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Ask PFW: What's the future for Brady, Solder and others?

This week's Ask PFW mailbag is a diverse offering, with a number of queries about the New England futures of some key Patriots veterans.

Hi guys. What do you think the key players of this generation have to do to be inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame? Players like Gronkowski, Edelman, McCourty, Hightower and Gostkowski. Are they in if they retire tomorrow? Do they just have to play a couple of more years and rack up some stats? Or do they need Pro-bowl and All-Pro honors? Thanks.P.S. Is Welker a lock to make it in?
Erwin Oosterbos

Of the list you mention, I think that all are likely to find their way into the Hall when all is said and done. Gronkowski would be the biggest lock at this point. The rest are probably right on the cusp given their statistics, multiple Super Bowl victories and extended stays in New England. I do believe that Welker will get into the Hall someday, but he's probably not a lock given the way his time in New England came to an end. There are still many fans and media types that hold his Super Bowl "drop" against him as well as the way he departed via free agency to join Peyton Manning and the Broncos. It's hard for even the biggest hater to ignore the job Welker did from 2007 through 2012, when he caught 672 passes with 37 touchdowns and had five years with at least 110 catches for at least 1,100 yards. If that's not enough to get in, then I don't know what people are looking for. 
Andy Hart

Since the Patriots have a lot of cap space, why they don't they restructure the contract of some players? Giving more money now, opens cap space for the future and less dead money in case the player gets cut in the next years.
Gregorio Ladeira

We've already seen the Patriots take care of some business with restructures and extensions this offseason for the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and James White. I would not be surprised to see business continue. But restructuring contracts can actually put the team on the hook for more dead cap money down the road as it usually includes more upfront money for the player that is dispersed over the life of the deal. There is no question, though, that New England is in a very good situation financially and has the flexibility to do pretty much whatever it wants to at this point.
Andy Hart

I was wondering if Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are under contract with the Patriots and if a team (such as the Browns) would want to sign either of them, what would/could they get for compensation if any? Also, what are the dates for the open practices? I enjoy going to a few of them every year to check out the talent first hand. Thanks for the year-round coverage for us football junkies especially the PFW podcasts-they are excellent!!
Kurt C.

McDaniels and Patricia are under contract as coordinators with the Patriots. That means if another team offered either guy a promotion to head coach, he would be free to take it without compensation returning to New England. Generally the only way compensation becomes an issue is when a head coach under contract with one team is pursued by another team to become its head coach. We've seen that over the years with guys like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Herm Edwards and others. The most recent guy under such consideration was Jim Harbaugh when he was with the 49ers, but his trade out of San Francisco never came to fruition. Essentially McDaniels and Patricia are free to take head coaching jobs between seasons, as are all other assistant coaches in the NFL. Training camp practices are generally open to the public for a couple weeks beginning sometime in the last week of July. Those dates and times will be updated on as soon as that information is finalized.
Andy Hart


Looking at the unconventional approach the Patriots have taken this offseason I think there is only one conclusion, and that's TB12 playing through the 2018 season and the Patriots moving on from him. Let's look at the facts: They spent big to bring in Cooks from the Saints, and BB has never used a first-round pick in this way for a receiver. They extended Edelman, and considering he would have been age 32 at the end of his contract year, there was no reason for the Patriots to extend him early, especially given the bruising position he plays. They came up with an incentive-laden contract extension for Gronk that is designed to keep him on the field, even if he isn't 100%. There are rumors of the Patriots offering Jimmy G. a bridge contract to get him to stay after this year without using the franchise tag. Basically, the Patriots are loading up on offense short-term, giving TB12 what he needs for the next year or two and burnishing his legacy, and trying to keep Jimmy G. around until 2019. And the list goes on. I think BB has told TB12 that he will need to make a choice after 2018 season: stay in the NFL with a different uniform, pass the baton to Jimmy G. and be his mentor/backup QB, or retire. I don't see any coincidences here. There are just too many unconventional moves, high impact but short-term transactions that are not characteristic of BB.
Alan Bernstein

The only move that would really consider "unconventional" that the Patriots made was the Gronkowski contract restructure. Otherwise, I think a team with a lot of cap space and ability to retool the roster took full advantage of its options. As much as I would probably have traded Garoppolo, I don't think a team holding onto a young, impressive backup to a 40-year-old starter is really all that unconventional. It's really just a cautious, safe move. Certainly Brady's future with the team is going to be one of the biggest storylines in New England until the situation plays itself out. Maybe those in the know have an idea of how things will go in the coming years with TB12. Or, maybe those in the know are just covering all their bases to try to keep the Patriots dynasty rolling along for the short and long term.
Andy Hart

I saw a video of a kicker that was amazing. Was doing all sorts of trick kicks that apparently caught the eye of someone in the Patriots organization. He was invited to attend camp this year. I don't know his name and was wondering what you could tell us?
Ned Mark

I'm assuming the video you saw was of so-called trick shot kicker Josh Gable and his GableTV online work. The former soccer player and Indoor Football League alum was indeed invited to a tryout during New England's rookie mini-camp earlier this spring. But he left town without a contract and his football future remains unclear. As of now, the Patriots have only returning veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski on the roster.
Andy Hart

Why did Belichick's trade package for Brandin Cooks include their high round pick when the Patriots had to forfeit their highest 4th? How does that make sense? Also, do you think the Kraft's will give Belichick a free hand in deciding if and when to move on from Brady or will that be an ownership decision?
Anthony Salerno

