I know you guys get tired of fans asking about just-released veteran players and will they go to the Pats....so here's one more....Jason Taylor. Could he be a one-year stopgap to replace Vrabel while the younger guys continue to develop or another guy is drafted? Does he have enough in the tank to play 75-80% of the snaps? Heck, just keeping him away from blitzing Brady is an added plus. Maybe a one-year, $5 million deal with incentives? Too much, too little? I think it's a better, cheaper short-term solution than Julius Peppers and you don't have to give up any picks to sign him.Elgidio Diaz
What do you guys think about the Pats signing Jason Taylor? He will be a lot cheaper than Julius Peppers. And we might still be able to get 10 sacks out of him. He will be a temporary answer at outside linebacker spot vacated by Mike Vrabel, mean while younger guys like Shawn Crable get a chance to play special teams and develop for a year. If we sign Taylor instead of trading for Peppers, we will still be able to use some of the money to extend Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins contracts. What are your thoughts?Juan Rodriguez
As a player I think Taylor would make a lot of sense for the Patriots. He's a proven edge rusher. He has experience playing linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He's versatile and can move around in various packages. He's not that old and aside from last season has always been very healthy and durable despite his lanky build. He'd also come a lot cheaper than Peppers would both in terms of not having to trade for him and not having to pay him huge long-term dollars.
But there are two problems with bringing him in on defense to be this offseason's perfect, Super Bowl-hungry veteran addition. First, as many as 12 teams reportedly have shown interest already in the short time since he got his walking papers in Washington. So he may have more options and money on the market than would make for the perfect low-cost slide right into New England. Another problem is the reports that part of the reason that he got released was the fact that he seemingly had little interest in participating in the offseason program for the Redskins. His agent was quoted saying that Taylor chose family over football. That's fine. But the Patriots like players to be active in the offseason program, especially guys new to the team. That could be a hurdle for Belichick and Co.
Taylor is a great player. He's only a year removed from a great season. At worst I think he could still be a part-time, double-digit sack guy. I also think there is a good chance he could still be a full-time player in both the 3-4 or the 4-3, especially under the right coach and surrounded by the right talent.
My gut tells me Taylor won't end up in a Patriots uniform. But I'd love to see what would happen if he did.
We have yet to announce who our offensive coordinator will be. Is it logic to assume Belichick will just take on that role? Is handing say Bill O'Brien that role an option or will we likely hire someone new?
O'Brien has moved from wide receivers to quarterbacks coach. He has a background as a college offensive coordinator and is very well thought of by those who've worked with him. I expect him to take on a larger role in the offensive game planning and play calling. I don't expect the team will name an actual offensive coordinator this fall. My guess is that Belichick will also take a larger role with the offensive side of the ball. It seems like things are playing out pretty much the same way they did when Charlie Weis left for Notre Dame. Josh McDaniels served as quarterbacks coach and called the plays on offense, but was not immediately given the coordinator title. He assumed that role in a titular sense the following season.
Now that the Pats have traded Mike Vrable does this mean they will be leaning more toward an OLB in the draft? And if so would their focus just be on Brian Cushing or are there other prospects the have in their sights?
I'm not going to pretend to know what Belichick is planning for the draft. I do think the Patriots will target an outside linebacker as a priority need. Cushing is clearly one of the top prospects at the position. But it's still pretty early and with New England not picking until 23rd it's hard to project who'll be on the board at that time. The guy I'd love to have is Brian Orakpo out of Texas. He's a beast transitioning from defensive end (although he played some 3-4 OLB a bit for the Longhorns) and is in the mold of Pittsburgh's James Harrison. The problem is he'll likely be long gone by the time the Patriots pick. Other names to keep an eye on at this point are Clay Matthews, Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin, Larry English and Clint Sintim. I'll have more on all the prospects, with a special focus on the linebackers and cornerbacks, when we get done with our film work in the coming weeks.
