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Patriots Replay Fri Aug 07 - 12:00 AM | Sun Aug 09 - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Turning to the offseason

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As the Pats prepare for the offseason, I think their primary concern should be to bring as many of their current players back as possible. Of the two free agent linebackers, which do you feel is more likely to re-sign with the Pats, Akeem Ayers or Jonathan Casillas? And do you see the Pats signing any free agent WRs? Someone like: Eddie Royal, Cecil Shorts, Rod Streater, Jermaine Kearse, or Jarrett Boykin might come at a cap friendly salary*.
*Zach Strong

I would certainly agree that New England retaining its own free agents is atop the team's offseason To-Do List. As far as the two linebackers you mentioned – each acquired via trade for depth during the middle of the season – it would seem to me that Casillas might be the most likely to return in 2015. The way I see it with Ayers, the former second-round pick may have done enough to earn himself a little money and a chance at a bigger role on another defense. Given the rest of the Patriots offseason priorities, I can't see them investing to keep Ayers for the role he filled out this fall. Ayers sort of reminds me, on a smaller level, on how Mark Anderson earned a contract with the Bills thanks to an impressive season in New England. To me, Casillas is much more of a special teamer/backup/role player. He may not garner as much interest on the open market and might make sense to return to fulfill those roles in New England. I wouldn't put either guy as a lock to return, though. As for receiver, I don't see the Patriots investing heavily in that position this spring. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are in place to be the core of the passing game. Need at the position would depend on what the team expects from Aaron Dobson moving forward and whether Danny Amendola returns. Either way, I can't see a big New England push for a free agent receiver of any note.
Andy Hart

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Hello and thank you for the great coverage. I think we all agree that this championship team lacks a deep threat. Given the history that the Pats did sign LeGarrette Blount after he was cut by Pittsburgh, do you think the Pats will try their luck if Mike Wallace is released by Miami? Thank you.*
*John Lee

The big difference between the two players you referenced is that Blount had previously played and had success in New England while Wallace has never played for the Patriots. Also, there is some question as to Wallace's depth threat ability given the lack of enough such contributions in his time in Miami. With his relative youth, though, and impressive production previously in Pittsburgh, my guess is that if he's released by the Dolphins he'll still be worth much more on the open market than the Patriots would be looking to invest. I'm sure Bill Belichick respects Wallace's abilities from the coach's time defending the playmaker with the Steelers as well as the Dolphins, but probably not enough to earn him a job in New England.
Andy Hart

Hi Fred, Paul, Eric and Andy. I am a loyal listener of your (PFW in Progress radio) show and it keeps me going in this part of the world (Kuwait) where football is not that big. I have been a fan of the Patriots since 1983 as I adopted them as my team while studying in Ashburnham at Cushing Academy. The Super Bowl was incredible to watch and I was really wired after the game. I have an observation from the game which I feel has not got a lot of attention. After Malcolm Butler made the incredible interception the Patriots got the ball at or about the 1 yard line with 20 seconds to play. I feel the offsides penalty on the Seahawks was huge. Had the Patriots run a play, there was a chance of a safety and then Seattle would have gotten the ball back with a timeout in hand. They could have gotten the ball back with about 10/15 seconds to play. Seeing that they scored a touchdown with 30 some odd seconds to play, it is very possible they could have gotten to field goal range for the winning kick. Am I missing something or is my observation right. Your comments would be appreciated. Love your show and the way all of you interact with each other. Will keep listening.
Ravi Jagtia

First, thank you for listening. Part of what makes our PFW in Progress show so much fun is that we connect with Patriots fans from literally all over the globe and from all walks of life. For anyone who hasn't take part in our email-driven show, we broadcast live Tuesday and Thursday throughout the offseason from noon-2 p.m. ET on patriots.com radio. The show is also available any time as a podcast from iTunes and other outlets. And clearly Ravi's years of listening to PFW have paid off, as he is quite right about the end of the game. Had the Patriots tried to run a play or take a knee, a safety was a definite concern. The offside penalty on Michael Bennett gave Brady the room he needed to finish the game out in comfort with a couple kneel downs. It's one of the many big plays that went the New England way down the stretch to clinch a fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Andy Hart

