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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 23 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 28 - 11:55 AM

Patriots Mailbag: Bill O'Brien's impact, best use of cap space and finding help up front

Lots of speculation on Bill O'Brien's involvement in the team building process in this week's mailbag.

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Do you see Bill Belichick spending draft capital on another running back, specifically one with a fast elusive running style along the lines of a Dion Lewis?

Jose Madera

The Patriots selected a pair of running backs in last year's draft, and one of them I would say fits the description you're looking for. Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris were taken in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, in 2022 and Strong definitely has the type of speed that Lewis brought to the table. I'm not sure he has the same elusiveness and pass catching ability as Lewis, but Strong showed some signs in his limited action as a rookie. He made some big plays in the second half of the season, finishing with 10 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown while adding seven catches for 42 yards. He showed big-play ability with a 44-yard run against the Cardinals and could be headed toward a bigger role in 2023. That said, it's possible that Belichick will still look to add a running back this year, particularly one who can operate in the passing game like James White did so effectively for so many years. The Patriots could lose Damien Harris to free agency, leaving Strong and Harris behind Rhamondre Stevenson so Belichick may want to add someone with a skill set similar to Lewis and White. It's also possible that Ty Montgomery, who missed almost the entire season while on injured reserve, could return and fill that type of role. But I like your idea of finding one in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft to add some depth.

Paul Perillo

I am seeing a lot of projected wideout trades for the Patriots. Whereas the fits are very good, the salaries are bogus. Not only would our large available salary cap be eaten up, but our draft capital would be hit. They have no fifth-rounder and but one choice in each of the first three rounds. It's true Bill Belichick has an abysmal record of drafting wide receivers but even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut. This team needs more than just a wideout and is poised to have a chance at a good free agent haul and better draft positions than in the last 15 years.

David Brown

I'm not sure I understand why it's acceptable to use free agent money on other positions but not wide receiver? And why are the contracts at wide receiver bogus? Signing quality players in free agency requires significant money regardless of position. As an example, you say the Patriots have more needs than just receiver. I agree with you 100 percent. Tackle would be one of the positions I'd put at the top of the list of needs. If the Patriots sign a top-tier free agent at that position (Orlando Brown/Mike McGlinchey), it will cost significant money – likely somewhere in the $15 million-$20 million range annually. So, whether you want to spend money on wide receiver or another position in free agency, it will cost money to do so. Now, if you want to spend on other spots because you feel they are more important, then I total understand that. It will be interesting to see how Belichick decides to fill the gaps on the roster, whether it be through the draft, free agency or trades. Personally I'd like to see him use all three avenues to fill these holes because the Patriots have the resources to do so. Should be a fun offseason to track.

Paul Perillo

In recent years the offensive line and defensive line players in the NFL seem to be getting taller and taller. Is it perhaps time now we started picking taller players in this year's draft and beyond? Teams like the Jets who are in our division have a very large D-line who are very effective. My question is do you think we should be heading into the same direction as the Jets have with their D-line recruits and also should we be drafting larger players for our O-line to give max protection and time to Mac Jones to throw to our receivers.

Mohammed Ijaz

I'm not as interested in the height of the players as much as I am in their ability. Obviously there's a certain level of size necessary to compete at a high level along the offensive and defensive lines and I would never advocate for linemen who don't at least fulfill those requirements. It's one thing to have an undersized cornerback like Marcus Jones, who can help make up for his lack of height with incredible quickness and athleticism. But having a 5-10, 250-pound guard, as an example, simply wouldn't work. The Patriots have a mix of huge offensive and defensive linemen (Trent Brown, Carl Davis Jr.) and some who are less imposing (David Andrews, Davon Godchaux), I haven't seen size as a problem specifically, but the performance in pass protection could certainly use improving. The problems there are more related to experience (Cole Strange) and breakdowns in communication (perhaps at least partly due to coaching) rather than being overwhelmed physically. Regardless of size, the Patriots offensive line needs to perform better, but I felt the defensive line was really solid most of the season.

Paul Perillo

What is the date of the game in Germany? Are the Pats putting a package together? My wife and I are really excited, who are the Pats playing in Germany?

