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Patriots Replay Thu Jul 18 | 12:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Unfiltered Q&A: Free agency hits the ground running…away?

20190312-UnfilteredQA-Thumb Trey Flowers

I think that some media hopefuls were a bit naive about getting either Trent Brown or Trey Flowers signed. And I wish that they are wrong in suggesting that players like Devin McCourty should stay, as I personally do not think that at his age, his salary is close to his value. And IMHO, being one of the captains is not worth millions. I wish BB either tells McCourty to take a pay cut or be released. Would you agree?

Peter Nobell

Clearly Brown and Flowers were big-money free agents who found more dough on the open market than they were going to get in New England. I think most people expected that to happen with Brown and knew it was a very likely possibility with Flowers. The Patriots do roster-building business based on value. And you are correct to wonder if some longtime, high-level Patriots might be in danger of being on the wrong side of the value debate heading into 2019. Certainly Devin McCourty, as you suggest, could be one guy. Others might include tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Those three guys actually have three of New England’s five highest cap numbers heading into 2019. Hightower’s agent already told NESN.com that the linebacker wasn’t open to a pay cut. I can’t imagine the other guys would be all that excited to go in that direction either. And if you try to force any of their hands, at some point you have to be willing to walk away from the player. I’m not sure I’d really want to see the Patriots do that with any of the trio heading into the new year, even if it would make value-based sense and open up cap room.

Andy Hart

With Brown and Flowers now reportedly gone, and both likely to net 3rd round compensatory picks (maybe only behind Foles?) do you think that as the Patriots have in the past really valued compensatory picks, this rules our moves for Tate and Humphries which might but one of the 3rd-round picks at risk?

Len Carmody

You are right that the Patriots very much take into account compensatory picks in many of the free agent moves they make and have made in the past. And they should get a couple picks after the third round next year. While Adam Humphries has already signed with the Titans, I don’t think comp picks would be a factor in signing Golden Tate. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t see the 30-year-old veteran getting the kind of long-term, big-money contract that would grossly hurt the Patriots in the comp pick equation. Tate would certainly be a candidate to join the very undermanned New England receiving corps, and expressed a desire to play with Brady’s Patriots on a podcast last month. I wouldn’t rule it out. And even if it doesn’t happen, I can’t see compensatory picks being the reason.

Andy Hart

Huge Patriots fan from Melbourne, Australia. I was wondering what your thoughts are involving Gostkowski. Obviously he is an excellent kicker and has been very reliable throughout his career. However, has been known to miss some big extra points and field goals in the last couple of years. With the Patriots not franchise tagging him, what is your gut feel on: If he will stay or leave/how highly is he rated internally/will he receive a new contract/at what cost? Also if he does move on would it be the draft or free agency that the team would look at for a replacement? Thanks.

Brady Parke

Cody's distant cousin trying to drum up a job for his pal? An argument can be made that at this point kicker Stephen Gostkowski is New England’s biggest remaining free agent who hasn’t reached a deal elsewhere. My gut tells me he’ll end up returning to the Patriots, a team that made him the highest paid kicker in the league on his previous contract. At this point it’s hard to imagine him really wanting to move on elsewhere to reestablish himself with a new team. That would also involve uprooting and moving his family. All for how much more money? You’re probably not talking about a huge different in dollars between what his best offer in New England would be and the best he’d be able to get on the open market. Certainly not the tens of millions of dollars you are talking about in regards to guys like Brown, Flowers or others. If he did somehow decide to move on after 13 seasons in Foxborough my guess would be that the team would draft a kicker, much like it did with Gostkowski replacing Adam Vinatieri. Even with the few missed kicks you mentioned, fingers crossed that Gostkowski will return to New England and finish his career as a Patriot.

Andy Hart

My opinion is that the Pats have a ton (12) of draft choices this year and also a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice from last year who are essentially rookies. Far too many to integrate and good players may be cut for lack of room. Rather than waste these choices I would like to see us jump up in the draft for T.J. Hockenson or even Noah Fant. Also take their top 3rd (#73) and next year’s 4th to try to trade for Josh Rosen. Our remaining 2nd and 2 3rd round comps could go for defenders. Before then though they MUST have a plan for the kicking game (re-sign both?) and make a decision (trade?) re: D. Hightower. Solid leader. Great SB LIII but underperformed most of the season and is injury prone. Am I merely pipe dreaming or are these reasonable options?

