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Ask PFW: Vote no on T.O.

The shoddy officiating in the Super Bowl couldn't overshadow the fans' concerns with the Patriots sagging running game and Corey Dillon. Despite a terrible display by the zebras in the Steelers-Seahawks game, our concerns lay much closer to home.

Another game decided on bad officiating. Big Ben got another gift TD and since when is putting your hand on another player become pushing off. The actual score (of what will probably be the most boring S.B. ever) should be Seattle 17 - Pittsburgh 14. I'm not counting the missed field goals because that had nothing to do with the officiating. I hope they will do something about the officiating next year. I know people complain about it every year, but this year has to go down as the worst ever. Way too many games were decided by terrible calls. And when the Super Bowl is decided by officiating they have to finally do something.
Raymond Boulay

After witnessing the worst season of officiating in any major sport ever, it came as no surprise to me that for the first time in my life the S.B. was decided by the officials and not the play on the field. In my mind the NFL has lost all credibility. How can any Patriots fan be confident there will not be another game changing fraudulent P.I. against Asante next postseason? How can any Patriots fan be confident they will get a fair shake next year? My favorite sport is being murdered by the third team on the field. Is there any hope for this great game?
Chris Clark

I certainly agree that the officiating has been bad. And I agree that it was bad throughout the postseason. And I even agree that something needs to be done to improve it. However, I don't agree the officials decided the Super Bowl. You said Roethlisberger was given a touchdown and count that as 7 points the Steelers wouldn't have had. First, I think it was a touchdown, but even if it wasn't, the Steelers still had the ball less than an inch from the goal line. Is it realistic to think Pittsburgh wouldn't have at least come away with 3 points? The more likely scenario would have been 7 on the next play. So your math is definitely flawed here. And the officials didn't let Willie Parker run 75 yards untouched for a touchdown. The officials didn't get fooled on Antwaan Randle El's touchdown pass. Those are the reasons the Seahawks lost. Now I agree the officials didn't help and I thought their overall performance was terrible. But Seattle has only itself to blame for the loss. Dropped passes, poor play calling and terrible clock management all played bigger roles in the defeat than the officials did.
Paul Perillo

Although the offensive line did struggle at times this year, it is still young and will be better when healthy next year. What do you see it looking like on opening day? Light back in for Kaczur? Mankins staying at LG? Koppen back in at C? And do you see Hochstein moving to RG instead of Neal? And don't you agree that Ashworth is the better RT over Gorin?Robbie Mitchnick

The offensive line dealt with a lot of injuries even though not many people recognized that fact. I see Light, Mankins, Koppen and Neal back at their spots to open next season. I think Neal will re-sign and remain at right guard. The one question I have is right tackle. I do believe that Ashworth is better than Gorin, but I'm not sure he's going to re-sign. That would leave it between Gorin and Kaczur, and I believe Kaczur will emerge as the full-time starter next season. This group should be a major improvement over the one that finished the season.
Paul Perillo

With the 21st pick I would like to see New England add a young RB to go with Dillon and Faulk and possibly replace Dillon as the starter. I think a Laurence Maroney or LenDale White would be a great fit to replace Dillon, as we have seen he is on the decline.
Mark Silveira

As much as I would hate to lose him let's face it, Corey Dillon is on his second injury, and he's not getting any younger. What are the thoughts of the Patriots on maybe trading him or making Corey a second stringer and replacing him with the likes of Edgerrin James or even going after Shaun Alexander?
John Donahue

Do you guys think Ty Law will … just kidding. I've read here a lot recently about the Patriots alleged "holes to fill" from my brethren fans. I think we're still way ahead of most teams, it's just that the injuries plus Ted Johnson's unexpected retirement led to the regular season record, which led to a playoff road game, which coincided with several years of good football karma going bad in one horrendous game. I think the team will be in good shape for a run next year, but I am concerned about "drive killin' Corey Dillon" like everybody else. A dependable back would be the difference for sure. Do you think there are any potential free agent runners for the Pats, or is the draft looking like our only option? And, is Tom Casale any relation to Gerald V. Casale of DEVO?
Phil Troutman

