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Ask PFW: Summer Daze

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First off, I'd like to thank you guys for giving Pats fans a forum to discuss all things Pats. You guys do a fabulous job. Now to my question. Given the fact that this Randy Moss' final year of his contract and he is 34, do you think it is his last year as a Pat, no matter how well he performs?
Mel Buford

That's a very interesting question and one we have discussed a bit on "PFW in Progress" over the course of the offseason. Moss sort of kicked off the offseason by explaining how he didn't think he'd be back in New England after his contract expires and I agree with him. Moss will likely be looking for one last payday and I don't think the Patriots will give it to him at age 34 (which he would be at the start of 2011). If Moss tears it up in 2010 and approaches his historic numbers from 2007, that would likely price him out of the Patriots market. If he starts to show his age and slumps, the Patriots would more than likely want to move on and continue developing the younger receivers. The only scenario I could see Moss returning under would be a one-year contract for short money – and I don't think Moss would interested in signing such a deal at this stage of his career. I think he'll work his butt off this season and make one last attempt to cash in – elsewhere.
Paul Perillo

Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo – do you think that five recognized playmakers are enough to build an elite club from? (My magic number is seven).
Ted Cadence

I've honestly never given any thought to this topic whatsoever. I have no idea how many so-called playmakers are necessary to build an elite club. I think what Bill Belichick tries to do is find versatile football players who can help his team win. Whether those are considered playmakers or not is somewhat irrelevant. (Not that it's relevant to my argument here, but I'd also argue against categorizing Mayo and Wilfork as playmakers, especially Mayo). In the past the Patriots have had individuals who have made big plays – Brady, Troy Brown, Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Corey Dillon, David Givens, Deion Branch, Kevin Faulk, Willie McGinest – and many others I'm probably leaving out. But I'm not sure all of those guys would be considered playmakers in the traditional sense. They were good players who did the job and proved they could perform when the stakes were highest – like Branch and Givens. I don't think there is any set number of playmakers needed to win at the highest level, but obviously the more talent a team has the better – and the talent level of the team has dropped in recent years.
Paul Perillo

I just wanted to know how Dane Fletcher is doing in camps, and what do you think of him?
Brandon Taylor

I can't say I'm the foremost expert on Dane Fletcher's performance thus far, especially considering the players have yet to don pads and do any contact work at all. Fletcher appears to be one of those intriguing athletes who lacks the traditional size (6-2, 244) but has some other attributes (speed, quickness, agility) that may make him worth developing. He's listed as a defensive end on the roster but my guess is he would have to play outside linebacker if he's to carve out any type of future on the New England defense. Check back with us in training camp when we can get a better idea of what kind of player he projects to be.
Paul Perillo

Has any NFL team in the last 30 years gone through an entire season with no offensive or defensive coordinator?Chris Noble

Another great question and one that I found awful difficult to research. Of course some reasonably computer savvy third grader probably could have fared better than I did, but I was able to find at least one example. Jerry Glanville went without coordinators for three of his four seasons as head coach in Houston. After having an offensive coordinator (Dick Jamieson) his first year (1986), Glanville went without both positions for his last three (1987-89). I'm sure there are more but I couldn't confirm any others.
Paul Perillo

Erik you said this on the last edition of PFW's "Debate Friday" concerning Tom Brady remaining in New England: "Remember, Bill had no trouble saying 'So long' to New England's previous face-of-the-franchise 10 years ago – just one year after Drew Bledsoe signed a 10-year extension with the Pats." Well I've got something to tell you. Bledsoe was just in his fifth year when this happened. Brady is entering his 11th and still has much more to give. Bledsoe was nothing when he left and even when he was here minus the Super Bowl appearance against the Packers. There doesn't appear to be a QB of the future in NE younger than TB so there should be every reason to believe that TB will remain in NE till retirement does us part.Chris C.

