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Ask PFW: Passing through the offseason

Can we make a serious push for Odell Thurman? Even with character issues our organization can clean him up and solidify the inside linebacker position for years to come?Garrett Stewart

I love most of the linebacker moves of this year and last year but do you think the Pats should go after Odell Thurman who was released from the Bengals? What are the knocks/issues with him?Keith Henderson

I'd be really surprised if the Patriots made any sort of run at Thurman. The troubled former Bengals and Georgia playmaker simply has too much baggage. I know fans assume that arriving in Foxboro is the magic cure for players with off-field issues, but it's not that easy. Thurman has been in trouble starting in high school, moving on to college and was suspended for two seasons in the NFL for reportedly skipping a drug test and having issues with alcohol. Then after finally getting reinstated by the league he missed his chance to work his way back into the picture in Cincinnati and got released. There is no question he's talented, as he showed in his one and only season with the Bengals. But look at it this way, the Bengals need linebackers as much as anyone. They also seem to feel comfortable giving guys with these types of issues plenty of chances. If Thurman couldn't fit in at Paul Brown Stadium, I don't think there is much chance he'd fit in for Bill Belichick. Say what you want about past Patriots "projects" like Corey Dillon or Randy Moss, but they all fulfilled one key rule to succeed in New England as football was important to all those guys. I'm not sure the game is important to Thurman. He certainly hasn't shown that to be the case over the years. I don't think he'll ever be a Patriot. I think he's another in the long list of guys who've wasted impressive natural talents and will never be what he could have been. It's too bad.
Andy Hart

Would New England make an attempt to pickup JT [Jason Taylor] if MIAMI releases him?
Erik Chamorro

Hey guys, I have been wondering with all this talk about Taylor leaving Miami. What do you think of a move to New England chances, pros and cons etc. ? It's probably just the fan in me wanting to see another great player come to New England but I was just also wondering why there is so little interest in him elsewhere?
James Sully

Put me at the top of the list of people who would love to see Taylor in a Patriots uniform. But I also need to claim a spot atop the list of people who think there is no chance we'll see Taylor in a Patriots uniform. Clearly Taylor and the Tuna are butting heads in Miami and it looks like the star defender's days are done in South Beach. From what I've read the best deal the Dolphins have been offered is a fourth-round pick. That stuns me. I know Taylor will be 34 before the season starts, but I think he's one of those guys that still has a few good years left in the tank. He's in great shape (even if I don't buy the idea that his spring Dancing with the Stars experience has him in five times the shape he was in during his best NFL season) and has been exceptionally durable over the years. He hasn't missed a game or had less than 8.5 sacks since 1999. We've all seen the damage he's done to Matt Light, his buddy Tom Brady and the Patriots over the years. How a team wouldn't want to give up a third- or second-round pick for him sort of boggles my mind. If I ran a team that was a playoff/Super Bowl contender I'd ship a No. 2 pick to Miami right now and get Taylor in my system ASAP. I'd pencil him in for 16 starts and somewhere in the range of 10 sacks this fall and never look back. The only problem is, I don't see Bill Parcells sending his best defensive playmaker and top commodity right now to Bill Belichick and a division rival. I know the Dolphins are as far from New England in the standing as you can get and might be a couple years from truly competing with the Patriots for a division title, but you still can't help out the top team in the division like that. My guess is that even though the Dolphins seem to be digging in and calling Taylor's bluff right now, sooner or later they'll swallow their organizational pride and ship ol' twinkle toes to another team right before training camp. I just don't think it'll be the Patriots.
Andy Hart

How will the owners opting out of the player-owners deal [CBA] affect the Patriots and other teams? Who are gainers and losers? Especially what about Patriots closest rivals? Basically -- what teams have money and which don't?
Zvonimir Mamic

The real problems in a CBA-less NFL are still a couple years away. Business will run as usual for this year and next. The real issue comes during February 2010. If a new deal doesn't get reached then, the 2010 league year beginning that March would be played without a salary cap. On the players' side, at that point they would need six years to reach free agency that spring instead of the normal four-year requirements. But up until that point, sort of the sky-is-falling moment in terms of NFL labor certainty, I don't think there will be a huge impact on the way teams go about their business. The huge increases in the cap over the last few years have given teams plenty of money to work with and plan for the future, thus removing some of the financial issues teams faced in previous times of uncertainty. So teams will continue to work within the structure of the current cap and economic system over the next two years with the only real issue coming as front office people need to get a little more creative in doing contracts. My guess is a deal will be reached after the 2009 season to continue with a similar system in place, but if not then things will get ugly. Regardless, the Patriots will always be a top team thanks to intelligent decision makers, strong ownership and a solid financial standing.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, just wanted to let you know, I think you do a great job. I am a long time Pats fan, which bring me to wonder. My question is a very simple one. Who is Matt Walsh? How can he have all of these allegations against the Pats and not be held accountable for his own actions? If a player or coach steps out of the guidelines of the rules they get dealt with, right? Well? To me Rodger Goodell should really be fair. Matt, you said yourself you knew as well as everyone else knew it was wrong, so where is your discipline? And Marshall Faulk hates the Patriots dynasty so much because it crushed his in L.A. in 2001. So stop hatin'.Ed Lewis