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Isn't the Revis signing a non-issue? Pats have an option, which they execute, and then offer to prepay to get cap (which has increased down). Could they franchise Revis in 2016? He's terrific: but not the don't-throw-to type of corner that [Richard] Sherman is. Throughout the season, teams discovered that they could throw on Revis, and that will increase. Meanwhile Pats develop their own entourage of promising DBs and Fonzie Dennard succeeds Gronk in 2015 as Comeback Player of the Year. Use those pics on OL and DL.*
*Pete Clark

It's the opposite of a non-issue. Revis is the first and most important issue the Patriots have to deal with this offseason. Picking up the option would give Revis a $25 million cap figure for 2015. While it's possible the team could deal with that number, it would greatly limit the rest of New England's roster creation this spring. It would probably mean the end for guys like Devin McCourty, Stephen Gostkowski or others. And if the Patriots did keep Revis with the $12 million salary and $25 million cap number, franchising him in 2016 would cost more than $30 million. Not happening. While I don't think Revis had a perfect year, I think Pete is undervaluing his contributions in transforming the Patriots defense. I don't see the "entourage of promising DBs." I think if Revis leaves New England's pass defense will go back to being a major question mark. If the Patriots retain Revis – preferably on a longer-term extension to keep his cap number well below $25 million – I think New England has a great chance to defend its title in Super Bowl 50. If Revis leaves, I have far less faith in the Patriots chances to repeat. That's how important I think No. 24 is.
Andy Hart

Good Morning, What is the status of deflate-gate? The latest I've heard is that only one of the balls was significantly deflated (the one that was intercepted by the Colts). I've heard some people suggested that the Colts may have tampered with that ball before turning it in to the NFL, what have you heard? Thank you.
Mike Thomas

In terms of actual, factual, league-based information there is no latest. Ted Wells is continuing his investigation and there has been no timetable given for that to conclude, although in late January there was the expectation it would take several more weeks from that point. Regardless, all the rest of the information is coming through reports, unnamed sources, leaks and rumors. It's a frustrating situation for everyone involved, certainly anyone in New England. As annoying as it has been, we all just have to sit back at this point and wait for the league's final findings to be made public through Wells' investigation. Otherwise, try to ignore all the other noise out there.
Andy Hart

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With certain highly respected players hopefully (and needing to) restructuring their contracts (Mayo and Wilfork), and the release of others (Amendola), what do you think the chances of signing Julius Thomas would be and running two- or three-tight-end sets? Would this be a possibility with Coach as it could enable you to power run and sneakily pass out of the same formations?*
*Ryan Sylvestre

As much as the Patriots may like and have had success with the two-tight set in the past, I don't think there is any way that's going to be recreated with Thomas. The Broncos tight end is likely going to make himself a lot of money on the free agent market, even with his production dipping over the last part of the season while he was both banged up and symbolic of Denver's fading passing attack. Still, Thomas has impressive skills and impressive production over the last two years. He's going to make big-time money somewhere on the open market. That won't be in New England to play second-fiddle to Rob Gronkowski on a team that won't have that type of money to invest in adding a high-priced weapon to its already impressive offensive depth chart. Plus, I think the Patriots are probably intrigued to see what Tim Wright can offer in his second season in New England after he gets a full offseason under his belt heading into his third NFL campaign.
Andy Hart

Do you think Shane Vereen will be back for the 2015 season, or will this be a repeat of the Danny Woodhead situation? If we do lose out in a bidding war, is James White ready to replace him in the scat back/third-down/change-of-pace back role behind the more physical LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray and Stevan Ridley (assuming Ridley restructures his contract and stays)? Also, do you think Vince Wilfork will be asked to restructure his contract again, or will he be paid (the approximately) $10 million he is due next season?
David Beckett

My gut tells me that Vereen may have played his last game in New England. The former second-round pick is coming off a very impressive Super Bowl performance and statistically his best season. The free agent market for running backs hasn't exactly been like hitting the lottery of late. In fact, money has been tight. But even relatively low money has been beyond the Patriots interests for running backs such as BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Woodhead and Blount. Clearly White was drafted with the idea that he might be the future at the position of passing back. But after essentially redshirting his rookie season, it's hard to argue he's ready to take over such a key role in the New England offense. Maybe that pushes the Patriots to extend themselves a bit more for Vereen. Or, maybe that means the team will go after some other veteran. White will be in the mix, but someone else will need to be too. Maybe that's Brandon Bolden, but that seems a bit dubious too. For the record, Ridley is a free agent. Coming off an ACL his value on the open market is questionable, so he might be able to return to his comfortable role in the Patriots committee approach on a low-cost, short-term deal. As for Wilfork, a year after restructuring his contract I'm inclined to think he'll play on that deal after an impressive season leading the Patriots run defense. But his nearly $9 million cap figure is a bit bigger than would be considered ideal, and shaving his $3 million salary or altering his $4.5 million roster bonus certainly might be a consideration from the team's perspective.
Andy Hart