Far be it for me to defend Erik but with regard to the facts he is correct. Bledsoe was indeed the face of the franchise – why else do you think Belichick and Robert Kraft signed him to that 10-year deal to begin with. And when the Patriots traded him to Buffalo, Bledsoe was entering his 10th year, not his fifth as you incorrectly stated. And he went on to throw for more than 4,000 yards in Buffalo and made another Pro Bowl in his first year with the Bills. He also enjoyed a solid year in Dallas in 2005 after he left Buffalo. So just because Tom Brady is better than Bledsoe was doesn't mean that Bledsoe was nothing. The point Erik was trying to make is that you can be very successful one minute (as Bledsoe was while leading the Patriots to the playoffs four times in his first six years) and then yesterday's news the next. While I believe that Brady will indeed retire a Patriot, that doesn't mean I don't think him playing for another team isn't a possibility. There didn't appear to be a quarterback of the future other than Bledsoe when the 2001 season began, but by the end of that year we all saw one in Brady. You never know how a season is going to unfold.
Paul Perillo

The talk about going to an 18-game season and cutting two preseason games frequently makes the point that preseason games are "poor quality" as an NFL product. My suggestion is to rethink how the games are broadcast. The point of watching preseason games is to see players we have been following in camp perform on the field. The announcers frequently don't know the roster and do a very poor job of highlighting players' performances. Announcers/analysts should be team specific so as to better analyze what is going on on the field. That, combined with use of video replay, would allow the games to be far more accessible for what they are meant to be - player evaluation. Your thoughts?
Ian Campbell

I understand your point about the announcers doing a better job of learning the roster from top to bottom, but the vast majority of preseason games are already team specific broadcasts. There are only a handful of national broadcasts during the summer (the Patriots will appear on one in Atlanta Aug. 19 on Fox). The others will be produced by the team with the team's announcers Don Criqui and Randy Cross. I'm not sure what you're looking for with regard to video replay … that's certainly already a part of every telecast. But regardless of how well versed the announcers are on all the players, no amount of preparation can make up for the fact that the quality of play is far below NFL standards. Many of the players who take the field in these games aren't good enough to compete regularly at the NFL level and there's not a lot of changes the league can make to hide that fact. The games aren't all about player evaluation either. In fact most of the decisions on players have been made before these games are even played. Coaches need some preseason games to fine tune their operation under game conditions and yes, to further evaluate their younger players to a degree. That is all important to coaches but most fans – myself included – don't find it to be compelling. Most people want to see the league's best players compete and more often than not those players are wearing baseball caps on the sidelines during the summer.
Paul Perillo

I see Tedy Bruschi hooked up with BC alum Mark Herzlich. How is he doing? Recovering I hope. I haven't heard much news about it. By the way, was he drafted by any team?Hermey The Great

According to various newspaper accounts Herzlich is doing well in his recovery from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. But he is still at Boston College and planning on playing his final year in 2010 and therefore is not draft eligible as of yet. Herzlich, 23, told the Boston Globe that his leg is about "80-85 percent," so there is some strengthening to be done yet, but all signs indicate he'll be ready to go when BC starts camp in August.
Paul Perillo

We have secured three tickets for the Vikings game on Oct 31. I am heading down with a Fins fan and a Niners fan. I am looking for some input into some "must dos" for our weekend. Keep in mind I have already been to the Hall and Patriots Place. Where should we eat and where to enjoy the Boston night scene. Lots of beer and lots of good food!
Fred Armitage

I'm not exactly Mr. Saturday at this stage of my life Fred but I'll throw this out there and see if some folks can help you out with some suggestions. If you're planning on staying in Boston then Faneuil Hall is a must – lots of beer and food there to choose from. In terms of the Foxborough area, if you've already experienced Patriot Place and the Hall I'm not sure there's anything else that you need to see. I'd stick with Boston and let the readers give you some specific places to enjoy. What do you say folks … time to hook Fred up.
Paul Perillo

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]()I would like your opinion on Tom Brady's contract situation. I personally think it is more serious than the Pats think. Brady took several "pay cuts for the team" only to be "rewarded" with the complete dismantling of the offense. Moss' status is uncertain after the season. Could Brady be fed up with the receivers' revolving door in the search of "value" players and go to a team that pays fair market price for premier receivers?*
*Gary Ark

