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Ask PFW Part II: No off this season


I was born in NE and I was a ball boy for the original Pats. I grew up down the street from Billy Sullivan the original owner so I have been a long time Pats fan. Question, why not trade Brady (obviously if he is healthy). I believe you could get a lot for him. Remember Plunkett to 'Frisco!!! I love Brady, but why not Cassel? He is 6 years younger, not injured and who knows....remember how Brady started out. Even if healthy how long is Tom going to last. Please don't blow this off, just think about it.Jim Jensen

Thought about. No thanks. Using your parameter and assuming Brady is healthy, Cassel is the guy I'd be trading. I like him as much as anyone and will be rooting for him moving forward. But I'll stick with Brady, thanks. Brady says he's going to play until he's 40, so that gives him at least another eight seasons. That will double his playing time as a starter. He's not that old. He's far more proven and I think trading him would lead to huge regrets down the road. Plus, how much is a team realistically going to give up to get him? Three first round picks is a theory I've heard posed. Not enough, thanks.
But I'm glad to see that a former backup quarterback like yourself has taken to reading our humble little mailbag. This is the Jim Jensen who went to B.U. and then played quarterback, wide receiver and running back for the Dolphins, right? One of the original slashes?
Andy Hart

Hi guys- now that Cassel has been franchised, do you think he will still be here come September, or will he be traded? Given the age of the linebacking corps, I'd like to see a trade involving Cassel going to the Lions in exchange for Ernie Sims. I think that he'd blossom in the NE system, and is still a young player, despite having 3 seasons under his belt. That would leave us free to pursue upgrades to the secondary through the draft and or free agency... any thoughts?
Tom Roberts

As I said a number of times above I don't know if Cassel will be here in September or not. If I had to guess, I'd say no. But what do I know?
I don't think Sims is a good fit for the Patriots system. I see him as a purely Tampa 2 linebacker. He's only 6-0, 225. That's borderline Larry Izzo size. And we see how much defense he plays. Izzo (5-10, 228) is the only linebacker on New England's final 2008 roster weighing less than 242 pounds or shorter than 6-1. Sims is both of those. He may be a nice little player. He can run around and make a lot of plays in the right scheme. But he's too little to be a nice player in New England.
Andy Hart

Personally I think the Patriots should take a shot at Ray Lewis, although he's aging he would be a good addition. What do you think the Patriots should focus on more? Getting another talented linebacker or a talented cornerback?Zach Forgrave

Lewis may be aging, but it hasn't shown up in his play. He had another great, Pro Bowl season. He's a football miracle along the lines of Junior Seau. It's pretty amazing. It sounds like the Ravens are going to do everything possible to retain his services. I'm also not sure he'd like playing in the Patriots 34 scheme. Lewis likes to be protected and allowed to run around and make plays. New England might ask him to take on more blockers than he's interested in. Not saying I wouldn't take his abilities, I just don't think it's a great fit financially or in terms of pure football scheme.
As for priorities, I really think the Patriots need to get a higher-end, playmaking corner. I miss the days of Ty Law and Asante Samuel making key plays at key times. Bring back the pick-six!
Andy Hart

Is there a way in a contract for Pats to stipulate that once traded, Cassel will not be traded to the Jets, or is that against the rules?Pat Fan

I believe that is possible and was part of Brett Favre's trade to the Jets. If they turned around and traded him to one of the Packers' competitors in the NFC North then New York had to give up some very high draft picks. I don't see why the Patriots, if they were in any way inclined to, couldn't do the same thing with Cassel. But I don't think it's likely. If New England trades Cassel I think it would take the highest bid available, close the door on the Cassel era and walk away happy and regret-free.
PFW Writer

I know this may be somewhat of an unrealistic scenario of sorts, but I would like your opinion on it regardless: Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and a #1 for Matt Cassel. Thoughts? Thanks. P.S. You guys are very insightful and informative; please keep up the great work!Mike Hicks