While I do believe finding a running back for the future is necessary, I don't believe that is the Patriots biggest need at the current time. It's still pretty early in this draft process so I'm not completely aware of how the top 20-25 prospects shape up, but if the Patriots have White or Maroney (both of whom appear to be quality backs from what I've seen) ranked as their best player available then I would expect them to take one. The Patriots like to set up their board and stick to it the best they can. So if White is their 15th-ranked player and he's available at 21, then it makes sense. But if their 10th-ranked player is available too, then I'd expect them to take the 10th-ranked player instead. All things being equal, I'd rather not see them take a running back in the first round. I think corner and linebacker are more pressing needs. But it all depends on who is available.
As for picking up a high-priced running back in free agency, I just can't see this happening. Alexander and James are going to cost big bucks and the Patriots would be better suited to spend their money more wisely. You can't have two high-priced backs like Dillon and James or Alexander on the same team – and it would cost the Patriots more money on the cap to cut Dillon than it would to keep him. Dillon almost certainly will be the lead back in 2006, like it or not.
And since Tom has absolutely no talent, I'd assume he's not related to anyone from DEVO. Then again, since we're talking DEVO maybe he is.
Paul Perillo

I've been hearing talk that Terrell Owens might possibly be signed to a short-term deal with the Patriots if Givens leaves. Is this true? Can the Pats afford him because he is one of the top paid receivers in the league? And if they can, I would think that the Pats would want nothing to do with him because of the problems he caused in Philly and in San Fran. I'm not saying that I would never want him to come here, he is a fantastic receiver and could really make our corps a threat (him and Branch), but I would never want the Patriots to be as embarrassed as the Eagles must've been when he caused all of those problems this past year. If he does get signed though, do you think that the Patriots would have him on a very short leash? I just want to know how likely this is to happen and how it would be done.
Evan Hejmanowski

I want to start by thanking all of you at PFW and Ask PFW for doing a wonderful job. As I have stated before, you do a better job than anybody of keeping us former New Englanders informed on the best team in the NFL. You have a great column and an even better newspaper. With that said, I can't believe all the Owens talk that is circulating around. I can't be the only one who doesn't want him wearing Patriots blue. He's a cancer! I was wary of Dillon because of his history, and I was proven wrong. And if I turn out to be wrong about Owens, I'll be the first to admit it, but let him prove me wrong somewhere else. All the talk about picking Owens up justifies the decision with the argument that he'll play the first year for cheap. I don't care if he would play for free. He is not a Patriots type of player. Am I the only one who remembers the outrage at Ty Law's "feed my children" remark? That was a minor infraction compared to the stunts Owens has pulled throughout his career, and most especially last year. I guess there's not really a question in that rant, but please, let the voices of those of us who do not want Owens be heard. I know I can't be the only one.Chris Howard

Every once in a while my two brain surgeon co-workers Tom and Andy spend a little too much time at the local drinking establishment and they come away with some inane concoction like trading for T.O. They even come up with clever slogans like, "you never know, how about T.O." Now I understand with Bill Belichick you can never truly rule anything out, but I just don't see T.O. as part of the Patriots. Can you imagine Belichick telling him not to say too much in the media? That would last about 10 minutes. Owens is a terrific receiver, nobody denies that, but he's more trouble than he's worth. He pulled the Niners and Eagles apart and he'll do the same to his next team. I have no doubt that he'll be successful in 2006 for whichever team lands him, but beyond that he's going to be a huge distraction and will eventually self-destruct like he always does. But you have to give the boys credit for having some fun … and make no mistakes about it, having T.O. on the Patriots would be fun.
Paul Perillo

First of all, my apologies for adding to the apparently ceaseless barrage of Ty Law-related questions. This one will only touch on him briefly. Tom Casale said, "in the end Ty does what's best for Ty." I think coming back here would be best for not only him, but for everyone involved. He is a perennial Pro Bowler who played hurt last year at a size big for a safety, yet still snagged 10 passes. It may not have been his most dynamic year, but a takeaway is a takeaway. Returning here would not only provide depth for the Pats (in light of his demonstrated ability to play safety, switching up with Rodney Harrison during the 2003 season, and his expressed desire to eventually convert full-time) but if he were to return, and even have an average year, which for him would be about five or six picks, and help the Pats win another Super Bowl, his 4th, I think he would guarantee himself a first ballot selection to the Hall of Fame. A possible alternative would be taking a big contract with a bad team and fading into obscurity, still being a potential Hall of Famer, but not a lock. My issues with the selection process being a topic for another day. Point is, he has made craploads of money; perhaps cementing his legacy on the team with whom he made his name, will be a major factor in his decision, assuming the Pats even want him. And I hope they do. For his part, he sounded like he really wanted to own the Pats interception record, not just share it. Also the fans would get one of the all-time great Patriots back. Yes I hope they fill their needs with good players in general, regardless of whether or not they played here in the past, as Casale says, but if they fill a need with a guy who just happens to have been one of the best to ever play here, that would just be great. That said, my question is, do you think the Pats system even requires a top-notch, shutdown corner? If so they might be in trouble because those take time to develop and you can't just acquire them without giving up either a lot of cap space or high draft picks. Do you think the Pats will feel the need to even emphasize what is probably their most talked-about weakness and go after some top-tier talent? Or will they just flood the training camp roster again with an abundance of youth and potential combined with some veteran experience, hoping enough players stay healthy to field a competitive secondary? All I hear anyone talk about is Ty Law. What are even some of the other names available? Is Chris McAllister a free agent? Wasn't he franchised last year? Do you figure they must bring in someone to hold down the fort in case Harrison can't go early in the year, or is Hawkins that guy? In light of the year he had, do you think the Pats are still sold on Wilson at safety? Sadly, these questions keep me up at night. I think I have a problem. Oh well, at least it's not crack.
J. Jaspers

