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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Roster depth, cap space, and draft deals

Fans' questions answered in our weekly mailbag. 


What do you see the Patriots doing in regards to the QB position after cap space is more available? Obviously the team will recover from the shock of losing Tom Brady, and will have more space available to work on a future franchise signal caller. Kevin Voll

I only heard it once, but how about looking into Alex Smith for the QB competition. I know he had a bad injury two years ago, so, BB might be able to pick him up on the cheap. Cage St. James

At the moment, New England has three quarterbacks on its roster: second-year man Jarrett Stidham, fifth-year player Cody Kessler, and recently re-signed, longtime veteran Brian Hoyer, now in his third stint with New England. I could easily see this team drafting another young passer at some point in the upcoming April NFL Draft. Otherwise, I don't foresee any major changes or additions at the position anytime soon, barring an unplanned need because of an injury rash.

As Kevin points out in his question, the Patriots currently don't have the necessary cap space, even if they wanted to make a move for a more proven veteran QB. They have a lot of so-called dead money (cap money allocated to players no longer on the roster) and many accounting procedures would first need to take place to free up room underneath the cap.

Even when that happens, however, New England has to address other vulnerable areas on its roster, not just at quarterback. I won't entirely rule out the idea of a big-name veteran being signed down the road, but my sense is that the team will go with what it's got right now. Erik Scalavino

How will the Patriots address the salary cap? Seems we still need to do a lot more to even pay for our future picks. Thomas Clarke

The usual maneuvers are potential options: extending the contracts of high-priced players, trading them, or releasing such veterans after June 1, when the financial hit the team must absorb would be lower. Yet, even these tactics wouldn't open up an enormous amount of space. There isn't much New England can do to extract itself from the tight spot in which it finds itself when it comes to the salary cap this year. They should be in a much more favorable position come 2021, however. Erik Scalavino

With the departure of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts, it's looking like we will need to rely heavily on the experience of Dont'a Hightower and a big season from Ja'Whaun Bentley at the linebacker position this year. We've picked up Brandon Copeland, but I don't see him making too big of an impact. Where do you see the team going forward with this position group? Victor Andrade

The club also re-signed Shilique Calhoun last week, Victor, and will likely rely more on second-year player Chase Winovich. However, your point is well taken. Linebacker has suddenly become a relatively thin position on this Patriots roster. There aren't many impact players left in free agency, so, New England might have to look at next month's NFL Draft for any significant help. Erik Scalavino

What potential do you see in the upcoming draft for a high caliber blocking AND receiving tight end? Are there and trade potentials that could be considered? Chip Mitchell

Sadly, this year's rookie TE crop isn't as blue-chip as others. I'm sure there are tight ends who can both block and catch, and there are some who are more proficient at one or the other, but none is exceptional at both, or else he'd be a bona fide first-round prospect. I fully expect the Patriots to select at least one tight end in this year's draft, yet I'll be pleasantly surprised if any player proves capable of blocking and receiving at equally high levels. Erik Scalavino

Does anyone have any idea what the story is with David Andrews? I thought our biggest problem last year was protecting the QB and while [Ted] Karras did a good job filling in, we really missed Andrews. Karras is gone now, so, Andrews' health is even more important. Pat Mackey

We don't know much, I'm afraid, Pat. Back in January, he told reporters he expected to receive some good news about his recovery from blood clots in his lungs. He specified that he hoped to be cleared by his doctors in February, but we haven't heard anything since then. We're anxious to find out, though, because you're right. Andrews is an integral part of New England's offensive line. Erik Scalavino

With most of the mock drafts projecting a cornerback to the Lions in Round 1, how likely would be trading [Stephon] Gilmore for Detroit's first-round pick and some change? There are obvious benefits for the Patriots both in financial and draft terms. Rosen Rashkov

I'm hesitant to rule anything out when it comes to the Patriots. Fresh off his Defensive Player of the Year honors, Gilmore might command a pretty penny in any potential trade scenario. Personally, I would not want to part with such a reliable player, particularly in light of how many free agent defections New England has already suffered on that side of the ball this offseason. But I think it has to be a consideration, especially if there's a player New England covets at the top end of the first round. Erik Scalavino

What do you think about trading out of the first round and getting a second-round pick and another third? Get younger and plenty of rookie contracts. Rahul Patel

I'm almost never a proponent of trading down or out of the first round entirely. I like talent on my rosters, and the best chance to acquire immediate impact talent is in the first round, when most of those kinds of players are readily available. Sure, you can find gems in later rounds, but at this point, New England is starving for quality. With all the ammunition it owns in the later rounds, it would be better served using those to trade up, not down. Given history under this head coach, though, my sense is you'll probably wind up being right, Rahul. Erik Scalavino

Aside from the players, do we yet have a full complement of coaches yet? Who is taking over for Dante [Scarnecchia]? What other gaping holes remain? Jason Rubin

When it comes to coaches, nothing has been announced or revealed by the Patriots at this stage (it normally isn't until much later in the spring), but you can rest assured that Bill Belichick already knows who his coaches will be for the upcoming season. If I had to put forth my best guess, I'd say Carmen Bricillo, a 2019 coaching assistant here in Foxborough, has the inside track to take over for Scar as o-line coach, with Troy Brown moving up to receivers coach. The former pass catcher was on the staff in an assistant's capacity last season.

Typically, we get a clear idea of who's doing what once spring practices begin. As those are uncertain this year due to COVID-19, we'll likely get confirmation whenever the team is back on the practice field. Erik Scalavino

With the Tom Brady era over and the Patriots uniforms having been around since 2000, the organization should change them. Maybe circa 1974-1983 style, 1984-1992 style, or 1996-99 style? Let's get rid of the dark Navy blue. Michael Zaikowski

This team is said to be one of a half-dozen or so in the NFL making some uniform changes in 2020, with an official announcement likely to come sometime prior to April's NFL Draft. I wouldn't get too optimistic about a drastic alteration, but something new – or, rather, different – is coming soon. Don't get your hopes up about the color blue being replaced, either. Personally, I'd love a third, red jersey as an alternate option someday, but I'm okay with what the team is planning for now. Erik Scalavino

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