I have no doubt that Adalius Thomas will not return next year. How much cap space is he taking up and how much could we get for him in a trade?*Garrett Raymond *
Two questions here. First do you see Adalius Thomas getting traded to another team after the season is over? He has been a healthy scratch for the second week and was also sent home for being late. Second if Randy Moss really wants the ball more, couldn't Brady just throw it to him more? Because he is one of those receivers, when playing at 100 percent, is open even when covered. Or would that just make things worse? Is his future still bright in New England or will this become like Terrell Owens in Dallas where they just got fed up with him?John Opitz
Throughout Sunday's game [against Carolina], I noticed a lack of enthusiasm from Randy Moss. I know he had a miserable day, but it seems when he gets shut down early, he loses interest. I'm not saying we give him the Adalius Thomas treatment, but do you guys think its time New England gets through this guy's head that he can't just "play when he wants to play?"
Up until today, I haven't been one of the people that believed the nay-sayers who bash Randy Moss about his not finishing plays, having enough drive, and all the other complaints. But [against the Panthers], he was just not there. Really, to sum it up, I think he just was not concentrating. Have we lost him mentally, for this season anyway?
Let's start with A.D. (yes, it's A.D., not A.T. … His nickname comes from his initials for his first and middle name, not his first and last, for those of you who have been wondering). If 2010 is indeed an uncapped year in the NFL, then you're probably right, Garrett. Although we in PFW are not privy to the details of player contracts, reports we've read indicate that Thomas would be a costly cut (i.e., several millions of dollars) in a normal year.
But if the cap isn't an issue, the team will probably give Thomas what he appears to want, which is out of Foxborough, as his recent comments in the media would suggest. His "healthy scratches" against Tennessee earlier this year and versus Carolina, following his early dismissal in the midst of last week's snowstorm, seem to have done irreparable damage to his relationship with Bill Belichick.
Trading him is a less likely option. Given Thomas' hefty salary (again, reportedly in the low millions) and lack of productivity since becoming a Patriot, what team would want to give anything up for him when they could just sign him for less if the Patriots release him?
Now to Moss ... The guy is in his 12th NFL season. Do you really believe he's going to change his approach to the game after all this time? I don't. People who know him best have told us that he appears to sulk when his teams are losing because he feels like he could be doing more to help them win. OK, that may be true, but that's not how most of the rest of the world perceives it when they see him sitting alone on the defense's bench when his teammates on offense are all gathered together on the other end of the sideline.
John suggested throwing to Moss more just to keep him happy. That's what was dubbed "The Randy Ratio" when he was with Minnesota, and we've seen some of that this season. Brady has forced the ball to Moss plenty of times when he's been double- and sometimes triple-covered, and that's led to more Brady interceptions than he probably should have at this point. That's not good for the offense.
I've seen Moss have unimpressive statistical games as a Patriot, but he'd be all smiles afterwards because the team won. This season has been a struggle and it looks like it's taking a toll on Moss. If they keep winning this month and into next, he'll perk up, whether he gets the ball much or not.
Just want to say a big 'Thanks' to you guys for keeping me updated on everything Patriots-related across the water. Got to see the Patriots for the first time in Wembley and it has been the highlight of my year!! I know the season is far from over, and, man, was I grateful to see the win [against Carolina], but Randy Moss is struggling, Tom Brady is not as hot in clutch situations as he once was (2-minute drills, closing out games, red zone, etc.), some of the play calling has been suspect at times, and although the running game picked up on Sunday, it has been way too inconsistent! How do we fix this, especially going into next year? Is it an attitude problem, lack of depth, desire to win, or what? Thanks for taking the time to have a look at this e-mail.Rob Masters, Northern Ireland
Hi Guys, love reading your column every week. Live in Dublin, Ireland, so, hard to keep up with things. Just had a question about Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker. Anytime I've seen Watson play this year, he's been solid and his catching seems to have improved. Why aren't we using him and Baker more, especially when Moss and Wes Welker get so much attention? Thanks and keep up the great work! Slan abhaile …
Stephen Farrell, Ireland
Boy, for living across the Atlantic, you guys seem to have the problems nailed. Wish we could give you some solid answers, but that's the thing … even the players have been at a loss to explain what's been to blame for the offense's problems this year. I've noticed a trend, though, and it seems to be in the creativity department.
The Patriots offense appears to have hit a rut when it comes to personnel groupings and play calling in certain key situations (fourth-and-short, for example). When they line up in the broken-I with Sammy Morris as the fullback in front of Laurence Maroney, chances are they're handing off to Morris for a dive play. If we can snuff that out up in our press box loft, certainly the opposing defensive coordinators can, too.
The lack of a viable third wide receiver option (even if it's a tight end like Watson or Baker) has also hampered New England this year. When your only threats are Moss and Welker, it's easier for a defense to shut down one or both options because there's no one else to step up and make plays. I don't think it has anything to do with desire … all these guys want to win every game. It just seems like they've become a predictable offense, which has made them too easy to defend.