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As the Patriots get ready to address contracts, we all know they have some tough decisions to make. My question is this... could we release, trade or otherwise get rid of Kyle Arrington? Obviously, we don't see everything that happens on the field, but my perception is that he gets beaten regularly in the secondary, and not just in the Super Bowl. Maybe we release him and free up some cap space?*
*Greg White

Arrington did have some issues with the much bigger Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl. But I actually think he had a very solid year as the slot corner and third man in coverage. Arrington's cap number of just more than $4.5 million isn't exactly massive. And I certainly think he's better than Logan Ryan or anyone else who might ascend to the role of No. 3 corner in the secondary. I've had my questions about Arrington and his compensation in the past, but at this point I'd be in favor of keeping him around as a key complementary factor in the secondary.
Andy Hart

With Revis under contract for next season, is it possible that the Pats don't feel urgency about getting his contract done before the March option is due? My question is about whether or not the contract could be restructured after that date. I understand that the Pats would lose leverage, but if both sides are close and more time is all that's really needed, is this a viable option?
Andrew M.

While the contract could be restructured at a later point, the team will have already paid out the $12 million roster bonus and that money, as well as the proration of his original signing bonus, would have an effect on his cap number moving forward. So it would be easier and give more financial flexibility to get any long term deal done prior to the start of the new league year. Keeping Revis at a $25 million cap charge is not ideal, even for a short span to open the new league year.
Andy Hart

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OK, 12 Division titles, 9 AFC Championship games, 6 Super Bowls, 4 Super Bowl Championships..........it's time for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady statues to be put up at Gillette Stadium!!!!*
*Craig Walker

While I agree with your overall point about the greatness of the duo, we both know that it would go against everything that Belichick and Brady ever stood for to put up statues of them while they are still active members of the organization. Don't worry, sometime down the line Belichick and Brady will be properly honored and remembered at Gillette Stadium. Now, though, they have more games and titles left to win together.
Andy Hart

Thanks for another great season of football coverage. We wait anxiously each week during the season for the next PFW to show up in the mailbox! When [Malcolm] Butler made the final interception of the game, it looked like he had initial possession of the ball slightly outside of the end zone, at maybe the 1/2 or 1 yard line. Then his momentum caused him to stumble into the end zone, where he planted his foot and brought himself back out to the 1 yard line. If he had simply gone down in the end zone, would he have gotten the touchback, or would they have still spotted the ball just outside of the end zone, where his forward progress was stopped? Obviously a touchback would have been great at that point, but I'm not sure they would have ruled it that way.
Aaron Gower-Hall

While it would have been impossible to expect Butler to have the body control and wherewithal to go down in the end zone, it would indeed have resulted in a touchback. The natural progression of the play and possession of the ball took him into the end zone. So he could have gone down there and given the Patriots the ball at the 20. But his instincts and some of the momentum of the play took him out of the end zone. That could have made for a hairy situation for the Patriots had Seattle not jumped offsides. It all worked out in the end!
Andy Hart

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Hey guys, love your work. Keep it up. My question is in regards to the re-signing of Danny Amendola. I know he never quite made the plays required for fans to deem his contract worthwhile but my question is how much value is there in his ability to understand the system? We have seen other WRs come in (Chad Johnson, Galloway, etc) and not be able to quite "catch" on due to its complexity. How much value would you place on his ability understand the system? Thanks.*
*Michael Collins

