not get the best coaching in the league and expectations will be high. He started for his final two seasons at LSU, but had still had to compete for the job as a senior. So in the course of just a year he went from competing for a college job to becoming the No. 1 overall pick and the savior of the Raiders franchise. Boy, that's a lot of development in less than 12 months.
Russell did have a very good 2006 season. But he takes a lot of chances, locks on receivers at times, relies way too much on his impressive arm strength, is slow through his reads and his overall work ethic and approach to the game have been questioned. That's a long list of questions for a guy taken with the top pick. If he works hard, gets good coaching and develops at a fast rate maybe he'll overcome all those things. But if he thinks he can just get by with his size and arm strength then I believe he'll be fighting a losing battle and will fail miserably. If I had to choose between those two potential career courses right now, I'd put my money on the later.
Andy Hart

Do you guys know who the undrafted rookie free agents are who were signed or being signed by the Patriots?
Ray Tomas

The Patriots announced the signing of seven rookie free agents earlier today. That list includes Boston College safety Larry Anam, Alabama-Birmingham defensive lineman Kyle Bissinger, Idaho State quarterback Matt Gutierrez, Northern Illinois tight end Jake Nordin, Rice running back Quinton Smith, Texas A&M linebacker Justin Warren and Texas-El Paso defensive lineman Zack West. Former Air Force safety Denny Poland has also reportedly been given the chance to tryout for the team although he has not been signed to a contract as of yet. All are expected to be at New England's mini camp that opens this coming Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Andy Hart

I'm not sure if I understand you guys with your draft coverage. You sounded as frustrated as many of us with the Pats inability to draft any legitimate inside linebackers. But when we mail in to ask why not draft some on the second day, you say "what do you expect on the second day, a bunch of starters?" No...we know they will probably not find a starter in rounds 4-7. But if you are drafting projects and looking for special teamers, why not take them at a position of need? How many developmental offensive line prospects do they need? I would rather take my chances drafting Desmond Bishop and H.B. Blades than Oldenburg and Hilliard. Would Bishop and Blades start? No? Would they be quality backups right away? Probably not. Would at least one of them make the practice squad and develop as a sub player for next year? I would think so and that's worst case scenario. If you are going to take chances on guys, why not take chances on somebody that can actually help you at a position of need. If they end up being stiffs, so what...they were late-round picks. You guys complain on LBs not being selected, than chastise us when we ask why it wasn't pursued more. That's playing both sides of the fence.Shane Cahill

I'm pretty sure one thing we rarely do here at Ask PFW is play both sides of the fence. I can't speak for the other guys, but here's my take. I have been looking for the team to take a young, playmaking linebacker early in the draft for the last three or four years. But it hasn't happened. Belichick and Co. have taken the later round types like Ryan Claridge and even this year with Justin Rogers and Oscar Lua. But the chances of those guys developing into key starters to add depth and talent to an aging group are slim. Clearly the team hasn't seen the talent/value in linebackers early in the draft – this year or ever in the Belichick/Pioli tenure here.
But that doesn't mean you just load up on second day linebackers with the hope that one will some day develop. Quantity over quality isn't exactly a sound draft strategy, even on the second day of draft weekend. Even those picks are used on guys who in the team's collective eyes have some value, talent or that the team thinks could possibly develop into a contributor in the right scenario. So while every team, including the Patriots, drafts with need in mind getting blinded solely by need and taking every linebacker available would be a terrible strategy. While David Harris and Jon Beason may have been day one considerations, the Patriots didn't go that direction. I think a guy like Blades would have had virtually no chance of fitting the team's scheme. And they chose not to go after a guy like Bishop.
At this point it's hard to predict if/when the Patriots will ever address the linebacker in the draft. Looking at the roster the team's top four LBs are made up of two big-time free agent signings, a restricted free agent signing and an organizational holdover who was originally a mid-round pick and defensive line conversion. Maybe we'll never see the team take a linebacker in the draft (although it's widely known that the team did have an eye on Jonathan Vilma a few years back). Maybe it will happen with one of two first-round picks next year. I don't know, but I'm done trying to predict that the team will take a linebacker. I've been burned too many times. That's right, I'm sulking.
For the record I've never chastised anyone here on Ask PFW for asking about drafting linebackers. I think it's one of the most legitimate questions posed in this mailbag. Unfortunately, I don't really have the answer other than to say the team just doesn't see the kind of players needed to play its scheme come along all that often.
Andy Hart

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