**Christopher Price** of WEEI.com had a chance to sit down with NFL Films producer Greg Cosell at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week, and Cosell was eager to praise Patriots' linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes for their performances last season. Cosell's comments on Ninkovich: "I think Ninkovich, he became a really versatile player. He's not a dynamic, explosive playmaker, play after play. I don't think he's a guy who offenses say, 'We better account for Rob Ninkovich.' But I thought he played really well down the stretch." Cosell's comments on Spikes: "There aren't many guys in the league like him who play downhill. He takes on blocks with violence. That's a dying breed in the NFL. A passing league, a spread league, now, you have linebackers that run around blocks. He took on blocks this year, and he usually won."
**Jeff Howe** of NESN.com writes that Chad Ochocinco appears to be open about restructuring his contract. Ochocinco tweeted on Wednesday, "Restructuring is fine, the fun part is finding ways to make it back up during the offseason." Reports came out earlier in the week that the New England Patriots asked Ochocinco to restructure his contract. He has two years remaining on his current deal, and is due to make a base salary of $3 million in each of those seasons. Ochocinco tweeted yesterday that one of his offseason goals is to "make 3 million off the field."
**Tom E. Curran** of CSNNE.com reports on two players that the Patriots may be interested in this offseason. Defensive end Aaron Smith, who was released by the Steelers on Thursday, is oft-injured but a player that Bill Belichick once felt was one of the most underrated defenders in the NFL. Curran writes that it wouldn't be a surprise if the Patriots reach out to Smith to see if he is interested in playing in New England. In addition, Raiders' outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley is also a player that Patriots may have interest in if the talented pass rusher is unable to restructure his contract in Oakland.
**Tom E. Curran** of CSNNE.com also writes that the Patriots have until Monday at 4 p.m. to apply the franchise tag to Wes Welker, which would keep him off the free-agent market. Writes Curran, "That the deadline draws closer and all is quiet could be a good sign. Silence often precedes progress."
**James Walker** of ESPN.com takes a look at the biggest question facing each AFC East team as preparations begin for the 2012 season. For the Patriots, Walker writes their biggest question is "How will they improve the defense?" He explains that the good news for New England is that the team has plenty of cap room and flexibility, and they can use the rest of the salary cap to upgrde the roster with outside free agents. Walker also writes that this could be the year where Bill Belichick cashes in and gets the most out of his 4 picks in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.
**Ben Larsen** of MassLive.com questions whether success at the NFL Combine really equals success on the NFL playing field. Larsen writes that Tom Brady had terrible numbers during the NFL Combine, but has turned into one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He adds that things such as in-play decision making, understanding the many nuances of opposing defenses, moving in the pocket, and avoiding pressure and sacks are some of the things that the NFL Combine can't measure.