This email had the subject heading: "Makes sense for the Chiefs, anyway..." I'm not sure I agree with that. To me, an elite though aging tight end, a proven if disruptive running back and the third pick in the draft is too much to give up for Cassel. From a Patriots perspective, I'd take it and never look back. I know you have to pay the third overall pick a ton of money, but I like my chances of Belichick finding an elite player in that spot who'll be worthy of the coin. Gonzalez is the best there is and would add a missing dimension to the offense for at least a year or two. And I'll count on Johnson to produce when surrounded by something he lacks – professionalism and maturity. All that said, this deal will never happen.
Andy Hart



Is it likely that the Patriots will lose Larry Izzo in free agency? He's been a consistent special teams player and a tremendous leader and should be a top priority for the Patriots to keep.*
*Sam Frankel

I'm going to be Frank(el) with you, Sam. There is a chance the Patriots lose Izzo but I think it's a small one. My feeling (There goes that gut talking to me again. Maybe I didn't need that fourth Gordita for dinner last night.) is Izzo likes playing in New England, is somewhat entrenched in the community and is a key fixture on the team. I could easily see him reaching a deal with the team before or early on in free agency. That said, with the spread of Patriots coaches around the league there is always the chance that a team like the Browns or Broncos swoops in and signs Izzo to a relatively good deal to come in and add veteran talent and stability to their special teams units. Izzo's age (34) would probably limit those options. So my guess is he'll be back making tackles, watching film and serving as the special teams captain in New England.
Andy Hart

With a glaring hole at linebacker, Bart Scott seems like a perfect fit. He would be the least expensive of Balt's 3 FA LB's, and by all accounts seems to be a high character guy. Thoughts?
Greg Morris

I agree that he'd be the least expensive but that's because he's the least valuable. I really think he benefits from playing with Lewis and Suggs on a pretty talented defense. I'm not saying he's not a good player, but I don't think he's a game changer or a guy I'd really be excited about adding to the defense. Solid but not spectacular and probably will want more money than I, or Belichick, would be willing to pay.
Andy Hart

As far as the secondary goes, why do the Patriots go for defensive backs that are under 6-0. I cant stand that. It kills us against the bigger receivers in the league Lewis Sanders an Antwain Spann are listed as 6-0 and 6-1 but I mean come on why can't we draft or sign a DB over 6 feet that can cover.Dave Maymon

Forget the 6-0 part, I'd take a guy who can simply cover at this point. The bottom line is that good corners are hard to come by. Good corners who are over 6-0 are even harder to come by. Those guys who are over 6-0, athletic, have good hips and instincts just aren't all that plentiful. When they do come along they usually get called very early on draft weekend. As such it seems that the Patriots tend to gravitate more towards smaller, quicker corners that are more readily available later in the draft than the bigger, physical types. Hey, they haven't drafted a corner in the first round in a long time, maybe this is the year they fill that void as they did a year ago at linebacker. And maybe that guy will be tall, athletic, instinctive and talented. At this point we can only hope.
Andy Hart



What do you think about the Patriots possibly tweaking their defensive scheme into more of an aggressive 3-4? Granted our personnel has to fit accordingly, but I think we do have some good blitzers, Brandon Meriweather, Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton,etc. I think if we add some speed and athleticism to the defense via the draft this can work for the long run. What are your thoughts?*
*Juan Rodriguez

The Patriots haven't always been as vanilla on defense as they seemed to be most of last season. That may have had to do with personnel and injuries. I would like to see them call a little bit more of an aggressive game on defense. Meriweather did show the ability to blitz and make plays late in the year. I think Mayo and Guyton could if given some more opportunities. I'd like to see James Sanders, if he re-signs, given some more chances. I guess it comes down to coverage. When the team had decent playmaking corners it allowed Rodney Harrison and others to be more aggressive in pass rush situations. Last year, with severe coverage problems, it seemed the team tried to flood the passing lanes and keep as many people in coverage as possible. It didn't seem to work too often. Maybe more chances for some of the team's more athletic playmakers on defense will be in the cards for 2009. At the very least it's more interesting to watch than sitting back and seeing your secondary get systematically picked apart.
Andy Hart

