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Ask PFW: Ranking the free agents

After watching Josh Norman leaving Carolina, and now Von Miller rejecting a $114 million long-term contract, from all the players whose contracts expire next year who is the most likely to raise his contract value (and possible exit of the team)? I know this may be a silly question, but besides the teams salary cap is there any other cap for a single player or is just a matter of the player and team? I don't think it is healthy for a team to spend 10-15 percent of the cap in a single player just because he is dominant in his position. But what do you think?

Victor Galicia*

This is a very interesting question and one that is difficult to answer. Obviously it's a very subjective exercise when trying to determine how much cap space is too much for one player to take. Personally Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are more than worth 10-15 percent of the cap and then some, but not every player falls into that category. As for the pending free agents, Jamie Collins might be the one who could command the most dollars on the free agent market if the Patriots aren't able to re-sign him before he gets there. I believe some of the "next-level" free agents like Logan Ryan and/or Duron Harmon might be difficult to keep depending on what happens with the likes of Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Malcolm Butler. There is a lot of negotiating to be done in the coming weeks and months and much of it will have an impact on the team's future after the 2016 season.
Paul Perillo

I am really asking if what you saw at OTAs or mini-camp has any importance for regular season. As for the moment, except Tom Brady, maybe all of the rest of possible offense is not present (Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, LeGarrette Blount). I don't mean these 10 players plus Brady are all starters, but it's possible. Will Bill Belichick rest all of them until the season or just work with them inside facilities and when the press is not allowed at the stadium?

Ludovic Boisseau*

The spring work is all about learning for the players, especially the newcomers. Every year the coaches implement the system and add some tweaks to some of their already-existing plays and schemes and the players need to understand their responsibilities. Belichick always emphasizes the focus at this time of year is on teaching and not evaluating. So this period is extremely important for the players and coaches to get on the same page, but not necessarily in terms of the specific players on the field. Obviously it would be better to have everyone available but with most of the players you mentioned coming off injuries it doesn't make sense to have them on the field at this time of year. Health is the most important factor and having a healthy team through training camp is the goal. Once the players are 100 percent you'll see them this summer.
Paul Perillo

Do any of the tight ends at the bottom of the depth chart look promising enough to take Mike Williams' place on the 53? I know they like Clay Harbor, but in my eyes he's battling James Develin for a spot. There's probably too much skill set redundancy to keep them both. Since Bennett is likely a one-year rental, I'm hoping AJ Derby, Bryce Williams or Steven Scheu step up and contribute. How have those guys looked so far in OTAs?

Chris C.*

The tight end situation is not dire by any means even after losing Williams. With Gronk and Martellus Bennett the Patriots have the best tight end tandem in football. What they lose in Williams is a physical presence and none of the other tight ends fit that description. Develin has worked with the tight ends all spring and he could be an option as an extra blocker. Harbor received $400,000 to sign so I believe he'll probably stick around, although that's no lock. Derby looks pretty athletic based on the spring and showed good hands as well. Williams and Scheu are in a similar mold as Derby with Scheu likely the better option. One or two of those three could wind up on the practice squad.
Paul Perillo

Running back Joey Iosefa seems like he cannot stay on the full-time roster. Who knows why? Maybe he cannot break tackles and run over people without fumbling?

Janet Sylvan*

Iosefa is sort of a 'tweener in that he's sort of a running back in a fullback's body – not all that different from Heath Evans who played with the Patriots several years ago. Iosefa has some running ability but I really haven't seen him block much. Given the Patriots lack of depth at the position he could represent a versatile backup option, but if Belichick adds a true running back at some point I think he'd be hard-pressed to stick around. I don't see him as being good enough in any one area to warrant a roster spot.
Paul Perillo

In regards to tight end Michael Williams' ACL tear that will cost him the season, I have noticed that even on OTAs there are serious injuries for players (see Jaguars 2015 first-round rookie Dante Fowler). Do you think that the lack of physical preparation during the offseason is a factor that affects the probability that a player will have a knee injury during OTAs even if there is no contact? If you think that my question is very wrong please answer with a No, No … No, No, like Erik S. Does (with the sarcasm and pretentious tone added).

Memo Alfaro*

I'm not sure if there are any correlations to be drawn between random injuries and when they occur. In fact I believe there are a lot of ACL injuries suffered as a result of non-contact. Dion Lewis tore his last year while making a cut, not due to any hit he received. Wes Welker's in 2009 was the same (helped by some shoddy turf in Houston). I feel the players are physically ready to participate in OTAs after having done a couple of weeks of work in the offseason program and that's not a huge factor. But by no means do you deserve a Scalavino "No, no … No, no" so you won't be subjected to one.
Paul Perillo

I am a fan of speed and quickness, especially regarding the Patriots cornerbacks. Who are the top 3 cornerbacks on the Patriots current roster regarding speed and quickness? 40 time and or eye test. Thanks for the inside scoop.

Emory Addison*

The Patriots don't publish any 40 times for the players once they get here so it's hard to say for certain which ones run the best. Most if not all have times from college pro days or the Combine – undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones ran a 4.3 40 at the Combine as an example. He's certainly one of the quickest and fastest corners I saw on the field. Malcolm Butler is pretty quick but he ran a slow 40 times for scouts before the draft in 2015. Cyrus Jones definitely can move, and Logan Ryan has decent speed but ran just a 4.56 at the Combine. In terms of which one is fastest, it's hard to say but I'd probably say Jones based on the eye test.
Paul Perillo

Are people making too much of D.J. Foster? Seems like everyone has him as the Lewis of last year. After all, he wasn't drafted.

Scott Macone*

The short answer here is probably yes. I agree that there's been a lot of hype, probably too much, centering around Foster based on a couple of workouts in shorts. He looks like a quick and versatile running back but we'll have to wait to see how he performs in training camp and preseason before we can continue to evaluate him. I like his skill set as a part-time wide receiver, which should make him a viable option in the passing game. He missed the final OTA open to the media after an apparent hamstring injury in mini-camp, so that's another hurdle he'll have to overcome. But I will admit that I am intrigued by his skill set.
Paul Perillo

I read you guys every week. I loved last week's question and answer about kickoffs, but I have a different point of view on that subject. Don't you think that moving the post touchback spot out to the 25-yard line will encourage kicking teams to kick the ball short of the goal line, forcing more returns in the hope of pinning the opponent back deeper in their own territory?

Howard Wolfe*

It will be interesting to see what if any impact the rule change will have on kickoffs. Matthew Slater discussed that earlier in the offseason and expressed the same point of view that you did but wasn't sure if teams would proceed in that fashion. I can see both sides of this – teams accepting the extra 5 yards on the touchback limiting the returns and teams chipping kicks high and short to force the return and play coverage. I guess we'll have to wait and see which trend unfolds.
Paul Perillo

Is there any advantage, perhaps monetary to the team, in waiving a player before putting him on IR?

Stan C.*

It's more of a procedural thing than anything else. At this time of year any player must be released and clear waivers in order to be placed on injured reserve. So if a team is afraid another team might claim such a player, they wouldn't release him. But in order to get the roster spot back sometimes teams are forced to let the player go and hope he isn't claimed. Most of the time injured players make it through waivers and simply revert back to injured reserve. The Patriots have claimed a few injured players – Josh Barrett from Denver, Jake Ballard from the Giants and Tyler Gaffney from Carolina – in recent years and each time that meant one of their 90 offseason roster spots was filled by the injured player. There is no monetary gain in doing so, however.
Paul Perillo

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