I watch every game and the opposing quarterbacks have a field day. Why can't the Patriots blitz a safety or a cornerback once in a while? If you have a weak secondary, don't most teams try to hurry the QB to force bad passes and help the secondary? Are the Pats so bad they can't even pressure the QB?Bob Eaton
Well, Bob, this season, the answer, unfortunately, is yes. Not getting consistent heat on opposing quarterbacks has plagued the front seven of this 2009 Patriots defense. As you alluded, that puts added pressure on the secondary to make plays, which New England's hasn't done a great job of in big games (i.e., losses on the road). When they have tried to bring a safety or corner on the blitz, they've been burned because of apparent communication breakdowns, as we saw in New Orleans when Devery Henderson was left uncovered on his long touchdown catch. The players on this defense just don't seem to be the kinds of players that can make the plays we're used to seeing be made by Patriots defenses under Bill Belichick.
Last offseason, there was a lot of talk about the Patriots signing the pass-rushing ANIMAL in Julius Peppers. Sadly, the Panthers tagged him, and we couldn't get the deal done. But, he is a free agent in the upcoming, potentially uncapped off-season. Do you see the Patriots signing him to help out the pass rush, which would also REALLY help out the secondary?
You're assuming that Carolina won't again slap Peppers with their franchise tag. If they do, we could be in for another offseason like last year's. But with the uncertainty of the potential uncapped year, who knows how differently that could play out compared to last offseason?
If you recall, I was the biggest proponent of the Patriots acquiring Peppers last offseason. Had he been here this year, I'm convinced New England's defense, and their overall record, would be better than they are now. A little pressure on the opposing quarterback would have gone a long way toward helping the Patriots beat some of the teams they lost to (i.e., Indy, Miami, Denver). I'd love to have Peppers in a Belichick defense; I'm just not sure how much the team would be willing to invest to get him.
This offseason, what positions do you think the Pats will look to upgrade the most? In my opinion, they should be OLB and CB.Jeff Paquette, Canada
Wow, the regular season isn't even over and fans are already asking us about off-season moves. In any event, yes, those were concerns after last year and continue to be as we approach this offseason. I also think the wide receiver roster needs some more talent. Those would be my top three areas to target going forward.
Hey PFW, what are your thoughts on signing Wes Welker to long-term deal? I would love to have this guy on my team as long as possible, and if not, I would only trade him for nothing less than a top ten pick.Josh Pales
Do you think Wes Welker can make it to the Hall of Fame? He has three straight 100-reception seasons and, at 28 years old, he could have 4-5 more solid seasons before he starts to really slow down. Right now, I doubt he could get in, but if he continues to play like this, could he make it? It's hard to believe Randy Moss, a great receiver who gets shut down every couple of games, would make it and a guy like Welker, who never gets shut down, wouldn't.Alex Friedland
I like Welker a lot. Great player and a good guy to talk with off the field. When the Patriots traded for him in 2007, they signed him to what was reported to be a 5-year deal, so, that would put him in his third year right now. With Vince Wilfork's deal set to expire at the end of this season and Tom Brady's at the end of '10, the team has more pressing concerns, contract-wise in the near future.
What's more, you've seen Welker's playing style. For a guy his size, you have to wonder how long he can sustain those big hits and keep getting up from them. The older he gets, the more difficult it will be for him. I say, let's let him play out his current deal and assess where he's at, and where the team is at, when the appropriate time comes.
As for Welker's Hall of Fame credentials, I think he's a lock for The Hall at Patriot Place (presented by Raytheon), but I know you meant the Pro Football Hall of Fame, of course. If he has another consecutive season or two with 100 or more catches, you might be able to make an argument for him, because only Marvin Harrison (4), Jerry Rice, and Herman Moore (3 each) have done the same thing over an extended period.
The thing about those other guys, though, is that they were all number-one receivers, like Moss, who also caught a lot of touchdowns. Welker doesn't find the end zone all that often. He sustains drives with clutch third-down catches and acts, at times, like a de facto running game with his short catches and long runs, which, you could argue, are equally as important because without them, guys like Moss might not get a chance to score.
I'm not sure how much the HOF voters will remember Welker's contributions as the years go by. They'll definitely remember Moss because of his gaudy stats, which he's been racking up since his rookie year. Welker has only turned it on since he got to Foxborough, which could also hamper his chances, unless he has five or six more seasons like these past few. It's just too early to say with any certainty right now, but Welker has overcome doubters before. Maybe he'll do it again when his playing days are over.
What is the extent of Steven Neal's Injury? My wife is a huge fan as she and I are old time friends of his parents. Thanks.
Jim, maybe you just started following this team, but around here, when it comes to injuries, there's sort of an unspoken, unwritten "don't ask, don't tell" policy with the media. You'd be better off calling Neal's parents, if they're such good friends of yours, and asking them for an update on their son's condition. They probably have a lot more information about it than we do.