Now that the pats traded Cassel to K.C. do you see the Patriots going after an experienced back up? Like Damon Huard. He already knows the basics of the system and probably won't cost much since he's entering the final stages of his career. Plus if Brady isn't ready for opening day Huard can easily man the fort for a game or two.Tino Martinez
I do think the Patriots will explore the market for a veteran backup this spring, but I'm not sure Huard will be the guy. I know he's got a nice grasp of the system from his previous time in New England but my gut feeling is he wouldn't be the right fit for a return. But I've been wrong before. I also think O'Connell will be given every shot to win the backup job behind Brady. The fact that he held that spot behind Cassel throughout last season tells me something. He's got another year in the system and clearly they like his skills, shown by his selection as a third-round pick. If he makes it to the summer as the backup on the depth chart I think he will maintain that job heading into the season. I don't think Belichick likes to bring in quarterbacks late in the process. So my guess is he'll either sign one in the next month or so or will go with the young guys on the roster behind Brady.
How is everyone so skeptical about Laurence Maroney simply making the 2009 opening day roster? He had a good rookie year splitting time with Dillon, an injury plagued second year but ended it playing very well with six 100-yard games. While 2008 was almost completely lost to injury, how can BB give up on a first round pick who has shown instances of great productivity and big-play ability after only 3 seasons? Thanks guys.Jordan Zongol
I don't think Belichick has given up on Maroney. I actually am of the belief that Maroney heads into training camp with a completely clean slate. Thanks to a depth chart that includes Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk, Belichick doesn't have to count on anything from his former first-round pick. But he also doesn't have to rush to run him out of town either. If Maroney is healthy and has a great summer I could see him serving as the starting running back when the season opens. If he's banged up again and struggles to find any playing consistency this summer I could also see Maroney getting cut at the end of training camp. I really do think his future in New England is that wide open.
But I think you answered your own question as to the frustration people feel toward Maroney. He's missed time to injury in each of his three seasons. He's run tentatively and danced too much on the field at times. The perception is that he's not durable/tough enough. Fair or not, that's the perception. But he's also shown flashes of brilliance. But as a first-round pick, people expect more than flashes and potential. People want consistent, franchise-back production. Maybe Maroney will bring that in a breakout season in 2009. It worked for Carolina's DeAngelo Williams who followed up two lackluster seasons with the Panthers with a 1,515-yard, 20-touchdown effort last fall. Williams has said his friend Maroney can do the same thing this coming season. And that's exactly what Patriots fans are hoping for.
Hey guys. Love the insight you share. Keep up the good work! I admit to being as surprised as the rest or the football world when the Pats traded Cassel and Vrabel for "only" a second round pick. However, "in Bill we trust". Looking at draft day, though, it seems like we could be well positioned to package some picks for a trade or for another first rounder. Correct me if I'm wrong (as I know you will) but don't we now have, counting compensatory picks, a first rounder, 3 second rounders, a third rounder, 2 fourth rounders, 2 fifth rounders, a sixth and a seventh? What do you see us doing with this healthy hand we've been dealt? Lastly, I love the Fred Taylor signing. What are your thoughts on this? Desperately seeking football in PA.
You are wrong, Brian. New England currently has nine picks in the upcoming draft -- one each in the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds as well as three second-round selections. Though the late-round picks are affected by the compensatory selections will be announced closer to the draft, the top of the first three rounds are set with the Patriots selecting at 23rd, 34th, 47th, 58th and 89th overall. Five picks in the top 89. Not bad and the team could very well add a couple more picks in the compensatory process.
I am still really frustrated by the Cassel deal. Especially in light of hearing we could have had the 12th pick. Maybe it was all the bloggers after the season, but I was really hoping for the Pats to get a first rounder so they could go after a guy like Ray Maualuga or a Malcolm Jenkins and then another guy on top of that. What do you guys think of Maualuga? Is he a good fit for the system? I seriously doubt he will still be there at 23 but could the Pats use the 34th pick as leverage to move up and snatch him? Or maybe he is just not the player for the Pats this year because they got Mayo last year. Tell me what you think. Thanks.Wilson Roberts
I like Maualuga but I don't think he equates to a good, value pick for the Patriots this year. He's going to go in the first round, probably in the first half of the round. I think he's going to be a very good inside linebacker at the pro level with the ability to stop the run while also making some plays in the passing game. His 40 time may scare some people, but I think he plays fast on the field. But I wouldn't invest a first-round pick, or consider trading up, to get a guy to play alongside Mayo. At this point I think the needs at outside linebacker, cornerback, safety and receiver are too great to use another high pick at inside linebacker. I think Jenkins is an interesting player and his skills would fit the Patriots needs whether he projects as a pro corner or safety. But he's also projected to go pretty high in the first round and isn't likely a realistic possibility at No. 23.