Are you sure about that last part? Wow, my 5-year-old nephew doesn't lose his train of thought as often as you. And I'm glad you only "touched on Ty Law briefly" before rambling on for the next 315 words about him.

Anyway, for starters, I agree with Tom that Ty does what's best for Ty, and in his world that means mostly money. It's how he measures respect. If he doesn't get offered what the other top corners are getting, he views that as a lack of respect. So if the Patriots are competitive in salary to the other teams that offer him a deal, then I'm sure Ty would consider it. Both sides expressed a desire to reunite last summer so I see no reason why things would change this year as long as the money makes sense for both. As for your other reasons why the Patriots are best for Ty, I don't necessarily agree with many of them. Ty Law is a great player and he'll be great regardless of where he goes. He showed that by picking off 10 passes while playing overweight on one foot for a terrible football team. It's not about the Patriots system or coaching; it's about an individual who is one of the best at what he does. If he signs somewhere else he will not fade into obscurity, as you indicated as an alternative. And he could sign elsewhere and actually win the Super Bowl – what kind of impact do you think that would have on his Hall of Fame credentials? The Patriots aren't the only team with a chance to win the Super Bowl you know. And as a point of clarification, Ty Law didn't play safety in 2003 against the Colts. He and Rodney Harrison occasionally switched spots in the formation so Harrison could give receivers an extra shot, but that didn't mean Law was playing safety. He was playing corner, and I would assume he's not ready to make any position switches just yet.

In the interest for trying to get you a good night's sleep I'll try to answer your endless line of questions. First, any system could use a top-notch, shutdown corner, but no system HAS to have one. You play with what you have and do the best you can. The Patriots pass defense was certainly better in 2003 when Law and Tyrone Poole were playing corner than in 2005 when Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel were playing. But it's not because the system dictates that a shutdown style corner is needed for it to be successful. I think the Patriots will look to both the draft and free agency to find some cover people for 2006. Chris McAllister is not a free agent but Nate Clements and Charles Woodson will be unless they're re-signed before March 3. I believe Hawkins will be back in camp and given a chance to win a roster spot, but someone will be signed in case Harrison isn't ready for the start of the season. Wilson played better down the stretch and I think he'll be back as a starter in the secondary next season.

Maybe now you'll be able to sleep at night.
Paul Perillo

Looking over the roster and IR list, I'm not seeing any glaring holes in the Pats. I'm seeing some depth requirements at DB, LB and maybe RB, but nothing that warrants a first-round selection and first-round money, especially with a pick that will fall so late in the round. What do you think are the chances that the Pats will shore up depth in the FA market, and trade their higher round picks into the out years for multiple picks, generating perhaps a stronger draft position in 2007 or 2008?
Andrew Avery

Whether we term them glaring holes or depth requirements, the Patriots could use some help in the draft. They need to get younger at linebacker and running back, they need some wide receivers and they'll obviously need to find some defensive backs. I disagree that they don't need a first-round pick. Of course they do. Every team does. The money isn't an issue. You'll pay a lot more in free agency than you would for the 21st pick. The Patriots always like to trade on draft day so I would expect some picks to get swapped, but you can't just trade for the sake of trading. If the Patriots like what's available, money won't be a factor.
Paul Perillo