With Pioli's move to Kansas City, and Tony Gonzalez's want for a trade, is it possible to trade a franchised Cassel for one of the best Tight Ends in the league? It would sure help that position seeing as Watson and Thomas haven't been as productive in the past season.Nick Barney

Hey guys, I'm a huge Pats fan, and I love the work you do. I'm sure you've already heard that Tony Gonzalez wants out of KC. Gonzalez is an absolute monster, so what do you think the chances are he'd end up with the Pats? Is a Cassel-Gonzalez trade fair in your view?Hamed Almajed

After Cassel, Gonzalez was the most popular email subject this week. As I said earlier, I'd love to have him. He's coming off back-to-back 90-catch, 1,000-yard seasons. He's missed one game in his 12 seasons, so wearing down doesn't seem to be an issue even at his advanced age. He's said he'd like to play another year or two. I'd love to see that in New England. I wouldn't trade Cassel for Gonzalez straight-up, but I'd to it as part of a package. In terms of draft-pick value it seems that the younger quarterback Cassel could be worth a first-round pick plus something else at this point while the aging tight end Gonzalez is worth at best a second-round pick. That doesn't equate to an even swap. But if the two sides were interested in talking, it would make for one of the more interesting NFL trades we've seen in a while.
Andy Hart

Hey everyone at PFW. My question regards New England never hosting a Super Bowl. First, what was the weather like in New England during the last 3 Super Bowls? What I'm trying to get at is if the weather was OK and no winds were apparent during the times the Super Bowls were played, why would they not consider New England for a future Super Bowl venue? They've won three Super Bowls and deserve to host one. Finally, why has Florida hosted 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls?Chris C.

Winning Super Bowls has nothing to do with deserving to host one. Florida hosts a lot of Super Bowls for the same reason people go there on vacation – the generally nice weather. Having Super Bowls in cold-weather cities creates a huge challenge for organizers and takes away some of the week-long enjoyment for fans that go to the host city. It's nicer to have events and parties in a warm weather climate. It just is. Can you imagine if New England or New York hosted a Super Bowl and a blizzard it on the Saturday before the game. It would be chaos. In my mind it's not a risk worth taking. Super Bowls should never be in cold-weather cities. I vote for a permanent rotation that includes places like Phoenix, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans and any city in California that builds a new stadium. Heck throw Hawaii or Las Vegas in there if you want a warm, non-NFL city destination.
Andy Hart

The Patriots need defense but the absolute best player in the draft and 2009 Rookie of the Year is Percy Harvin. Would the Patriots take a shot at him to replace Jabar Gaffney and eventually Kevin Faulk. He is a game changer. By the way, I think it is a certainty that the Patriots will receive a 3rd round compensatory pick and maybe more. Depending on the Cassel situation, (franchise and trade for either a low first rounder or a second rounder and more), the Patriots could pick 6 of the approximate top 100 players.John Heisman

Harvin is an interesting athlete, and I do mean athlete. I think he can contribute as an outside receiver, slot receiver, third-down back and all-around offensive playmaker. I'm intrigued by his versatility and think Belichick would be as well. Considering Belichick's relationship with Urban Meyer, he should get an honest scouting report on Harvin. That said, Harvin is projected as a first-round pick and I don't think the Patriots can really afford to go for offense at that early point in the draft. If Harvin slipped into the second round, now we'd be talking. I'd like to have Harvin on my team, but I don't think the circumstances will allow for it.
Andy Hart



Do you think we should cut Laurence [Maroney] and try to find another reliable veteran RB if one is available ? *John O'Rourke*

No and yes. I think Maroney deserves the chance to go to training camp, prove he's healthy and earn a roster spot. I think this will be a critical camp for the former first-round pick but I'm not ready to give up on him just yet. He has too much talent and has shown flashes of brilliance. I'm giving him one last chance. But I do think the Patriots could look to add depth in free agency. Assuming LaMont Jordan doesn't re-sign, I'd look for the team to pursue another low-cost veteran option this offseason. One name to keep in mind is Kevin Jones.
Andy Hart