Pat Sweeney

The NFL schedule has yet to be released so the only thing we know for certain at this point is the Patriots will be playing in Germany at some point in the 2023 season. It will be considered one of the Patriots nine regular-season home games, so the opponent will be among the New York Jets, Miami, Buffalo, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Washington, Los Angeles Chargers or New Orleans. Since Kansas City is also playing a home game in Germany, the Patriots won't be playing the Chiefs. Details of the dates, matchups and kickoff times will be confirmed later in the year when the full 2023 schedule is announced.

Paul Perillo

Hypothetical question for you today. If the Saints were to release Michael Thomas this summer and he was willing to sign for similar money to Jakobi Meyers' market value "approximately $12 million-$15 million a year for argument sake" would you rather sign Meyers or Thomas? Yes, Meyers is younger, loved by Mac and a solid WR, but Thomas is three years removed from being arguably a top five receiver and showed this year when healthy that he still might be if he can just stay injury free.

Anthony Serafino

If those are my options I'd stay with Meyers for some of the reasons you suggest. Meyers is younger, has a rapport with Jones and has proven to be effective in the Patriots offense. Thomas has obviously been more productive during his career, but as you mentioned it's been three years since he's been healthy and considered one of the best receivers in football. Meyers is durable and productive while Thomas hasn't been either of those things since 2019. He's played in a total of 10 games over the last three seasons, and the workload he endured early in his career appears to have caught up with him. Thomas is very talented but the injury risk to me would be too great.

Paul Perillo

Can you speculate on the reason why no title has been announced for Jerod Mayo? We have seen reports that it would be assistant head coach or defensive coordinator.

Fitz Read

Any possibility I could muster would be just as you said – speculation – so I'm not sure my thoughts are worth much. Maybe Mayo himself isn't interested in a title or Bill Belichick wants to keep the setup as is. It's also possible that given the hectic nature of the last couple of weeks with the coaches being in Las Vegas for the Shrine Bowl that the team simply hasn't gotten around to making any possible moves official. The important thing is Mayo is sticking around for the 2023 season and that's good news for the coaching staff.

Paul Perillo

Any chance a quality left tackle becomes a cap casualty? I prefer Brown at right tackle.

Franklin Buffum

Orlando Brown is a pending free agent in Kansas City and he has plenty of experience at left tackle. He won't be a cap casualty but he'll likely be available next month when free agency opens. The Patriots also could look to the draft for a left tackle and move Brown back to the right side if they so choose. I don't think it's a given that Brown will return at all, either, given his sporadic play and availability over the last two seasons. I don't think we need to look for another team's castoff via cap casualty because there should be some quality options available in the free agency (Mike McGlinchey is another option) and the draft.

Paul Perillo

Wouldn't trading for a wide receiver such as DeAndre Hopkins take up most of their cap space? The salary for WR has exploded over the last few seasons? Their cap space is huge but spending a huge amount on one man seems too much. Would you agree with that?

Rob Bourquard

Depends who the player is. I'd be happy paying a quality No. 1 wide receiver plenty of money to help transform the offense. Hopkins would be a candidate for that, but he also comes with some red flags. He doesn't practice much, recently served a six-game suspension for PED use and would therefore be a risk and he doesn't get along great with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. The latter may not be a deal-breaker but there's a reason O'Brien was willing to deal him the Arizona when he was in charge in Houston, so that might be telling us something. But if the Patriots could make a deal for Tee Higgins or some other quality wide receiver I'd have no problem giving him money. You can't improve the team by trying to hold onto cap space. You need to invest in quality players to do that, and quality players cost money.

Paul Perillo

Do you think Billy O'Brien will have a say or participate in the draft? With his professional and college experience I would think so.

Carlos Armendariz

I feel O'Brien will have some say in these various personnel moves and I feel he's had a say in some of the coaching staff moves as well. Josh McDaniels was involved in the draft when he was the offensive coordinator. But I still feel Bill Belichick will remain the ultimate decision maker when it comes to determining these picks. O'Brien's knowledge of the college game should be a huge plus, especially considering he spent the last two season working in the SEC, by far the deepest and most talented conference in all of college football.

Paul Perillo

With all the discussion about signing Tom Brady to a one-day contract so he can retire as a Patriot I ask the question what about Rob Gronkowski? He is the greatest tight end to play for the Patriots and should retire as a Patriot.

