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Ask PFW: Trading Gronk, OBJ and more

Lots of trade talk in this week's Ask PFW mailbag.

It seemed to me the Patriots finished the season with James Harrison playing left defensive end, and it seems the contenders for the spot are Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise Jr., Adam Butler, Eric Lee and Derek Rivers. Clayborn is listed at the top of the LDE depth chart on the Patriots website, and I think Wise played there for Arkansas, but Clayborn has played almost all of his pro snaps on the right side of the defensive line, and Flowers looks more comfortable there. I know things will be different without Matt Patricia as defensive coordinator, so what do you think a four-man defensive and rotation will look like?
David Beckett

I don't think Matt Patricia leaving will change much of the defense, if anything at all. The concepts and principles used are those that Bill Belichick prefers, so as long as he remains in charge I don't see sweeping changes. I do expect the Patriots to continue using both three- and four-man lines and Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn figure to man the ends when it's the latter. Wise and Butler appear more suited as sub rushers on the interior and Rivers is a wild card coming off a torn ACL. He looks more like an outside linebacker to me but obviously those roles can be interchangeable depending on the personnel groups. I could see Rivers being used as an edge rusher in sub packages as well. Lee is similar to Rivers in body type and athleticism. Both are a bit undersized as true ends but could help in getting after the quarterback. Clayborn's addition was important because the Patriots clearly lacked options on the edge last season and that hurt both in the pass rush and setting the edge against the run.
Paul Perillo

I am a diehard Eagles fan (know that isn't too popular up your way) but just want to say what a class act Rob Gronkowski is and don't care who you are, what team you pull for, men like him and making that young woman smile really is amazing. While we all love the game and our home teams, we are all human and in the game of life together. Hats off to a class act man and a class act organization.
Tim Avanzato

I have nothing to really add to this because this is nothing that we all in New England don't already know. But it's nice to see even opposing fans understand what a class guy Gronk is. Thanks Tim.
Paul Perillo

I'd like to know a bit more about Johnny Manziel's possible contract. Can we sign him for minimum contract and number of years? Does he still carry some dead money or part of contract from the Browns or any other liability related to his former contract/first-round pick?
Versailles, France

Good questions, and good news … at least if you're interested in signing Johnny Football. Manziel is completely a free agent at the moment so he carries no contractual baggage at all. Any team that signs him can dictate the salary and terms without worrying about anything else remaining on the cap. Since Manziel was out of football last year, and he has said he'd be willing to prove himself and play for free, my guess is it wouldn't take more than a one-year deal worth around the minimum to get it done. Of course there is plenty of off-field baggage hanging around Manziel so perhaps the Patriots, or other teams, won't be willing to even give him that. But I wouldn't be surprised to see someone give him a shot.
Paul Perillo

There was an obvious April fool's joke about trading Gronk plus 3 picks for Odell Beckham. I would not trade Gronk even on a 1-for-1 trade and here's why: Gronk may play a year or two and he has a proven rapport with Brady while Beckham is gone after one year which may take him time to get in sync with Brady if he ever will. Would you trade Gronk for Beckham assuming Gronk has no unresolvable issues with BB?
Pascal S.

I would not trade Gronk for Beckham straight up because of the contractual problems that come either way. With Gronk, at least I know he will excel if he stays. With Beckham, the Patriots will be forced to sign him to a huge extension without having the luxury of knowing how it will all work out with New England, as you mentioned. I think Beckham is a truly exceptional receiver who lacks discipline and needs structure. If Brady was a bit younger I might be willing to take a chance. But Brady won't be around much longer, and Beckham will cost huge dollars to keep around long term. I'll stick with Gronk.
Paul Perillo

OK, Bill Belichick didn't care to explain to the media and fans why he would not even try Malcolm Butler in the second half of Super Bowl, but why would he not show some flexibility with Gronk on his conditioning approach and perhaps in other easily addressable situations which involve top playmakers like Brady and Gronk? If he does not care of the goodwill of his fans, why not care about having his top guns happy?
Max Newsome

