What about Ryan Claridge? I remember BB and others being high on him last summer. Then he was injured. What is his status now and do you think BB is planning on him coming in to try to fill the gap left by Willie Mac. I know with his inexperience we can't expect too much from him. But it sure seems like he has the ability and talent to get it done if you surround him with all these vet LBs back there. We know BB will play young guys on D, look at CB position. Or maybe I'm wrong, what do you think? Any way keep it up you guys are great.
I wish I had more to offer on Claridge but right now there isn't a lot to say. PFW has tried to talk to him this offseason, but has yet cross paths with him. Much of what you wrote is accurate. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury that dated back to a surgery prior to being drafted by New England. The fifth-round pick had experience at both inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 at UNLV, but how that translates into Belichick's system is anyone's guess. After going on IR last season, I never saw him around the team. That's unusual for injured players as they usually are in the locker room throughout the season and getting treatment at Gillette. So I don't know how much further along he might be in the system than he was last summer. Plus, he's still a fifth-round pick with no pro experience. Regardless of how talented he might be, it's a little much to expect him to come right back to play the tough OLB spot in a complex Patriots defense and fill the shoes of a playmaking veteran like McGinest. I agree that he might be an intriguing prospect for an otherwise aging and prospect free position, but we'll have to wait and see what, if anything, he offers the defense in training camp.
Last year while watching Michigan I noticed that receiver Jason Avant reminded me a lot of David Givens. He is similar in build, he's tough, and is a very reliable possession receiver. Scouts are saying similar things now, and he has been compared to Givens by Espn. I think Avant would make a great pick for the Patriots in the second round of the draft and he could quickly emerge as a nice complement opposite Branch. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.
After seeing him at the Combine and learning of his training relationship with Rodney Harrison, I am intrigued by Avant. If Rodney likes him enough to call him and push him to be a better player, he might be a good fit for the working environment in New England. (One scouting report described him as a "blue chip talent with a blue-collar work ethic.") At 6-1, 212 he's a little taller than Givens but does have a similar build. From some things I've seen he's projected as a potential third-round pick and might be a good fit and value for the Patriots as the team searches for depth at receiver. The group definitely could use a bigger, physical type player in the mix to replace Givens' all-around talents and Avant might not be a bad option. And we know Brady would love to have another Wolverine in the mix, especially a former Michigan leader and captain like Avant.
I know I may be in a minority here, but I don't disagree with anything that the Patriots have done in the offseason. That being said, what do you think the chances of the Patriots signing LaVar Arrington and another LB like Chris Claiborne. LaVar's talent is undeniable, and I really don't think he has the baggage that everyone seems to think he has. The 'Skins did not exactly treat him very well done there, but people seem to forget that. Claiborne has been a bit of a disappointment in the NFL after having a solid career at USC. I think if he came at the right price he could help the Pats. What do you think the chances of the Pats signing these two are?William Higgins
On the surface, I like your thinking. I have been clamoring for another athletic, playmaking linebacker for years. But I'm not sure how well either of those players would fit in New England. Both have a bit of a reputation for freelancing rather than playing defined roles within a defense. Claiborne has tremendous physical skills but has never really put it together in the pros. Arrington (a Tom Casale favorite) has been a more productive pro, but he's drawn enough interest from the Jags and Dolphins to keep his asking price pretty high. I'll never say never, but I'm just not sure either would be the lunch-pale, anything-for-the-team types that Belichick looks for. Potential is only valuable if it's turned into production within the confines of a successful unit.