Hi, I'm a French fan. First, I think tagging Cassel is a mistake. His salary going to be over $14 million! I don't know the salary cap status but it's too much. And, who's going to be the next offensive coordinator?
Adrien Ruel

French is OK, but I'm more of a Spanish fan. But to each his own. Anyway, it's too late on the tag advice. Cassel has been tagged and reportedly signed the offer. It's done. Now we'll see if he sticks around for the season. The $14 million only stays on the books if he stays on the team. If/when he goes so too does the cap charge. As for the open offensive coordinator slot, I wouldn't expect that role to be filled in a titular sense this season. New England could very well go without someone in the position of offensive coordinator, as the team did when Josh McDaniels began calling the plays in 2005. Bill O'Brien has moved over to coach the quarterbacks, another role McDaniels held, and could take on a more vocal role in game planning and play calling. Belichick will also likely have a greater role on offense this season. But it seems unlikely, at this point, that the team will actually name an offensive coordinator for the 2009 season.
Andy Hart

Hi PFW this may seem like a stupid question but, what would you say are the chances of Kevin Faulk getting into the Hall of Fame? Thanks a lot PFW.Josh Pales

There is no such thing as a stupid question here at Ask PFW, we actually specialize more in stupid answers. Faulk is a great player for the Patriots and will certainly be honored at some point after his career in the Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, but he has virtually no chance at reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's not an every down player, doesn't possess the statistics to measure up to Hall inductees and as much as Patriots Nation loves and appreciates his contributions Faulk isn't thought of that highly outside of New England. Sorry.
Andy Hart


I think this is the first email I've seen with some venom directed at Cassel. I don't get it. I don't see how anyone can root against him or feel any ill will towards him if he leaves New England. I agree that Brady may be fueled to return even better than ever from injury and to once again prove himself as the top QB dog. Cassel may find that the grass isn't greener on the other side, but in the end the money might be. Please turn your CAPS LOCK off and stop hating!
Andy Hart

Looking at the teams the Patriots have to face in the 2009 season, and taking a look back at the 2008 season at how these teams performed, I'd say we have a semi-tough schedule for next year. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks from a huge Pats fan from Denmark.Frederik Gatzwiller

It's always dangerous to assess a team's schedule this far in advance of the season and based on last year's results, but 2009 does look like a tough slate in New England. It will certainly be more difficult than last season's cakewalk through the NFC West. I think I saw that in terms of opponents winning percentage from this past fall the Patriots enter 2009 with the third toughest schedule. There are a lot of playoff teams on there. A lot of tough defenses. Five home games against teams that made the playoffs. Wow! Even some of the teams that didn't make the playoffs were in the race down to the wire (Denver, Tampa, Jets). Not exactly an easy row to hoe. Of course there are some surprise '08 teams like Miami, Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore that might take a little bit of a step back in 2009. It's early. It's all speculation at this point. But it looks like a tough slate of games. Good thing Brady will be back!
Andy Hart

As we look ahead to the potential 2009 roster, it would seem the desire to get younger on defense would put both Bruschi and Izzo at risk. They will both be a year older and Izzo especially is not an option in the regular defense, which when coupled with his age would seem to make him even more expendable. Bruschi is clearly going down hill fast and is not factor as a playmaker any more. I haven't seen PFW call it this way. Am I missing something?John McKinley

Yeah, you're missing the 1,000 or so times over the last couple years that we've written in PFW and on that Bruschi has lost a step and isn't the playmaker he once was. Oh, and don't forget all those stories we've written about the Patriots needing to get younger and faster at linebacker. Oh, and all the draft preview work focusing on linebackers. That's all you've missed. Thanks for at least scanning your eyes over the things we write, even if you don't really read them. At least that's the way this PFW writer is calling it, John.
Andy Hart

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