I saw that Chris McAlister was released by the Raven last week, would be possible for the Patriots to him pick up? I mean he still is a great corner and we really need help there, and another question. Who do you see the Patriots drafting in the first round?John Opitz
It's possible, but I haven't heard too much connecting the Patriots to McAlister. He's not nearly the player he once was. He's certainly not a great corner at this point. I've also heard that he'd really fallen out of favor in Baltimore even before this last season. He may have once been considered one of the best in the game, but he isn't anymore. Maybe he's worth taking a flyer on, as the Patriots have done with so many veteran cornerbacks over the years. But I wouldn't count on him being a real difference maker in the New England secondary. He's not that guy anymore. First round? At this point I'll throw out the name Vontae Davis, cornerback from Illinois. He may not be there at 23. It's way too early to see how the draft is going to shake out. But you asked for a name so I felt obliged to give you one.
Hey guys, love reading ASK PFW every week. Quick question. Now that Vrabel is gone, do you see the Pats hanging on to Colvin or Seau for veteran leadership or anything like that?Derrick Caldwell
No. Both were emergency signings late last season. Unless that same scenario plays out again this coming fall, I think both have played their last game for the Patriots. Even in an emergency I think the older but more productive Seau would be the more likely for a late-season cameo. From what I saw last December from Colvin, he's done.
Where do you see the pats going for a 3rd receiver. Through the draft or free agency?Roc Long
Both. My guess is the team will sign at least one mid or lower level veteran free agent to come in and compete for reps. I'd also project the team to take a receiver in either the second or third round who will have the chance to come in and compete for playing time right away. The position is too top heavy right now with no depth behind Moss and Wes Welker. I wouldn't be surprised to see the team select a couple receivers in the draft. There is a real need there, even if Moss and Welker have remained incredibly healthy over the last two seasons.
With the trade of Mike Vrabel, do you see the Patriots trying to get Clay Matthews? He had a good Combine and could drop to the 23rd pick. Also could you the Pats picking up Laveranues Coles as their third receiver?D. DiSchino
After losing Jabar Gaffney to the Broncos, the Patriots really don't have an option as a number 3 receiver. Kelley Washington and Sam Aiken are more of special teams players, and I was wondering what you thought of the Pats signing Laveranues Coles. Keep up the good work!
Now with Jabar Gaffney in Denver, how will the team address the 3rd receiver need? via the draft if so then who, or via free agents possibly Mike Furrey?Guy Giguere
I think our offense is one receiver short of being SB-caliber. Do you think Pats may sign L. Coles?Adam Trueman
First off, Adam, I think the New England offense will be Super Bowl-caliber with or without any real additions to the roster, just as it has been each of the last two seasons. But as the rest of these emails point out there is a clear need at receiver after Welker and Moss. I don't think Gaffney will be all that missed and thought he was a disappointment in an expanded role last season. Furrey is a guy whose name has been thrown around already, but I'd much rather have Coles. I think he would make a very good option opposite Moss. But to my knowledge the Patriots have yet to show any interest in the former Jet. There are a few other veterans on the market, but certainly look for New England to take a receiver in the draft. It's a clear position of need. There are a lot of bigger type receivers in the draft crop, which is intriguing. The name Aaron Kelly has been thrown around as a second-day possibility. And Percy Harvin is intriguing thanks to his versatility and playmaking, but his durability is an issue and he's a likely first-round pick. I'm not sure Belichick will look to receiver in the first round. Darrius Heyward-Bey has blazing speed as a potential second-round option with a great combination of size and speed that could be alluring when Belichick uses one of his three selections in that round.
For the record I don't really like Matthews. His dad played for Belichick. It would make a nice draft-day story to write. He's a former walk-on at USC. But I'm not sold on the theory that he's going to be a better pro than he was in college. He has all the measurables but I don't see him as a first-round worthy difference maker in the NFL.