I don't understand the question regarding the Cooks trade. I'm guessing the deal was a negotiation between the two teams, settling the Saints wants with what the Patriots were willing to part with. In the end that was a first- and third-round pick with a fourth-round pick coming back with the receiver to New England. And either way the Patriots were going to forfeit a pick as a result of Deflategate. In general Belichick seems to have full control in football moves, but I think the Brady situation is a bit different. If there is at some point a consideration to move on from Brady from a football perspective I think the overall decision will very much include ownership. Brady is a special player who has earned special consideration. In the end, though, if/when Belichick is prepared to move on from No. 12 and can completely support the decision with sound reasoning I think it would probably be supported by ownership. But only those in that very small room of decision makers will know exactly how it plays out, if it ever even reaches that point.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. Longtime pats fan here, I wanted to ask some questions. Do you see Duron Harmon taking the starter job from Pat Chung or does BB find a way to put both on the field? Do you see us signing any veteran OL to help with the lack of depth at the position? Also do you see us trading before the trade deadline?
Akim Gibson

Harmon has been a regular contributor in recent years, seeing plenty of playing time in three-safety sets on defense along with Chung and Devin McCourty. He and Chung aren't really the same type of player, though. Harmon is more of a free safety while Chung makes his money near the line of scrimmage. My guess is that all three will continue to have sizeable roles in the back end this season. Moving forward from this year, though, Harmon could see an increased role given his $20-million extension that pays him more like a starter than a backup, ranking in the top 30 in the league in average value. I do think the Patriots could add a veteran offensive lineman, maybe an interior guy, at some point. That may span your final two questions, as I think adding a veteran lineman might be the most likely trade target for the team between now and the deadline. 
Andy Hart

Suggesting Dion Lewis might be a good candidate for a trade seems to be a common take with the addition of Gillislee and Burkhead and the signing of White, but given that RB is an oft-injured position, wouldn't it be better to keep Lewis around, even if only for insurance, rather than trade him for a 6th or 7th round pick? His cap hit is not prohibitive and he could be a significant contributor on offense again in 2017.
Chris Cavalier

In theory, it's always good to have proven players in depth positions if they don't cost too much. But that doesn't take into account the limited roster spots. I also don't just assume Lewis would be traded for a late-round draft pick. More likely would be a scenario where he could be traded for a veteran player at a position where the Patriots may not have as much depth, such as offensive line. And if Lewis returns to his explosive 2015 playmaking capabilities this summer and preseason, that would certainly lessen the likelihood of him being dealt away.
Andy Hart

With all of the new additions this offseason, it's looking more and more like the Pats will completely dominate the NFL. Taking Brady's age into account and all the players we have with high injury risks, at what point would most of the starters be rested in the season? For example, if the Pats were 14-0, and had locked up the No.1 seed, would they rest the last two weeks or try to go 19-0?
Doogie Harris

History has shown us that Belichick is unlikely to rest players for too long down the stretch of the season if the team has already clinched a bye week in the postseason. He certainly saw how the Colts may have been hurt over the years by resting too much heading into postseasons. I think he believes, with some specific exceptions for certain players, that more than a week off late in the year can really hurt performance and momentum. Now, he could rest guys late in games throughout the year if the Patriots are winning big as a way to limit reps and wear on the players. But if the Patriots are undefeated late in the year with a bye locked up, I think most of the starters will continue to start games and play at least some to prepare for the postseason and, as an byproduct, maybe go for a perfect season. 
Andy Hart

Is David Harris a veteran addition candidate for the Pats? How big of an upgrade would he represent and do you think he would play for the Pats? What other useful veteran LBs are there the Pats could look at?
Tyler Flanagan

I think Harris would be a really intriguing guy to add to the Patriots depth chart. He's been a remarkably durable and consistent player over his career. I think he's respected by many throughout the league. So, I think he will probably garner some interest from a lot of teams and might be able to snag a bigger role elsewhere. As of yet I've not seen reports of him scheduling any visits, but I'm all for Foxborough being on the list. 
Andy Hart


I have grown intolerant of the speculation that Nate Solder won't be a Patriot next season. He seems to be the best offensive lineman they have at the most important position on the line. If he is one of the top 10 left tackles in the NFL why wouldn't New England find a way to extend his contract (especially with the cap room they have)? Just because they drafted a couple of linemen this year is certainly no guarantee that they can effectively replace Solder. Do you guys really believe that Nate's as good as gone at the end of the year? As always I appreciate you guys, thanks.
Andrew Walker

I do not think that Solder has reached the good-as-gone point by any means. I also don't believe he's a top-10 left tackle or performed as the best New England lineman of late. I think that latter honor goes to Marcus Cannon for last season. I think Solder is a middle-of-the-road tackle. The reality is that there is a lack of high-end talent and depth at the tackle position in the NFL. Therefore it's a spot that is in much demand. It will be interesting to see how the negotiations between Solder and the Patriots go in the coming months. I agree that it's no sure-thing for a mid-round guy like Tony Garcia to be expected to step in for Solder next year. He's a talented athlete and will get good coaching. Time will tell how that plays out. 
Andy Hart

At this early stage in the season, who do you protect leading the Patriots in: passing yardage, receiving yardage, receiving touchdowns, rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, sacks, interceptions, tackles, forced fumbles.
David Beckett

Love easy answers like this. Brady for passing yards. Gronkowski for receiving yards. Gronkowski for touchdown receptions. Gillislee for rushing yards and touchdowns. Dont'a Hightower for sacks. Devin McCourty for interceptions. Chung for tackles. And Rob Ninkovich for forced fumbles. I think the defensive categories are harder to predict than the offense. And if Gronkowski gets hurt, I'll go with Cooks for yards and touchdowns. 
Andy Hart

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