This should be an easy one. Has NE signed any free agent to a long-term contract in the last 2 years and why do they not allow any of that info out. So players like K. Johnson might be interested in signing with NE, instead of making comments like "I play there if I want to make $5 bucks next year." I know its good to be tight lipped about some but sometimes they should let the info out to let players around the league know that we are not that cheap...Oh wait maybe we are and that is why we don't release any info.Ken Schmitz
The Patriots have signed players to multiyear deals. Some names that come to mind are re-signing guys like Matt Light, Jarvis Green, Corey Dillon, Mike Vrabel, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Gorin and most recently Stephen Neal. In terms of unrestricted free agents from other teams, New England signed the likes (although not all in the last two years) of Rosevelt Colvin, Tyrone Poole, Rodney Harrison, Christian Fauria, Monty Beisel, Reche Caldwell and Josh Miller to multiyear deals. As for why the team gives out virtually no information, it's because they believe that putting out information gives other teams a competitive advantage. I don't necessarily agree with that, especially to the degree to which Belichick and Co. have taken that philosophy over the years, but it's been hard to argue with their success. How that works out going forward, though, after a season in which the team has lost a number of key free agents of its own and been unable to sign some others on the market, is still debatable. As far as being cheap, all I'll say is that in general the market sets the price on a free agent. That's just the way it works. I'm as cheap as anyone but if I want something I have to pay the asking price or don't get what I want. It's that simple. The pizza place down the street from my house doesn't give me a discount on a large pepperoni because I tell them they have a better chance of winning with me. I pay the asking price or I don't eat pizza. It's that simple. Or maybe it isn't, I just like thinking about pizza.
Like everyone, I'm sick over losing all these free agents, but what are the chances of landing [Eric] Moulds and [Paul] Edinger? That would be pretty good medicine for this ailing Pats fan.Eric Moody
Based on recent reports, it appears the trade market for Moulds is pretty competitive. And if we believe his agent, the Patriots aren't really keeping pace with the Texans and Eagles in that competition. Plus, trading for Moulds also involves working out a contract with the highly productive receiver. He's not going to come on the cheap. And while Marv Levy has said he would consider it, I don't think his first choice would be to trade him within the AFC East.
I think Edinger is an easier get. If the team wants him, of course at their set value, they can probably get him. Is he the best option left? I don't know. He certainly isn't Adam Vinatieri. He has experience in the poor conditions of Chicago. His career percentage (75.0) isn't great or as good as Vinatieri's, and he has a tendency to miss a lot of kicks from 30-39 yards (he went just 3-of-8 last season with the Vikings). Not a perfect fix for the hole at kicker, and probably not the only option the team is considering, but he's a serviceable veteran. He has a decent leg (at least three FGs from 50-plus in each of the last four seasons) but also has that weird and quirky kicking style, for whatever that's worth.
It may not seem as significant as losing one of the best kickers in NFL history but what was the thinking behind letting Tom Ashworth go? I know that he's not a premier offensive lineman but he has been a durable and versatile back up for the Pats and in my opinion was worth spending the relatively short money to keep him! Back-ups that can just step in and play like a starter are more valuable than it seems on the surface, I think. Plus, do you think that there is any chance that Richard Seymour will sign a long-term contract now with free agency looming for him next year. Seems to me he'll be the next big loss for the Patriots to the open market.Gary Abrams
In theory I agree with you in terms of valuable backups. But Ashworth didn't get short money in Seattle. He signed a deal worth a possible $13 million, including $4.5 million in the first year. That's a lot of money. He's a good athlete and might turn into a very good starting offensive lineman, but that's more than the Patriots were willing to play. And I don't really blame them. He's a great guy and I'm happy about the deal he got to go be a starter in Seattle. I hope he has a lot of success.
I haven't heard too much in terms of a potential extension for Seymour. I don't know what would press him to sign at this point, other than a lot of money. He's looking to be paid commiserate with his play, which will put him near the very top of all defensive linemen in football. That means you are talking about a signing bonus of at least $15 million and maybe even into the twenties. Unless the Patriots knock his socks off with an offer this summer, I think Seymour might be looking to test the free agent waters and find out what the market sets as his value. The man wants to get paid, there is no doubting that. If he does get to free agency I have to believe there will be plenty of teams interested and plenty of money thrown around.