Currently Amendola is indeed under contract for 2015 with a scheduled cap number of approximately $5.7 million. If he were cut, his dead money number on the cap would fall to a little over $3.5 million for a savings of around $2 million. He was a key contributor down the stretch and throughout the postseason. That makes the situation a bit more cloudy. A couple months ago I, like most people, assumed Amendola wouldn't be back in 2015. Now, I'm not so sure. Is he worth the contract he signed to join the Patriots? No. Can he contribute? Yes. Is there better value in keeping him at $5.7 million or cutting him, when he'll still cost $3-plus million and trying to replace him as a receiver and returner? The decision isn't as clear as it once was. He still won't have a starting role in the offense as long as Julian Edelman is around and healthy. But he does have a relationship with Brady and the team. I'd still lean toward moving on from Amendola, especially if you have faith in Dobson being ready to contribute in Year 3. But it's not an easy decision. Over course they rarely are. That's why NFL top decision makers make so much money!
Andy Hart

The Patriots proved they can win the Super Bowl without Jerod Mayo. He is set to have a cap hit of over $10M next season. With [Jamie] Collins and [Dont'a] Hightower playing at such a high level, do you think there is an appetite to release Mayo or restructure his deal to free up money to re-sign Revis and McCourty?
Aaron Lealess

Certainly the team would like to pay Mayo less considering he's missed the bulk of the last two seasons due to major injuries. But the team also very much likes what Mayo brings to the field and the locker room. His health status also complicates his contract. He has a portion of his 2015 salary guaranteed for injury, so as long as he's hurt a large chunk of his $10 million cap figure is actually guaranteed money that I don't believe can be restructured. When Mayo passes a physical, that guarantee would lower, but coming off a major injury that isn't likely to happen until well into the 2015 calendar year. So dealing with Mayo's high cap number may not be as easy as it would appear. It's not as easy as simply slashing his $6 million salary. But my guess is that the contract will be targeted and addressed in some way in the next month as the team tries to get its finances in order for the new league year. Clearly having the money to re-sign McCourty and retain Revis is indeed a priority.
Andy Hart

Where does the Patriots great victory in Super Bowl XLIX place Brady and Belichick in the pantheon of NFL legends? Best ever?
Mike
D.C.

As I wrote in the latest edition of Patriots Football Weekly – on newsstands now or subscribe at 1-800-494-PATS – I do believe Brady now lays claim to the top spot among NFL quarterbacks. He has the numbers, the titles, the longevity and just about anything else that might be used to ranks all-time great passers. I'm not quite as sure on Belichick. He's got impressive numbers and the rings to put him in the conversation. But as far as coaches go, I also think there is something to be said for the way they altered the game or made lasting contributions to the way the game is played. Guys like Paul Brown did that. So did Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. If it's just based on winning, then Belichick is at or very near the top of the coaching list. But if you take more than that into account he might be in a tougher fight for the coaching crown. The one thing that I think is absolute fact now is that together Belichick and Brady are the greatest coach/QB combo in football history.
Andy Hart

**

I am a Packers fan who enjoyed watching the Super Bowl. I haven't got a question but I would like to say thank you because seeing Sherman's reaction at the end of the game made me feel all warm inside. So thank you Pats.*
*Lee West

See, not all fans outside of Patriots Nation hate the team! Sure it might simply be that Packers fans hate the Seahawks more, but whatever.
Andy Hart

I've read that Belichick also botched the end of the game by not calling a timeout after the Lynch run to the 1, but Bill does nothing by accident or omission and, once again, proved smarter than his critics. A Pats timeout gives Seattle time to regroup and takes all pressure off their play calling by handing them at least two rushing shots at the end zone. The odds of a Pats win were slim whatever he did but Bill played situational football, chose the better alternative and was rewarded. Your thoughts?
Evan Carton

I would have called a timeout. I think Belichick should have called a timeout and was bailed out by Pete Carroll's questionable play call. Even Tom Brady said he realized the game was coming down to having to get a stop on defense when New England chose not to call a timeout. The Seahawks had their own timeout, so they could have run the ball twice if they wanted to either way. They chose not to do that, but I don't think it was due to any strategic decision by Belichick not to use his timeouts. I personally think he got away with one. But, that' doesn't matter. The Patriots won. Belichick came out on the right side of the end of the game strategy and history will remember nothing more than that. It's Carroll who'll spend eternity dealing with the second-guessing.
Andy Hart

With Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald and Demaryius Thomas possible free agents, how realistic is it for the Patriots to be able to sign one of them, given that they need to retain Revis, McCourty and Gostkowski?
Keith Nelson