You are assuming he has not shown any flexibility with the players already, and since I don't know the details of exactly what goes on in the Patriots locker room between the players and coaches I'm not willing to make that same assumption. Brady loves Alex Guerrero and believes in what he does. He will continue to work with him and train that way. That's fine for a quarterback who is reliant on brute strength to perform. Gronk told us last fall that he was employing some of the elements of the TB12 method but that he wasn't completely changing everything he does. He works out at the facility and likely will continue to do so with Guerrero this year. Belichick isn't likely going to ban the players from doing so. But he also needs to be cognizant of his actual training staff and all the hard work they do. It's not just about keeping the big guns happy; it's about keeping everyone happy. It's not as easy as it seems, and like I said, we don't have all (or maybe even any) of the information so it's tough to criticize either side.
Paul Perillo

Another offseason, another high profile trade. Every year, Bill makes a trade that irritates us and yet we go back and watch those SB DVDs, and how many AFC Conference Games? As much as I didn't think this 2-3 years ago, I am open to the idea of a Gronk trade? He has two years left on his contract, and so that may be appealing to a buyer. His cap hit friendly years are over, at almost $11 million this year? Injury history CANNOT be ignored, surfacing babble about "is he still all in?" What could we get in a trade, a second this year and something next plus?
Michael Monk

Why wouldn't the Pats trade Gronkowski? The way he plays is exciting and game changing … for now. Get one or two high draft picks for him and move on. The way he plays is fun to watch ... in two years he will be done or extremely limited over an entire NFL season. So if you get good value for him at this time move on? I have always wondered have you guys ever played football and at what level?
Jim Wall

As strange as it may seem, I'm not completely against the idea of trading Gronk. I certainly don't want to, but if Belichick decides the time is right and believes all of the warning signs you mention could be problems, then I do believe he would have some value. With two years left on his deal, I could see a team being willing to part with a first-round pick, or perhaps a player and a second- or third-round pick. Maybe Gronk would be willing to head to L.A. to play for the Rams or Chargers. That way he could be close to Hollywood and pursue his acting interests and still play football. Belichick has often pulled the plug on players a year or two early for a variety of reasons. Clearly Gronk has given some reasons for a coach to wonder if the time is right to move on. Personally I would hate it because I enjoy watching him play so much, but I would understand it. I also think there's a pretty good chance that he will get traded and get his money elsewhere.
And to answer your question Jim, Andy is the only "real" football player among us – as he will often tell you. He played fullback/linebacker in high school and in college at Tufts. Erik was a punter and played in high school and was on the roster at Boston University. I played quarterback/safety in high school but stuck to baseball in college at Boston University. Only Andy knows what he's talking about. Just ask him.
Paul Perillo

Patriots have enough cap space to sign their draft picks with a little to spare. I think that there is a handful of Patriots who are not playing to their contracts either due to performance or availability. Do you see anyone restructuring their contracts?
Gorin L.

The Patriots will likely be restructuring some deals but I'm not worried at all about the salary cap. Space can always be found and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so if need be. The Patriots are not up against it at this point and there are plenty of things that can be done to create more room. Look at some of the players that have already left that create cap space without affecting the team at all – David Harris, Shea McClellin, Alan Branch, Martellus Bennett, etc. Dwayne Allen could be a candidate for a pay cut as well, and the same could be said of Cordarrelle Patterson if he makes the team. The cap won't be a problem for the Patriots this season or any time in the immediate future as long as it continues to rise dramatically as it has for years.
Paul Perillo

Why not have all teams wait to hire coaches until after the Super Bowl so it's fair for all teams? Doesn't seem fair to playoff teams who have games to focus on that eliminated teams can be talking to playoff coaches or other potential candidates. Wouldn't it be simpler and fairer for all teams to start at same time?
Austin Evans

Honestly I don't really see a problem with the process as it is now. Teams that are eliminated have the opportunity to talk to coaches from anywhere, not just the ones on teams in the playoffs. It would be pretty tough to enforce a rule the prevents teams from talking to say, a college coach or another coach who isn't part of a staff that is still alive in the playoffs. I understand why Bill Belichick and others opposed a change to the current rule that would have made it permissible for teams to announce their new hires, but overall I don't see it as a major problem either way.
Paul Perillo

