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Ask PFW: QB quandary

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.

With the injuries at QB, will the Pats be trying out Matt Cassel anytime soon as backup? Knows the system, was once Pro Bowl with Chiefs. Yes, hasn't played that well in recent years, but he seems to have a different coach and OC every year. Anything left in the tank?  Pete in England

Well, there's only one injury, and that's to Jimmy Garoppolo's throwing shoulder. It's sounding more and more like that injury isn't as severe as it initially appeared. That being said, Pete, I'd feel more comfortable with a bona fide quarterback being brought in to provide depth, and Cassel would be my first choice as well. Unfortunately, he already has a job as the backup QB in Tennessee. If New England wanted him back, they'd have to trade for him, and at this point in the week, that seems unlikely. Looks like they'll roll the dice with Garoppolo, in whatever condition he's in, and rookie Jacoby Brissett with someone else on the roster – perhaps Julian Edelman – as the emergency signal caller. Erik Scalavino

If the team does not want to lose a roster spot, could A.J. Derby be an emergency-time back up? He knows the system, the plays and the players, and he can run well.Victor Lopez

Derby does have limited college experience as a quarterback, so, he might be a consideration as well, but more likely, Edelman would be the choice. He not only was a starter at the position in college (primarily as a running quarterback), but also has much more system knowledge than Derby, who was here but on IR all of last season. The Patriots just need to weather the storm at QB for the next two games and hope that Tom Brady can play out the string when he returns from suspension in Week 5. Erik Scalavino

I am a big Brady fan. But I can't help wondering, what if the Patriots dealt Jimmy Garoppolo and he turned out to be a franchise, multi-Super-Bowl-winning QB for another team? Is there any compromise that could be negotiated with both Brady and Garoppolo so we could keep both? Martin Mannoia

Garoppolo is here at least through this season, I believe it's safe to say. He's under contract through 2017 and I don't see any reason why New England would part with him right now. They might reevaluate the quarterback position during the upcoming offseason, but that's still several months away. For now, especially while he recovers from whatever injury he's dealing with, Garoppolo is here and so is Brady (well, he will be again in Week 5). If I were you, I'd enjoy the moment, Martin. Your Patriots could be in the midst of yet another Super-Bowl-winning season of their own right now. I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about the future when the present is all we're guaranteed. The Brady-Garoppolo situation will take care of itself sooner or later. For now, just enjoy the 2016 season. Erik Scalavino

Chandler Jones was traded to loosen up finances to pay others, yet I have heard no info at all on any contract extensions. Is there any news on the signings of [Jamie] Collins, [Dont'a] Hightower, and [Malcolm] Butler? They are all so valuable, I would hate to lose any of them.Lynn Farnham

Jones was traded not to "loosen up finances," but because he was overpaid relative to his on-field consistency. The Patriots were likely not going to re-sign him for the kind of money he'd command on the free agent market this coming offseason, so, they made a shrewd business move by getting something in return for him in the trade with Arizona. Unfortunately, what they got in return – guard Jonathan Cooper – has yet to pay dividends because Cooper has been slow to recover from an early-training-camp foot injury.

Nevertheless, your concern about the contracts of the other players is valid. We've not gotten any indication that Collins, Hightower, or Butler are any closer to inking long-term extensions with the club. Perhaps we will before this season concludes, but as of the posting of this column, nothing. My guess is, there's work being done behind the scenes because all three of those players are worth keeping. We just aren't privy to any financial maneuverings at this point. Erik Scalavino

I know you discussed Marcus Cannon's performance against the Dolphins in your performance evaluations, but I am just confused about why he even made the roster, let alone is starting over Cameron Fleming. Are you guys seeing something I'm not?  I don't get what BB sees in this guy.  I usually don't question Belichick but Cannon is so bad I have to ask. Cannon makes near what some starting tackles make and he isn't even worth a roster spot! He is consistently burned, even by average pass rushers, and there has got to be someone else better out there. Why do you feel Cannon is still with the Patriots, let alone a starter?!? David Sarro

As we've discussed numerous times here, Cannon is one of those players who caught the eye of the coaching staff (Bill Belichick in particular), for one reason or another. There've been other players who fall into this category – Jermaine Cunningham, Tavon Wilson to name a couple. It's mystifying, but eventually, those players run their course. Cannon was given a hefty contract extension not long ago, which makes his case more unusual. You're not alone in your desire to see someone else play right tackle and Fleming is a candidate, as is LaAdrian Waddle. My hope, though, is that incumbent starter Sebastian Vollmer is ready to suit up again once his stint on PUP is over in a few weeks. If so, we'll see Cannon relegated to his more suitable position as a reserve. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, love your work and appreciate it keeping me in touch here in Kentucky. I am not sure I have a question as much of a need for clarification. After watching Matt Forte the first two games with the Jets, I felt even more so that he would have been a great pick up for the Pats. Remind me why then they did not go after him more aggressively.Michael Hylen

You are preaching to the choir, Michael. I've been beating that drum since the running back signed with New York this offseason. At this point, though, there's no sense crying over spilt milk. Forte is a Jet. He's not coming to Foxborough, other than in a Gang Green uniform. The focus now is about getting the most out of the running backs the Patriots do have, like they did against Miami. Erik Scalavino

Why are there different helmet styles? I see some w/ what appears to be a "U" shaped slit on the forehead and others are solid. Is it just personal preference or does one provide benefits over the other?  Thanks!Bob Jackson

The one you're talking about, with the U-shaped front, is the Riddell SpeedFlex model, which came onto the scene a couple of seasons ago. It was designed, like all helmets are, to improve the safety of the players wearing them. There's actually technology inside these particular helmets to detect the intensity of an impact and help determine if a player should be evaluated for a concussion. There are a few different companies that make NFL-approved helmets, and it's up to the players to decide which one suits them best.

One of the problems, though, is that many players don't get fitted properly for their helmets, which is why we see helmets come flying off so during collisions more often than they should. No matter how well-designed a helmet is, if it doesn't fit properly, it's virtually useless. Erik Scalavino

I fought and almost died for their right to do so but I cringe with players now kneeling for the anthem. Apparently they do not know what a slap in the face it is for veterans (especially us Purple Heart recipients). do you see any Patriots joining in for this? I really hope not as I would hate having to not watch them play any more. Thank you letting me vent. Bill Heaney

Thank you for your service, Bill. And no, so far, we've not witnessed any Patriots kneeling or otherwise protesting during the performances of the national anthem. Erik Scalavino

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