Dear PFW, is there any legitimate chance that the Patriots will trade for any other players at all before the deadline? And also, what position is most needed in your opinion? Brandon Phoenix
With this team, there's always a chance, Brandon. Remember just last season, the Patriots acquired d-lineman Isaac Sopoaga right around the deadline (which is coming at 4 p.m. Eastern today). Granted, that move didn't work out quite as well as expected, but it's just a recent example of how moves can and are made up till the last minute. At this point, New England has a number of areas of need, but I would say the most reasonable expectation might be to get a running back. I'm thinking specifically of LeGarrette Blount, now in Pittsburgh, who was with the Patriots last year. The team let him go via free agency, but could use his services now, and he doesn't seem all that thrilled with his role in Pittsburgh. Erik Scalavino
I see the Patriots traded for Akeem Ayres and signed another DE. If we needed a DE so badly, why didn't we promote Jake Bequette from the practice squad. He's been on the team for 3-plus years now. What is his purpose if he can't even get the nod at a time like this? Clarens Jarbath
First off, the player you referenced is not a defensive end, but a defensive tackle, and he still hasn't officially signed yet. Alan Branch was in the locker room last week, but for some reason, the team never made the transaction official. He is a massive body and not a candidate for d-end work. But your larger point about Bequette is valid. He is a former third-round draft choice who has regressed from an active roster player to a practice squad body. His future does not seem bright here in New England, but he's managed to hang around for this long. Perhaps there's still a faint glimmer of hope for Bequette. I hope so, for his sake. Seems like a nice young man every time I've had the chance to talk with him. Erik Scalavino
What is the mindset, or the rationale at play, when coaches decide to sign players that have been released from other teams? We picked up Alan Branch, but doesn't the fact that the Bills released him put up any red flags? I'm not saying it's a bad idea. We all know [Bill] Belichick is great at using middle-of-the-road players and turning them into impact players (Mike Vrabel). But on paper, it doesn't make sense: "Hey, this team thought this guy wasn't any good. Why don't we sign him?" Could you explain this to me please? Thanks for all you do, I keep up with all your stuff. David Guerra
Teams don't always release players because, as you put it, they aren't any good. In Branch's case, his off-field issues likely had more to do with his departure from Buffalo than his on-field production. However, you're probably right in most instances. For one reason or another, a player just isn't a good fit in a particular system.
For example, let's say you are a defensive lineman, 6-4, 265 pounds. That's ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end, but you're drafted by a team that employs a 3-4. Bodies that size might be able to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, but maybe that team already has enough depth at OLB, making you expendable. It's not that you can't play at a good enough level, it's just a numbers game and you're the odd man out. That often happens in the NFL. Meanwhile, another team that is better suited to your skill set has an immediate need for your services. Voila! You get signed almost right away.
In the Branch case (again, he still hasn't signed officially), a team may be in such dire straits at a position due to injury and attrition that they are willing to take any experienced player who hits the open market, regardless of whatever baggage he may be bringing with him. Bottom line: just because a player isn't a fit for one team, doesn't mean his can't find a home with any of the other 31 in the NFL. Erik Scalavino
What are your thoughts on Bryan Tyms?* *Ruben Alexis
Seems like a nice guy. Has some talent, raw though it still may be. He appears to work hard and has ingratiated himself with the coaching staff here, as well as his teammates. If he keeps doing what he's doing, his has the potential to be around here for a while. Erik Scalavino
Do you believe with [Stevan] Ridley out, it gives the passing game a chance to improve? Or do you believe that since the Patriots have [Shane] Vereen, the running game will be targeted to improve? Andrew Fallis
I'll start with your second question. I don't see how New England's running game can improve without Ridley, short of adding a player of equal or greater value (see Blount example earlier). So, no, I don't expect it to improve in his absence. However, that doesn't mean it can't at least maintain the level it was at before he was injured.
Which brings me to your second point. If the running game takes a step back, that could impact the passing game via play-action passes. Any team needs a competent rushing attack in order to execute an effective play-action. So, yes, Ridley's loss could impact both the rushing and passing attacks, but not in a positive way. Erik Scalavino
If a player is on injured reserve and done for the season (like Jerod Mayo) does his salary count against the salary cap during that time frame? A Devoted Pats Fan North of the Border. Albert McElrea
In almost all cases, the answer is yes. There are exceptions, but they must be specified in a player's contract. For instance, late-round draft choices and undrafted rookies often are given what are known as "split contracts." These deals state that if the player under contract is placed on IR, he receives only half his salary. This would not be the case, however, for most players, especially those in Mayo's category – a veteran with a hefty contract. Erik Scalavino
What about bringing in Michael Sam for a look-see? Great college player and looked good in preseason. We need depth on the defense and maybe he could be a star if given a chance. Mike Ernst
Love the work guys, thanks for the great analysis. I was wondering about Michael Sam. You don't win collegiate defense awards if you're a shlub, but he's now been cut by a second team. Belichick has successfully converted DEs to LB in the past. Is he worth picking up for depth and trying him out at LB? Mike DaCosta
Never say never with Belichick. While I don't expect to see Sam at Gillette Stadium anytime soon, I wouldn't be stunned, either, if he were to be signed at any time. Erik Scalavino
I was very encouraged after the rookie seasons of [linebacker Jamie] Collins, [safety Duron] Harmon and [cornerback Logan] Ryan. I had even higher expectations, after a year in the pros and attending the Patriots offseason program that these three would be very productive this season. What happened? Disappointed.* *Brett Larson
In Collins' case, he's being asked to play out of position, for one thing. He's an outside linebacker being forced to play inside. It's not where he's best suited. If he were on the outside in a 4-3 defense, you might be thinking differently about him.
Harmon and Ryan, meanwhile, have suffered from unfairly high expectations. While Ryan wasn't a surprising high draft choice, Harmon was. Plus, with the signing of Brandon Browner, Ryan was going to face a challenge getting on the field on a regular basis this year. Harmon wasn't nearly as good last season as most people seemed to think. He's where he should be for a player of his caliber: playing a backup role on defense and contributing on special teams. Erik Scalavino
With the league's one-helmet rule preventing the Patriots from using their Pat Patriot throwbacks, are there any plan to introduce a new alternate jersey, hopefully red? John Stanton
That would be nice, but I don't believe any such plans are in the works. I'm still holding out hope that the team will eventually go back to the old Pat Patriot uniforms full-time and give Flying Elvis a nice retirement package in The Hall at Patriot Place. Erik Scalavino
If Ray Rice is reinstated back into the NFL, do you think the Patriots will pursue him? Derek Fougerousse
In the wake of the Rice controversy earlier this season, Patriots owner Robert Kraft made it abundantly clear that if the former Ravens running back ever was given a second chance in the NFL, he would not find a home in New England. Kraft went even further and predicted that Rice would never play in the league again, saying he'd be "shocked" if any team picked him up again. So, no, at the very least, Rice will never play for the Patriots. Erik Scalavino
When I saw [Peyton] Manning break [Brett] Favre's [touchdown passes] record, I was thinking, 'Can [Tom] Brady reach that numbers too?' I mean, he still has three or four years remaining, but, is it possible for Brady to reach those numbers? Danny Torres
I doubt it. Brady and Manning came into the NFL around the same time and will probably leave it at the same time, too. Even if Brady were to hang on a little longer, he'd need to spend several more seasons playing at a high level to catch or surpass Manning. *Erik Scalavino