Will Bill Belichick be on Kansas City the next season? Matt Cassel & Mike Vrabel for a second round pick? It's a joke, that wasn't a trade was a gift to the Chiefs. I know the friendship between Bill and Scott Pioli but on the field the friends don't exist. Maybe BB needs a guy like Scott Pioli behind him to take a good decisions. A bad taste to the Patriots Nation. Sorry but I'm disappointed. My question is, will be the league or the commissioner put back the trade because "wasn't fair" to the rest of the teams. The league needs to approve the deal? thx.Rafael Hernandez
I just had to mix in another entertaining Pats fan response to the trade. No, the league will not be looking into the Cassel trade. It was a deal between two teams that in no way is outside the lines of normal NFL business. I assume this email was written with tongue firmly implanted in check, but upon second reading I'm not so sure. Either way, it's sort of funny.
How do you see a couple of Big East players, WVU's Pat White and Cincinnati TE/De Connor Barwin, a Mike Vrabel clone, as potential draft picks. The Pats always like players who can play different positions and contribute.Bill Timko
Both guys are interesting. Barwin is a projected second-round pick and clearly has the tools to project as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That's why he's been compared to Vrabel so often. He talked a lot about that at the Combine, including how he's also played mostly tight end and is pretty raw on defense. I'm really going to have to watch some of his tape before I make my assessment on him, but on paper he seems like a potential Patriot. I just don't like taking such raw prospects as early in the draft as the second round.
White wants to be a quarterback at the NFL level, but he just doesn't have the tools. (Plus, I hate lefty quarterbacks) He's too small and his motion isn't great. But he could help a team as a slash player and could really make some plays out of a Wildcat look. I think Belichick would make good use of a guy like White and wouldn't be surprised to see him add someone of that type of skill set at some point. He loves versatility and guys like White bring that to an offense. How high does that life White's stock on draft weekend? The answer to that question is why NFL GMs make so much money my friends.
I have to ask the burning question on everyone's mind, and as a member of the military, having to know about defense comes naturally. My question is simply this: Which defensive position do you draft for first, if you had control of the draft destiny of the Patriots, safety with Rodney Harrison soon close to retirement or do you look to pull the same luck of the draw by taking another Mayo? And why would you pick that specific position to draft for first?Shane Salcedo
It's hard to play these hypothetical games, but I'll try. All things being equal, I'd take the best cornerback or outside pass rusher available. If both were available, and seemingly equal in talent and professional upside, I'd go with the corner. The Patriots pass defense is in serious need of an upgrade and that means improving both the coverage and the pass rush. Sure 2008 draft picks like Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite and Shawn Crable might be able to help out in their second season, but I think they need some top-end help from this year's draft class as well.
With the depth at linebacker in the draft doesn't getting the Lions or Chiefs 2nd round pick this year suit the needs of the Pats? Everyone seems so focused on getting a 1st round pick for Cassel when having the 23rd pick and 3 total second round picks supports the Pats needs and their financial structure. With the depth at LB in the draft it makes more sense to snag a DB at 23 and then address the LB need in the second round... especially if it is the Lions or Chiefs 2nd pick. I'm starting to get nervous that no one is going to trade for Cassel unless the Pats settle for something a little less... in this case it would still get the job done. Does this seem like a feasible solution?David Kunkel
This email was sent Feb. 24. I just wanted to give David some props for predicting the future. Seems like he was spot-on in terms of Cassel's value and where he'd end up. Well done. Since he was right about the trade I now assume the Patriots will take a defensive back with the 23rd pick and go linebacker early in the second round. He's earned the benefit of the doubt in his predictions.
There is something I don't understand. Why do several teams sign players to big contracts with lots of guaranteed money and then cut them a year later? Jerry Porter, Drayton Florence, Jason Taylor, DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker are just a few examples. Aren't they huge cap hits to take? Why don't teams have more patience in these guys? Better yet, why did they sign them in the first place?
If you get the answer to this question, call Al Davis because he's still searching for it. NFL deals are never as lucrative and long as they are reported. That's just the way the business works. Usually there are good-sized cap hits when they release these players a year or two into the so called big money deals. But usually not as big as it first looked. There is a lot of misinformation put out in reporting contracts, much of it by agents looking to pound their own chests and help themselves in self promotion while recruiting other clients. When dollar signs are involved, often times you can't believe the hype in NFL contracts.
Read Part I| *Ask the writers a question*