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Ask PFW: Summer vacation edition

Vacation days continue to pile up for us and our readers, but we answer a few questions from this week’s lighter-than-usual mailbag.

So like every other football fan, I've been waiting for this lockout to end! It's been hard, without any offseason signings to talk about, or any news for that matter. I don't want to "jump the gun," but I can't help to get excited now that it seems close to coming to an end. What a flurry of football action in such a short time! So I was wondering, how long will it take once this lockout is over for teams to start signing and trading? Will it be hours? Or days until that first deal is done?
Matt Rea

We are getting perilously close to that breaking point, Matt, so, you're right to be optimistic. The latest unofficial deadline we're hearing is July 21 for ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement, with the rookie wage system reportedly being the perceived sticking point (albeit a big one) right now.

Whenever the deal is finalized, though, there will likely be a cooling off period of at least a few days before the new league year begins and business can be transacted. The alleged framework of a calendar that's being circulated throughout the media of late indicates that a period of undrafted rookies and own-free agent signings would precede the veteran free agent signing period. Again, though, these are just reports, not confirmed news items, so to give you a precise answer would be irresponsible at this point.

Suffice to say, however, that it will be a matter of days, not hours, before actual football moves will be allowed to take place. I have a feeling it's coming soon, too, so, hang in there.  
Erik Scalavino

Dear PFW, Logan Mankins was a left tackle in college but was moved to guard with the Pats. Do you see something like that happening with Nate Solder if Logan isn't resigned? Also, I heard a rumor that Marcus Cannon is finishing chemo, is this true?
Jackson Perry

Highly doubtful. Not that Solder isn't athletic enough for the position. On the contrary, he's one of the more agile o-lineman you'll find at any level. But the definitive manner in which Bill Belichick spoke of Solder as being a left tackle leads me to believe he's not moving from that spot.

Cannon, one of Solder's fellow rookie draft classmates, is a more likely candidate, eventually, for a guard spot. And yes, the latest reports are that he is on his way to recovering from his non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Features in his hometown Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the nearby Boston Globe in the past couple of weeks have reinforced that belief.

But just to keep things in perspective, Cannon had this to say about his timetable for treatment: "I don't know when my last chemo treatment is, but everything's going pretty well … Everything's going good," he said in the Globe piece. It may be too much to expect Cannon to be an immediate impact player, but once he's back at full strength – whenever that may be – he could be a significant contributor in the Patriots offensive line for years to come.
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, love your work. Really, thank you for keeping us Patriot fans informed over the brutal lockout. My question is which free agent wide receiver would you rather see the Pats snag: T.O., Chad Johnson/Ochocinco, Plaxico Burrress, Randy Moss, or Malcom Floyd. Thanks, keep up the phenomenal work.
Kurt Osborne

My question is instead of going after some wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald, Ochocinco, why not seek some of these guys: Malcolm Floyd, Chargers (age 29); James Jones, Packers (27); Mike Sims-Walker (26); Steve Breaston, Cardinals (27); Brad Smith, Jets (27); Steve Smith, Giants (26); Lance Moore, Saints (27). What wideout do you see that would fit in our offense? I'd say we go after Malcolm Floyd with his size he'd be a great deep threat. Or even James Jones.
Marshall Elim

We seem to answer this question every week this offseason … but what the heck, we'll do it again. Of the choices Kurt offered, I'd go with Floyd. I've seen him torch this team in the past and would love to see what he could do with Tom Brady throwing to him. You could probably get at least a good three to five years out of him, too.

Marshall brings some other names up that are intriguing, like Jones and Sims-Walker. I was impressed with Jones when he and the Pack came to Foxborough last season and remember thinking he might look good in the New England offense. He's still a raw talent, though, but I'd be willing to take the risk. Ditto with Sims-Walker, who hasn't had the luxury of playing with a great quarterback, yet still manages to make plays in the Jags offense.

Obviously, I'd prefer Fitzgerald if I had my druthers, but that seems almost an impossible wish.The name neither of you mentioned is the one I think would be perhaps the best fit: Minnesota's Sidney Rice. His price tag might be too high in the end, however, so I'm not getting my hopes up.
Erik Scalavino

Josh Boyer has been the Patriots CBs coach for three years. He has had mixed success in his time coaching cornerbacks. Terrence Wheatley & Darius Butler have been disappointments. Devin McCourty & Kyle Arrington have both been success so far. What do you think of Boyer as a coach? Do you think Coach Belichick has confidence in him?
Ken Fowler

Funny you should ask about Boyer. I had a chance last month to spend some one-on-one time with him and he left me with a good impression: hard-working, dedicated, loyal. Of course Belichick has confidence in him. Just like the players they put on the field, if they didn't have confidence in them, they wouldn't be here. Same goes with the coaching staff. If you want to read into such things, it is telling that Corwin Brown, for instance, (who helped Boyer coach the secondary last year) was only here for one season, while Boyer remains.  

The disappointments with the players you mentioned have more to do with those individuals than anything else. Wheatley suffered through an injury plague almost from day one, and from which he was never able to bounce back fully. Butler, after a promising rookie campaign, certainly experienced a sophomore slump in 2010, but I wouldn't assign that blame to the coaching staff. Nor would I entirely credit the coaches for the success of McCourty or Arrington. Each player is getting the same coaching. What they then do with it is what separates those who belong at this level and those who don't.  
Erik Scalavino

I have been wondering how the Pats were abel to sign free agent DL Marcus Stroud after the season ended, when the NFL still has not yet even started the free agency period. Can you explain?
Steve Tibbetts

When a vested veteran is under contract with a club and then subsequently cut, as Stroud was with Buffalo, he is immediately free to sign with any team. Since Stroud was handed his pink slip from the Bills before the lockout started, he was eligible to sign with New England right then and there.
Erik Scalavino

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