Hey guys, love the column. I've been looking around at some of the mock drafts and noticed a lot of them having the Patriots picking Kamerion Wimbley from Florida St. with their first round pick. Honestly, I had never heard of the guy. Wanted to know your thoughts on him. Personally, I'd like to see an upgrade on offense, but that's just me.Megan Cassidy
Wimbley (6-4, 248) is one of those interesting 'tweener players. He was a defensive end in college but could be a good fit as an OLB in the 3-4 in the NFL. Others believe he could remain at defensive end and put on a little size to become a pure speed rusher at the next level. In New England he'd be a bit of a project in terms of playing on two feet, although a number of players made that transition swiftly and successfully after last year's draft. Because of the uncertainty of his position I think taking him at 21 is a little risky, but he certainly is establishing himself as a first-round type pick.
I just read that Javon Walker is looking for options outside of Green Bay. I feel the Patriots need to jump onto that opportunity. Having Walker and Branch as go-to receivers would bolster this offense to another level. Brady is in his prime and we need to give him weapons to work with. I know great defense wins games, but high scoring offenses make it harder for the opposing team to come back.Ben McHugh
There is no question the offense needs a few more weapons. Whether those come in free agency (a thinning crop), in a trade or through the draft, Brady needs some more help. Walker had a breakout season two years ago but is still recovering from a season ending knee injury a year ago. If healthy he's a young playmaker. Like most players, though, he's going to want to get paid. That's the problem in Green Bay. That might be a problem in New England even if they did work out a trade with the Packers. The Packers are taking offers on Walker, although he hasn't been given permission to seek his own trade, and the Broncos have already shown interest. Like Moulds there would be competition for a Walker trade and there would likely also have to be a financial commitment to the player. I think he can clearly make plays, I'm just not sure how much the Patriots would give up to get him or how much they'd pay him.
Howdy from Pantherland. Miss the snow and my fellow NE fans. Question: Would you say that Troy Brown has lost a step? It would seem a natural assumption as he turns 35 before the start of next season, but has he really shown a diminishment of skills that would indicate that he couldn't step into Given's shoes as the 60 catch guy? He always seems to contribute what's needed, and that's what's needed. Don't forget we've got one good and one about-to-be-great tight end. Finally, any kickers of note coming out of school, or should we really snatch up the lone cold-weather competent free agent Edinger? Love.Kenyon Gagne
Love? Please tell me you are a hot blonde. Anyway, looking for a rookie kicker … that's a risky proposition although to be fair Adam Vinatieri wasn't always Adam Vinatieri. You have to start somewhere I guess. I do think that Troy has lost a little something over the last couple of years, a drop off that's been most evident in his punt returns as his avg. has gone from a career-high 14.2 in 2001 to 4.3 last season. He was never a real speed burner and not having that extra step has turned what once were long returns into short gains. He certainly still has the ability to get open and make catches as a No. 3 or 4. But I don't think he's capable of taking the pressure off Branch or playing every game as the No. 2 option for Brady. He's still a good contributor but not a go-to kind of guy any longer.
If the Patriots do not choose to draft a RB in round one, do you think they might address the need for more depth with a free agent like Najeh Davenport, or a later draft pick like LSUs Joseph Addai? Thanks.Andy L.
Davenport re-signed with the Packers early this week, but I would be shocked if the Patriots don't acquire at least one back this offseason. After watching some film, I'm not in love with Addai. He does a lot of things pretty well (pass protection, plays fullback and tailback) but has never really been a lead back for a full year. I think he compares to a Patrick Pass-type, although he probably has a little more upside. I think the team needs to go after a true every down type back to replace Dillon. That means the team has to decide what player in that second tier of backs best fits the team's system and has the best chance at long term success in that role with the Patriots. The answer to that question can be different for different teams, even if they are analyzing the same group of prospects.