From the looks of things, you're not big on the "grab a back to replace Dillon" theory. Well, I want to know one thing: If Reggie Bush goes to Houston, and Domanick Davis is available, does that mean you have to buy his contract? If so, is it stratospheric based on 2004, or would he be available on a more Travis-Henry-after-McGahee-took-over basis? If this guy is consigned to "ho hum yesterday's news" status, I say SIGN him, give Brady another weapon. Should I just knock off the hooch, or is the Davis scenario remotely possible?
Dan Halberstam

I suggest the former … or at least stop hanging out with J. Japser and Tom and Andy. First, what's so special about Domanick Davis? He's a marginal back at best. He'll get you 60-80 yards a game and catch a few passes, but he's not a difference maker. He wasn't in college at LSU and he hasn't been in Houston either. And the Texans haven't always been terrible like they were this past season. I wouldn't give up so much as a bag of deflated footballs for him, let alone a draft pick. Again, Dillon will be the lead back in 2006, folks.
Paul Perillo

As a big Doug Flutie fan, I am just curious if you think he'll be back for another season with the Patriots, another chance to get a Super Bowl Ring, or do you think he will definitely retire? If he does retire as a player, do you think he'll end up with some position in the organization, such as a quarterbacks coach?
Leonard Hunt

I'm not sure whether Flutie will retire but I don't expect him back in New England. I think the Patriots will look for a younger, cheaper backup to go with Matt Cassel. I asked Flutie after the Broncos playoff loss if he was going to call it quits and he wouldn't say so I'd guess he hasn't made up his mind. I'm also not sure he would be interested in coaching. It seems every time we watch a Boston sporting event of TV that Flutie is there. He seems to enjoy being a fan. If he becomes a coach, he wouldn't have time to do those things.
Paul Perillo

Andy, I have a blockbuster trade idea that just doesn't seem to be the norm of the NFL. Since the Pats are going to bring in 10 or so draft picks and 7 or so free agents, why don't they trade Tully Banta-Cain, Jarvis Green, Marquise Hill, Dan Klecko and Tyrone Poole to the Arizona Cardinals for a second- and fourth-round pick, because they are desperate for defense. Then trade Bethel Johnson and Duane Starks to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick, because the 49ers suck and need all the help they can get.
Duane Hicks

Good move addressing this to Andy because this is the kind of fantasy world he and Tom live in. Basically what you're saying is why don't we trade every player we don't want and hope someone else will give us valuable draft picks for them? You forgot about the Monty Beisel and Chad Brown trade to Miami for a first-round pick and Zach Thomas. At least Minnesota got Herschel Walker from Dallas for all those draft picks. You don't want to give anything up. There's a reason those kinds of deal aren't the norm in the NFL … no one's stupid enough to make them.
Paul Perillo

I've been reading various articles that suggest that Jurevicius and Randle El are receivers that the Patriots could conceivably sign to the team. They both seem like top tier receivers and will obviously have Super Bowl experience (Jurevicius with three different teams!) to bring to the table. My question is, will Givens command so much more money on the market that we might lose him but sign one of these other top receivers? Seems confusing to me – is Givens THAT much better, or do the Pats value other teams' receivers more? Or is all this just so much speculation that has no real basis in fact?
Andrew Miskavage

There is a great deal of speculation to all of this, but hey, that's what we do here. I don't think the Patriots value other team's players more than their own. To the contrary I believe when possible they'd like to keep their own free agents. But I do believe that Givens is much better than either Jurevicius or Randle El and will cost more than either of those players. I think Givens will be looking for a long-term deal and someone might be willing to take a chance on him as a No. 1 receiver. If he gets that, then he'll make much more than Jurevicius or Randle El.
Paul Perillo

Since David Givens is a restricted free agent this offseason, doesn't that require teams wishing to sign him to give the New England Patriots compensatory draft picks like a first and third rounder? Forgive my feeble understanding of free agency and the like, for my knowledge is solely based on Madden NFL 06.
Billy Mondor

I'm not surprised that Madden caused your confusion, Billy. Listening to his color commentary often confuses me. Anyway, Givens is an unrestricted free agent and thus will be free to sign with anyone with the Patriots receiving no compensation (other a compensatory pick in the future depending on total free agent signings/losses).
Paul Perillo

How is it that P.K. Sam was able to sign with the Bengals before the start of the free agency period?
Bill Matters

Sam finished the season on the practice squad but the Patriots chose not to sign him for 2006. So Sam was able to sign with Cincinnati because no one owned his rights. In essence, he was a street free agent because he wasn't on anyone's roster at the end of the 2005 season.
Paul Perillo