I know you are trying to defend your team and go after the guy who you perceived to have wronged your team, but what exactly would you like Goodell to do? Walsh is no longer an employee of an NFL team, so he no longer falls under the umbrella of the NFL. Since he didn't break any laws in the taping of signals, he's not liable for any legal action. And most of that legal boat sailed with the agreement he reached with the NFL before he spoke with the league. Even if Walsh were still in the league, he was apparently simply following the orders of his superiors. So even then, I think the team and its key decision makers would be the one to feel the commissioner's wrath, not the lowly video assistant. And Faulk is certainly not the only ex-player or coach who has a grudge against the Patriots. I think there are a few of those out there.
Andy Hart

You guys do a good job in general, so I don't want to give you too hard a time, but I was surprised that the Pat's 2nd round pick, Terrence Wheatley, wasn't even listed among the Top 10 DBs profiled in your Draft Preview article. Kind of a big miss guys! Was it just the wrist injury? I assume you talk with people in the Patriots organization (although I'm pretty sure you don't go out for beers with Bill). Weren't there any hints about Wheatley?Malcolm Widness

Bill doesn't share his draft plans with us or anyone else on the planet, no matter how many beers are involved. Anyone who pretends to know what the Patriots are going to do before the draft is full of it. For the record Wheatley was the 11th defensive back taken in the draft. So why would we have put him in our top 10? Sounds to me like we got it just right. And yes, the wrist was an issue with us. I think it was an issue for some NFL teams as well. That probably hurt his pre-draft standing. There were a few hints that the Patriots and Cowboys had more interest in Wheatley than other teams, but not enough to focus too much attention there. There are hints and smokescreens about a lot of players prior to the draft. I will say, though, that he was the most impressive athlete on the field at rookie camp. Everyone seems to downplay the wrist issue and I'm intrigued to see what kind of playmaker he can be for the Patriots.
Andy Hart

Love your stuff guys, I have a two-part question for you: With all of the moves defensively and very few changes to the offense, what are the expectations for the Patriots going into this year? Their defensive acquisitions seemingly give the Pats defense a new and potentially dangerous look and their offense should be just as potent as last year. Do you think the expectations are even higher after having lost a Super Bowl and after picking up some strong defense players?
Nick Agneta

Expectations are as high as ever. Anything but a Super Bowl win will be a disappointment this coming season. While I don't know if the offense will be as potent as last year's record-setting production, it should still be one of the best in the game. The defense is intriguing with some new, young talent. But I still have questions about a secondary that lost All-Pro Asante Samuel. Add in a schedule that includes four West- Coast games and tough AFC battles with the Steelers and Colts and I don't think we're looking at a cakewalk to another undefeated slate. Right now, I'll go with my usual prediction for a 12-4 season. But I'll admit most probably expect the team win at least 14 games. Belichick better keep plenty of Humble Pie in the team cafeteria.
Andy Hart

Hey guys! Do you think there should be any worry about Wes Welker not attending camp this week? Do you think he might want to renegotiate his contract? Or am I worrying too much? Thanks for all you do.Nicole Audet

You are definitely worrying too much. Welker has been around the team and his teammates as Bill Belichick acknowledged to Boston.com that, "Some players are working on the field, some aren't, but they're all here, in the meetings, absorbing the information we're giving them." I don't think there is any chance Welker is looking to renegotiate his deal. He's very well paid. In fact some clearly uniformed observers (that would be me) thought he was overpaid when the team traded for him and signed him to a deal last spring. A team-record 112 catches later I guess I was wrong. Keep this answer for your records, because I don't often admit that I'm wrong.
Andy Hart

I'll apologize up front if this has been asked too many times, but could you give me an update on the status of Troy Brown? I understand his age and the fact that he's still coming off an injury, but it would be just awful if he didn't retire in a Patriots uniform.Karen H.

Brown is not currently signed with a team. He's healthy after coming back from knee surgery last summer/fall. He visited with the Browns and Jets, but didn't end up landing with either team. It'll be interesting to see if he still tries to play this fall and catch on with a team. I'd like to see him back in New England as I still think he can offer something to a team but it doesn't look like that is part of the team's plans. Regardless of what happens this year, though, Brown will always be Mr. Patriot. He'll be a first-ballot team Hall of Famer and will be remembered as one of the great playmakers to ever wear the New England uniform.
Andy Hart

I was wondering is there any news that we could possibly be trying to trade with the Dolphins for Jason Taylor. I think this should be strong consider. Also previous comments on Bledsoe, He is going to Hall of Fame not just the Pats Hall of Fame.
Bob L.