Roger Soucy

I will always consider both Brady and Gronkowski as Patriots even though they didn't finish their careers in New England. I don't need any ceremonial one-day contracts to change my line of thinking in that regard. If Brady and/or Gronk want to come back and sign those deals, then great. But in the grand scheme of things I'm not sure it's very important for the legacies of either player. Everyone thinks of them as Patriots – as they should.

Paul Perillo


2023 Patriots Mock Draft Tracker

Find out what the top 'experts' are predicting the Patriots will do in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

With all the speculation and projections about how the Pats draft will play out, it would be illuminating to look at their history during the Belichick era. Can you list the number of players at each position group that he has picked in each round as head coach? That would give some indication of the value he assigns to each position when building a team. My sense is DT is one of his favorites in the first two rounds with DB a target for Rounds 2 and 3.

Wanda Dunn

Here's a look at the positions the Patriots have selected round by round under Belichick (your sense is correct with DTs and DBs):

First round – Four defensive tackles, two defensive ends, two tight ends, two guards, two tackles, two linebackers, two running backs, two defensive backs a wide receiver and a quarterback.

Second round – Eleven defensive backs, five wide receivers, four linebackers, three tackles, two defensive tackles, one defensive end, tight end, running back and a quarterback.

Third round – Six defensive backs, four defensive ends, four linebackers, three quarterbacks, three running backs, three tight ends, three tackles, two wide receivers, one guard and a defensive tackle.

Fourth round – Five defensive backs, four running backs, four guards, three tight ends, three defensive ends, three quarterbacks, three tackles, two wide receivers, two defensive tackles, one kicker and a center.

Fifth round – Three linebackers, three tackles, two defensive tackles, two wide receivers, two tight ends, two punters, one kicker, one guard, one center, one defensive back and one long snapper.

Sixth round – Eight linebackers, six guards, six defensive backs, four defensive tackles, three tackles, two quarterbacks, two running backs, two tight ends, two defensive ends, one wide receiver, one center and one long snapper.

Seventh round – Seven defensive backs, six wide receivers, six linebackers, three defensive ends, three tight ends, two centers, two defensive tackles, two tackles, two quarterbacks, two running backs and one kicker.

Paul Perillo

The Pats are supposed to receive three compensatory picks in addition to the regular eight picks. These picks are said to be in the third, fifth and seventh rounds. How and when are these integrated into the team selection process? At the end of regular 32 selections for each round or are they given a number?

Gib Chase

Compensatory picks are issued at the end of the corresponding round so starting with the 33rd pick of a given round. The league awards the order based on the formula they use to grant the picks, so teams that lose higher valued free agents are given picks higher in the round. Based on projections made, the Patriots are expected to receive compensatory picks at the end of the fourth (for J.C. Jackson), fifth (Ted Karras) and seventh rounds (Brandon Bolden). The league will announce the entire draft order in the coming weeks.

Paul Perillo

With all this cap casualties talk, what's so special about June 1?

TD Mike

Teams can spread out cap hits by designating a player as a post-June 1 cut. This allows teams to take part of the cap hit in the given year the player is released while delaying the remainder of the hit until the following season. Teams do this in order to create more cap space in a given year. As an example, if a player gets a $10 million signing bonus on a five-year deal, the team can prorate the cap hit by spreading it out as $2 million per season for the five years. If the team releases the player after the second year, it would still be responsible for the remaining $6 million on the cap hit in that year. By designating the player as a post-June 1 cut, it could take a $2 million hit during the league year in which he was cut and count the remaining $4 million on the following year's cap. Teams are allowed to designate two players as post-June 1 and release them prior to June 1.

Paul Perillo

I thought the Patriots received a fifth-round draft choice for trading Shaq Mason to Tampa but no one is accounting for the draft pick. What did the Patriots receive from Tampa for Shaq Mason?

David Cole

The Patriots received the fifth-round pick (No. 170 overall) from Tampa Bay in last year's draft and then traded that selection to Houston for a sixth- and a seventh-round pick (Nos. 183 and 245 overall). New England took running back Kevin Harris in the sixth and tackle Andrew Stueber in the seventh.

Paul Perillo

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