I would eliminate the idea of Bryant or Thomas. Neither is likely to hit the open market. And even if they did, they would be well outside of the Patriots needs or budget. Fitzgerald is a different situation. If he gets his release, which sounds likely, then I wouldn't rule out the Patriots kicking the tires on the aging future Hall of Famer. Fitzgerald's numbers are down. He's become much more of a possession receiver, so I'm not sure it's an ideal fit in New England. But he's still a great, sure-handed talent and if he's inclined to sign a reasonable deal to try to win a title under Belichick it might be an interesting consideration. I'd still put Fitzgerald at a longshot, though.
Andy Hart

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Given the emergence of Hightower and Collins at LB, and assuming Mayo gets fully healthy before training camp, do you see those being the starting LBs in a 4-3 set next year? What of Ayers, Casillas and Chris White?*
*Jon Bloom

Ayers and Casillas are both free agents, so their return is very much uncertain. I don't think Casillas is a starting-caliber player, anyway. Nor is White, who is purely a core special teams guy. Mayo's contract is also a major consideration. He's set to have a cap number of more than $10 million. He's coming off a major injury. It's also worth considering that the Patriots played a form of a 4-2-5 defense much of the time in 2014. So the idea of a front seven or three starting linebackers may not be as important as it once was in the pass-heavy modern NFL. One thing that's for sure, is that Collins and Hightower are two impressive, versatile, ascending talents who should be a key part of the defense – against the run and pass – for years to come.
Andy Hart

First I want to apology for my English as it is my third language. I've seen that you have written that the Patriots have plenty of money to re-sign everybody; I don't understand because I've checked yesterday on capgeek and they were at 151 million and the cap will be at 138. Am I missing something?
Danile Buscemi

Your English is fine, better than some of us who use it as our first and only language! On paper the Patriots are indeed above the projected cap – the exact cap number is not yet known but could end up in the range of $145 million or higher. But there is plenty that can be done in terms of accounting to create room for other contracts. Wilfork could have his deal altered or terminated. Amendola, too. Mayo as well. Right now, Revis is on the projected books for $25 million. That could and should change. The Patriots are a little bit higher on the projected cap at this point than is generally the case, but there is plenty that can be done about that. And that would give the team the chance to retain virtually any of its free agents that it wants to keep.
Andy Hart

Long time listener first time writer from Worcester, England. With the Panthers seeming like they aren't going to re-sign Greg Hardy do you see the Patriots making an attempt at him? Could hugely improve the pass rush and may not cost too much.
Ryan Pritchard

I don't see the Patriots pursuing Hardy. He's coming off a very questionable year off the field – although technically his domestic abuse charges were thrown out after the woman in question was not available for the trial after the pass rusher reached a reported civil settlement with her. He made $13 million under the franchise tag last year. Prior to that he tallied 26 total sacks in the two previous seasons. Sure, he'd boost the Patriots pass rush. But he's a major off-field question mark and even with that baggage is likely going to make far more as a free agent than the Patriots have to spend or even want to spend for that player/position/skillset.
Andy Hart

Do you guys think it's fair that Jerry Rice and #StickumGate is getting absolutely NO coverage in the media (especially big sporting sites like ESPN and Sports Illustrated) compared to a non-issue like Deflategate? I mean, NFL Integrity is pretty much out the window if the Pats are not involved. Really curious about your thoughts here. Thanks.
Brendan Chase

No, it doesn't surprise me. Something that happened more than 20 years ago obviously isn't going to get the same attention as something that happened last month and involved one of the teams in the Super Bowl, the biggest game in all of American sports. If Rice were still playing and used stickum to get to the Super Bowl last month I think it would be a major story. But that's not the case. You can certainly argue that his cheating was on par or worse than anything the Patriots are even accused of doing (never mind that the Patriots ardently argue they did absolutely nothing to the footballs in question), but it was a long time ago. The Rice story is getting some attention – and Cris Carter has been vocal in his criticism of his fellow receiver – but it's just not the same as it would be with a current Super Bowl participant. I think we can all understand that.
Andy Hart

All of the years I watched the Super Bowl they always gave out the info what the winners & the losers received in $ amounts. I would like to know what it was this year?
Richard Patnaude

The Patriots players received $97,000 each for winning the Super Bowl, while Seattle's losing shares were $49,000 each. When you add in the playoff shares from the previous rounds of postseason action, New England players earned $167,000 this winter while the Seahawks earned $117,000 in total.
Andy Hart

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