Every NFL team wants a big, strong and fast wide receiver, while our receivers like Deion Branch are considered to be on the smaller side. Don't we have a big receiver on our roster already in the name of Ben Watson? Assuming we have two other tight ends that are healthy, what do you think about having Benjamin, as BB likes to call him, line up at WR?
Chris Yao

Watson is fast for a tight end; he would be just another wide receiver in terms of speed. He lacks the polish of a wide receiver in terms of route-running and other intricacies that go into the position. He would definitely have a size and strength advantage over the defensive backs covering him, but him running routes against corners instead of linebackers and safeties would be a big adjustment. Now that doesn't mean that the Patriots won't occasionally split him out wide in an effort to utilize his wonderful athleticism. They did this often last year and I'd expect that to continue. But I don't think he will just switch to wide receiver instead of tight end. And by the way, he asked to be called Benjamin when he was drafted and that's why we use his full first name. It's not something for only Belichick.
Paul Perillo

A lot of mumbling about Dillon's 2005 campaign, which I agree was less than stellar. However, I think he will be back in form for 2006. The guy was frustrated in Cincy for years, he finally signs up with a winning team and shoots straight to winning the Super Bowl. I think he may have suffered a bit of post SB hangover, as he finally realized his goal. I think having to sit back and watch other teams compete in the SB will get the fire lit under him for next season.
Craig First

That's great, but what if it doesn't? What if Dillon's decline this season had nothing to do with desire? What if it had nothing to do with injuries? What if it had nothing to do with him realizing any goals he may have had? What if Dillon simply was ineffective in 2005 because he's on the decline? These are the kinds of difficult questions the Patriots will be trying to answer in the offseason. Personally, I think the team needs to find a running back for the future to take over for Dillon in 2007 because I believe next year will be his last in New England. Of course I've been wrong so many times I've lost count … but I'm sure one of our clever emailers will write to let me know what the current number is.
Paul Perillo

I have heard a lot of talk about how other players owe the Patriots like Stephen Neal because he wasn't drafted, but what about Givens? He was a seventh-round pick, who knows what would have happened if the Pats didn't draft him? Yes he has worked very hard, but I mean in pro sports today players need to show more loyalty for teams than what they do. What is so bad about signing with the Patriots for a little bit less money? Why go to a team that didn't draft you and they didn't want to because they had 7 rounds to pick you?
Big John Cavallo

The idea of Stephen Neal perhaps feeling like he owes the organization some loyalty as he heads into free agency has nothing to do with draft status. First of all, Neal has never said this publicly that I'm aware of so the whole idea may be totally off to begin with. But the theory is that Neal may feel some loyalty to Belichick because of the commitment and patience the team showed while waiting for him to develop into an NFL player. Remember, Neal never played college football and the Patriots took a chance on him. They thought he had potential and were willing to wait more than two full years – and then another while he rehabbed an injury – for him to show signs that he would be worth the wait. That's a big difference from a seventh-round pick and an undrafted free agent. By your theory, every player would stay with the same team for his entire career because that was the team that drafted or signed him. That's quite unrealistic – and it also would fly in the face of free agency in general. Givens is no different than any other player who was drafted in the league.
Paul Perillo

It seems that a lot of people are expecting some team to offer Givens a lot more money than the Pats and he will be playing elsewhere next year. Here's my question: Assuming the Pats work out a deal with Vinatieri, is there anything preventing them from tagging Givens and keeping him in NE for at least one more year?
Tim Mahan

Yeah, about 7.7 million things to be specific. That was the franchise number for wide receivers last year. So if the Patriots put the franchise tag of Givens he would earn $7.7 million for one year (probably more based on this year's numbers). I doubt the Patriots would be willing to give him that kind of money.
Paul Perillo

Hi PFW, I just wanted to ask a question about Rodney Harrison and his injury status and if he will be back or not on the defense because we need more Super Bowl wins. Also, I'd like to know if Richard Seymour is re-signed to long-term contract?
Michael Machado

Seymour is entering the final year of his contract and right now is slated to be a free agent at the end of the 2006 season. He was recently quoted in the Boston Herald as saying his wish is to remain in New England and that he would like to work out a long-term deal during the offseason. The problem is the current labor situation with the set to expire CBA is hurting the chances for that to happen. Until that situation gets rectified, it's unlikely that Seymour and the Patriots will be able to come to terms on a long-term deal. Harrison is working out in Foxborough and hopes to be ready for 2006. It's doubtful that he would be at full strength at the start of training camp, but there is reason to believe he should be able to return at some point in 2006.
Paul Perillo

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