Do you believe Drew Bledsoe should be elected to the Hall of Fame? If not the first ballot, when? He has the numbers to support his case and for what he accomplished.
David Studer

For the first question, see my answer about Taylor above. As for Bledsoe going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – no chance. He has some impressive statistical totals but other than that he doesn't have nearly the resume to earn a bust in Canton. He'll have to settle for a nice slot in the Hall at Patriot Place as one of the key playmakers and faces in the rebuilding of the New England franchise. But the only way he'll get into Canton is to buy a ticket like the rest of us.
Andy Hart

Last year while prepping for the season D. Thomas injured his foot. Is he OK this year? What are his chances for playing?
Spedie Yoda

Healthy Thomas is I think getting. At Gillette Stadium working out he is I believe. Plays will he make if on field he can stay this fall.
Hart, Andy am I

After reading about Randy Moss trying to better his game by doing soccer drills with Wes Welker you just have to really appreciate what a motivated Randy Moss is like. Getting him for a 4th round pick has to be one of the biggest steals of the decade (besides getting Tom Brady in the 6th round of course). He put up incredible numbers last year, and now the guy is back out there working hard and still trying to find a way to get better. He is easily the best receiver in football right now and one of the best of all time, and yet he still looks to improve his game. Do you guys think with the way he has embraced the Patriot way and revived his career that he now has a legitimate shot as getting into the Hall of Fame?Wesley Nickle

I think Moss was probably a Hall of Famer before last fall, but if not his record-breaking rebound season solidified his spot in Canton. But I certainly don't think he's done yet. Based on his work with Tom Brady of late, my guess is he will be productive throughout his new contract. He might not have the elite speed he once had, but he still has ridiculous hands, body control and playmaking ability. He's already punched his ticket to join the likes of the greatest players in league history, now he's simply polishing up his resume and building on his already impressive legacy. And the thing he's most focused on remains the same – winning a Super Bowl ring. He doesn't need that to get into the Hall but it seems to be something he needs for himself. Look out DBs of the AFC East you are in for another long season.
Andy Hart

Hello fellas, I'm a long time female fan of football and recently moved here to New England from Miami. I have made new friends and found myself caught up in all of the Patriots hype/band wagon .. lol. As you now know I am from Miami and I am a HUGE HUGE fan of Jason Taylor. Now that I have found a few loved team (I'll always love my Dolphins) I would love to see Jason Taylor come to the New England Patriots. Is there any chance of that happening? If so I'll be at every game this year...lol. Thanks guys, xoxo.Andrea Lippincott

I already answered the Taylor questions, but I had to post this one just because we rarely get emails that are signed with xoxo. Sorry to disappoint you, Andrea (of course I've been disappointing women all my life) but I don't think you're going to get to see Taylor in New England.
Andy Hart

Would Joey Porter just shut up already; he always seems to be talking about something. Why don't people bring up the steroid issues in the NFL, isn't that considered cheating, isn't that more of a competitive advantage towards the team and the individual, and didn't a lot of the players in the NFL committed such a crime; why isn't that subject becoming as big of a deal like spygate? Most of these players don't even know if their coaches were involved in the same spygate scheme, why are they so quick to call out the Patriots organization?Jephthe Joseph

What's the over/under on how many offensive plays into the next game against Miami until [Vince] Wilfork comes in as a fullback in a 3 tight end set specifically to steamroll Joey Porter? I'm going with 10 plays (with Porter on the field, that is). What kind of a dumb[y] goes out of his way to insult a team he has to line up against twice a year?? I bet Parcells loved that one.Nate Stafford

In case anyone missed it current Miami linebacker and longtime Steeler Joey Porter made some comments last week about the Patriots, Spygate and how it affected him. I'm not stunned that Porter was asked about it and didn't respond well. He's always been a hot head and always will be. He's obviously free to have his opinions on the Patriots, Spygate, asterisks and anything else -- I'm just surprised he shared them while still playing. As a Patriots fan I certainly wouldn't spend more than two seconds worrying about what Porter says or thinks.
Andy Hart

I know, OTA's, training camp and offseason programs are important, but it seems to me that teams and the media over-react them. I mean, you see articles about players impressing coaches and how they are the "next best thing". How can they show they're true talent against thin air, and their own team? Troy Williamson impressed the Vikings when he got drafted, and he was the "next big thing", and look where he is now. Tom Brady didn't WOW the coaches but... do you see where I'm going with this? All I'm saying is do you think it is unreasonable to put all this pressure on rookies just on their camp performance?
James Fowler

I agree. All I read last week was about Chad Jackson, how much he stood out at passing camp and what he might be able to do this fall. I was watching passing camp with my own eyes and wasn't wowed by Jackson to the degree that was portrayed in the newspapers. Any action that takes place in April, May or June in shorts and a helmet needs to be taken with a whole heck of a lot of grains of salt. It's always good for a rookie to look good from the beginning, but it's really irrelevant until he performs with pads on under the bright lights of game action. We all need to remember that, even if it is the slow times of the offseason and we as writers need something (other than Spygate) to write about.
Andy Hart

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