It's an interesting situation to say the least and not all of what you say is incorrect, but I just don't see the team allowing Brady to walk. First, one thing you wrote that is wrong is that Brady has taken "pay cuts" for the team. Brady has never taken a pay cut. Few players do. Brady has restructured his contract to allow the team to sign others, but in those cases he has benefited as much as the team. When a player restructures his deal, usually he receives a portion of salary up front as a bonus, which allows the team to spread out the cap hit over the remainder of the deal while also giving the player money up front. It's a win-win – certainly not a pay cut. Now, one could argue that Brady could have received more than he got back in 2005 when he last signed a contract, but the roughly $60 million he got certainly wasn't a pittance. Where I agree with you is with regard to allowing Deion Branch and David Givens to leave via free agency. Brady didn't fight for every last dime because he felt doing so would prevent the team from retaining those types of players. Then he watched both leave the next offseason. That couldn't have made him happy and he showed some frustration in the 2006 season – especially early when he searched for options at receiver (remember Doug Gabriel?). In the end, though, I think Brady respects the Kraft family and Bill Belichick and those relationships will allow him to remain a Patriot. But I do see your point about the potential for this being harder and more contentious than many believe.
Paul Perillo

Thanks for all the work you put into this, it helps me get through the Tuesdays of the week. I was wondering if you see the Patriots going out there and grabbing a veteran pass rusher before the end of training camp such as Bobby McCray, Greg Ellis, etc. Also, people have been talking highly of seventh-round pick Zac Robinson. Do you think he'll fit in with the offense and have a long career here?
Jacob Plante

The Patriots almost always remain active in terms of acquiring players well into the summer so I could definitely see Belichick looking into the possibility of picking up a veteran or two. Certainly bolstering the pass rush would be an area to look at in this regard. I think Belichick probably wants to look at some of his younger options (Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, Shawn Crable) before he decides to pull the trigger on such a move though. Once the team is on the field and working out he may decide he needs more at that spot – or somewhere else – and he'll look for help. That's when he picked up Derrick Burgess last year, and I'd be willing to take a shot at either of the guys you mentioned with Ellis being my preference based on his 3-4 experience. As for Robinson, it's way too early to tell. I'm not sure how high anyone could be on him at this point since they've yet to practice for real, but he appears to be an intriguing prospect with a lot of athleticism for the position. I did notice him getting a lot of extra work in at the end of spring practices (OTAs and mini-camp) with the coaches so obviously they feel there's something there. We'll be keeping an eye on him this summer.
Paul Perillo

I don't understand the position Logan Mankins is taking. He's a good pass protector and run blocker but where a guard really proves his worth is combining these two things with the ability to pull. Mankins can't pull and never has. If the Patriots offered him a $7 million per year contract he should have jumped on it and given Bob Kraft a big wet one! No other team in the NFL is going to offer him a similar contract in my opinion. The solution to Mankins is simple. Move Matt Light to left guard, which will extend his career by about three more years. If I'm not mistaken, Light played left guard at Purdue and was switched to left tackle after he was drafted out of Purdue in the second round. Insert Sebastian Vollmer at left tackle and leave the right side of the O-line as it is. Guess what, you've just improved your O-line because Light can do one thing Mankins can't ... he can pull Logan! Good bye and with your sorry attitude ... we're all happy to see you gone ... hopefully.
Robbie Brown

Robbie I must say you sound like a scorned lover. How Mankins managed to make Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams while being such a flawed player is a mystery to us all. And of course I remember all the emails you sent to us complaining about Mankins' inability to pull over the years. Oh that's right, he had to ask for more money before that criticism came to light. First, if Mankins hits the open market someone will give him more than the Patriots offered. He's one of the best players at his position and obviously his peers think that as well – his inability to pull notwithstanding. I think the team has been more than fair toward Mankins but he sees it differently. Either way, everyone seems to be in agreement that he's worthy of a big contract. Second, Matt Light has never played a down at guard. All 37 games he played at Purdue were at left tackle, and that's where he's played as a Patriot too. Belichick tried him at right tackle as a rookie and said it was clear immediately that wasn't the best course of action. So moving Light to guard doesn't seem to be the answer to all the problems right now. Plus, this is the final year of Light's deal so more than likely 2010 will be his last year in New England. I agree with you that Vollmer is the left tackle of the future … other than that I think you're allowing your emotions to get the best of you. You're upset that Mankins asked for more money and you want him out. At least it looks like you'll get your wish.
Paul Perillo

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