I'm wondering why there isn't a lot of conversation about Bill transitioning to a pure GM role when Josh McDaniels becomes head coach. Everyone keeps saying Bill will just retire, but it seems like a natural evolution for him to hand over the coaching reins to Josh, but stay involved in the Patriots winning legacy as the man pulling the strings. After all, it's what his mentor (Bill Parcells) did at the Jets, and keeping Josh in the fold seems like an opportunity to actually pull off the succession strategy that Parcells failed to pull off there with Bill.
Michael Clear

There a couple of factors at play here. First, is that something Belichick would want? To me he seems like a guy who loves to coach – everything about the process from team building, to the draft, to installing the system, to training camp, to game planning. I'm not sure he'd be happy strictly as a front office guy. Second, assuming he would want to be the GM, why would McDaniels want to work in his shadow in that capacity? You mentioned Parcells – that's exactly why Belichick wanted out of the situation with the Jets. He did not want to be the coach with Parcells looking over his shoulder. Yes it was about the new owner, but it was also because Parcells was sticking around. This also assumes McDaniels will be the next Patriots coach, which is not a guarantee. If Belichick wants to remain in the organization as the GM and McDaniels is comfortable with it, then I'm all for your plan Michael.
Paul Perillo

I don't get the Patriots talking to Johnny Manziel (twice). If they want a QB body for the camp, Cody Kessler, a better player could have been had for a bag of peanuts. And he even might have been a decent backup. So why not him and instead kicking tires on a proven headache and nothing more?
Mark Konstantinof

As far as strictly a backup, Kessler is probably a fine option. But in terms of overall ability and potential to be Tom Brady's successor, Manziel is far more talented than Kessler. Now, who knows what will become of Manziel after his tumultuous start to his NFL career. He may never fulfill his potential. But he has ability that Kessler simply does not – specifically the ability to move around the pocket and make plays on the move. At this point it's probably unlikely that either player winds up making much of an impact but Manziel is working with a higher ceiling.
Paul Perillo

First, I would like to say I am always interested on hearing your opinions on different topics. If I am understanding reports correctly, then the refs implemented the new catch rule during the Super Bowl. I know it wouldn't have changed the Ertz catch, but the Clement catch wouldn't have remained do to the old rules, according to many football analyst. I am just wondering if these reports are true, that the refs did implement the new rules without official approval, and are there any consequences to this?
Tyler Caviness.

This was a pretty hot topic for a couple of days at the end of the owner's meetings and it's certainly understandable why. ESPN reported what you said, although Al Riveron, the head of officiating, told a different story. According to Riveron, the old rules stated that "slight movement" was permissible for a legal catch. That was how he ruled the Clement play in the Super Bowl. The problem to me is I felt during the season that would have been ruled incomplete, and based off that I felt there was a chance Clement's catch would be overturned in the Super Bowl. My feeling is that it should have stood as a catch, the same as I felt Kelvin Benjamin's should have stuck. But the officials ruled one way in the regular season and a different way in the Super Bowl. That's why I had a problem with the Clement play. I felt there was some inconsistency to the way they ruled it.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, first time posting, long-time reader. I was looking over the salary cap and noticed Dwayne Allen is set to make $5 million this year. This seems like incredibly too much money, considering the impact players that we pay less (i.e. Julian Edelman at $4.1 million). Do you foresee him being cut?
Connor Morgan

I don't see him getting cut but he'll probably be asked to take a paycut. If he refuses then the Patriots would probably let him go. Belichick brought in free agent tight end Troy Niklas during the week and perhaps he will sign to replace Allen as the blocking tight end. But you are definitely correct in identifying Allen's salary as being too high for his production.
Paul Perillo

My question is about Antonio Garcia's participation (or lack thereof) in 2017. As a player on the NFI list, was he allowed to sit in on meetings, film, review, etc., or was it more like he wasn't on the team at all? I know that Cole Croston was on the roster, and therefore participated in all (or most?) practices. I'm just curious as to whether Garcia was able to gain any ground at all in his first year.
Andrew M.

Garcia was able to take part in any team activities off the field. So he was able to attend meetings and film review or anything else the coaches wanted him to be part of. But he was not allowed to practice after training camp when he was placed on NFI. So in terms of development it was a lost year for the rookie and he will have a lot of catching up do physically and mentally.
Paul Perillo

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