Profootballtalk.com had a pretty good theory of what the pats could do about the kicker situation- "Seahawks could end up losing kicker Josh Brown if a team signs him to an offer sheet that becomes fully guaranteed if Brown plays five or more games in the state of Washington. By adding several big-dollar phony years onto the end of the deal, there's no way the Seahawks would match. If a team with a pressing need at the position (such as the Patriots) is willing to give up a seventh-round draft pick, they can get Brown by turning the tables on the Seahawks." Sounds good to me. Pats can part with a 7th round pick for a good young kicker.Corey
I don't know about the whole poison pill thing that's going around the NFL, but Brown might be a good option for a team looking for a good young RFA kicker. He has a career 78.8 pct. and a strong leg shown by going 5-of-8 on field goals from 50-plus last year and a career long of 58 yards. He also seems to be more consistent on shorter field goals than Edinger has been in his career. And with the team holding 11 picks in the draft I don't think a 7th rounder is too much to give up for a solid young kicker. I'm not big into playing games in signing contracts, but if the Patriots liked Brown and that's what it takes to get him these days, then go for it.
Greetings! Throughout last season, the Boston media was speculating why Dillon "lost his step". A recent Boston Globe article gutted out what I think is the key reason - his 10M guaranteed money contract. Many NFL aging players when given juicy guaranteed contracts do not perform to expectations. So I do not understand why savvy Pats had to sign Dillon to a lengthy guaranteed contract. Is there anything that can be done to motivate him to do his job, or we are stuck with his "lost step" and "I don't talk to media" for years? Thanks.Ed
I'm not sure there is much that can be done with Dillon. Plus, I'm not sure what the team would be looking to do with him. I don't think the team is as down on the third-year Patriot as the fans and media are. In fact, Dillon and the team recently reworked his contract. While details are not available, his salary for 2006 went from $3 million to $710,000. Presumably, the team converted the rest of the salary due to guaranteed money. That's not something you'd generally do with a guy you are looking to unload immediately. Dillon had a terrible year in 2005. Did he lose a step? Maybe. Was he fat and happy with his new contract? Not if we were to believe Belichick who said early in the year that Dillon was in better shape and testing better than he had in his first season in New England. Maybe it was the injuries. Whatever it was, Dillon was awful last year and then popped off to the media in December. He needs to be better if the Patriots offense is going to be better, especially with Brady's No. 2 target gone. I think originally the team gave Dillon the extension to keep him happy and because they believed he had plenty in the tank. Did it backfire? We'll find out for sure this season based on Dillon's play and production. Either way, like it or not we are stuck with him for at least 2006.
This dreadful off-season can be turned into a time to start getting excited with just a couple of moves. A trade (and restructuring of his contract) for Moulds & drafting a sliding LenDale White at 21. Wow would that add some pop into an offense that really needs it! Brady needs more help on that side of the ball as was evident in the Denver playoff loss. A #2 receiver in Moulds & a big time young back in White. Sounds almost too good to be true!
I think Moulds would be a very good short-term addition at receiver. He's a proven No. 1 target. If the trade can be worked out (according to his agent that doesn't seem likely) and the price is right, I'm all for it. But I would caution that Moulds, an 11th year veteran, could drop off in the next couple years. I wouldn't want to be on the hook for a large bonus or costly long-term extension. That concerns me, just as it did when the Patriots gave Dillon his coin last offseason. As for White, I don't love him. He was a very productive player on a great team at USC running behind a very good line. That can make people look better than they are. I am also concerned by his weight. He ballooned up to 253 for the national championship and has gained weight during the season each of the last two years. He has sort of a doughy build and I'm not sold on his work ethic. I think he has bust written all over his pudgy stomach. But I have certainly been wrong before.
Hello from Nevada (that's ada, like atta-boy, not AH like car). Any chance the Pats will talk with WR Nate Burleson to replace Givens? He's played well in a 2nd rate organization and seems to be match what the Pats look for in players.Brian Duarte
Like many of the other names New England fans have brought up as potential Patriots replacements, Burleson looks like he's about to come off the market. He signed an offer sheet with the Seahawks that the Vikings probably can't match because of a retaliatory and stupid "poison pill" (an issue that the NFL has to address before it gets even more out of hand). The RFA has had some success sin the league, but I'm not sure he's worth a ton of money (although the "$49 million" deal is as phony and lame as the poison pill it contains) even if he might have been an upgrade to what the Patriots have right now.