Dave Brown

There is a lot to digest here. Certainly the Patriots may have more picks this year and guys returning from last year’s IR than the team really has spots open for rookie players in 2019. Some of that will take care of itself with simple cuts, as is the case every year. Still, I’d be all for trading up to get Hockenson who I think would be a homerun at tight end, but I’m not nearly as high on Fant. He had some issues with the Iowa coaching staff last year and kind of rubbed me the wrong way at the Combine. I’m also not all that high on a trade for Rosen because I wonder how his timeline of ascension in New England would play out if Brady continues to play well and sticks with his plan to play until he’s 45. Rosen’s rookie contract, much like Jimmy Garoppolo’s before him, would run out before his services are needed as a starter. I also think some of the extra picks could be used in trades for mid-level veteran depth talent or even to draft injured college players who might sit another year such as Stanford running back Bryce Love. Even if they re-sign both punter Ryan Allen and Gostkowski I would not rule out a pick at either spot, or even both specialist roles. Finally, I still think that Hightower has something left in the tank as he proved in the postseason. With Kyle Van Noy being joined, hopefully, by second-year linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, I wonder if Hightower’s regular season wear-and-tear can be managed a bit next season. He’s worth keeping around, though.

Andy Hart

Am I the only one who thinks of the great Doug Flutie when I see Kyler Murray? The face of the USFL, the Canadian legend, the QB who even past his prime turned it on in Buffalo and brought us Flutie Flakes? Both are short, mobile, had underrated passing ability and won the Heisman. All we need now is Kyler Krunch.

Phillip Norris

Nope. There is definitely a comparison to be made between the two diminutive passers. That’s why Murray’s value is somewhat controversial. Flutie had to prove himself in Canada to get even a shot later in his career in the NFL. Murray is being talked about as at least a first-round pick and maybe the No. 1 overall selection. That’s a huge difference for two guys with somewhat similar collegiate backgrounds and statures, even if the game has changed over the course of the last few decades.

Andy Hart

I know, in a perfect world question but...

The Patriot free agent you want to hold on to the most?

The free agent you want to sign the most?

The draft prospect you want to the team to pick 1st overall?

Mike Quinn

Flowers would definitely have been the free agent I would most have wanted to keep, but I also would have refused to go to the $90 million level that Detroit did. If we’re talking about an ideal world the free agent I would most want to sign might be Deone Bucannon. I wanted the Patriots to draft him to see what Belichick would do with his diverse skills and I’d still like to see what he’d look like on the New England defense. If the question about the first draft pick is in regards to any possible player, I’d probably go with Nick Bosa. He has huge upside and would be an ideal elite pass rusher prospect for a team that could use just that. If it’s a player more down the line, though not that far, it would probably be Christian Wilkins, who just so happens to be a native of Springfield, Massachusetts. As I’ve said on the radio, I think he’s a perfect prospect. He’s a really good, versatile player on the field and by all accounts the total package off the field. I don’t think any team will ever regret drafting him, even if he doesn’t end up being a truly elite NFL player.

Andy Hart

If Flowers is gone, can Hightower take over his duties?

D.R.

Not really. Hightower has the versatility to move up onto the end of the line in some situations, but I don’t think he’d hold up in the role or excel in it on an every-down basis every week. He did some of that in the 2017 opener against Kansas City and it didn’t go all that well. Given his age and durability concerns I think it would be way too much to ask of Hightower at this point in his career. The guy I’m looking to see step up next season is Derek Rivers. After missing his rookie season with a torn ACL the 2017 top pick didn’t do much this past season in limited opportunities. By all accounts he has a great work ethic and the potential to do more. Belichick has been pretty positive about Rivers’ future. Well, the future is now heading into 2019 with Flowers out of the picture.

Andy Hart

Hi guys. I live in Tel Aviv, Israel, me and my friends are big Patriots fans. I was wondering, are the Pats planned to play in London, will we have a chance to watch TB12 live before he retires at age 52?

Amir Gur

Ha! I don’t think it will take until Brady is 52 for the Patriots to play in Europe again. Though New England is not part of the announced schedule of NFL games in London for 2019, it won’t surprise me if the Patriots get a road game in Europe at some point in the near future. It could be London or it could be elsewhere if the league tries to expand its International Series to places like Germany. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.

Andy Hart

If Arizona is agreeable to move Rosen, and if he somehow makes it past the Redskins and Elway, then if I am BB, I am trading my 32d pick down a few spots for a 2d and 4th round picks, using one of my 2d round picks to get Rosen and a 4th round pick to get another Flowers. How's that for a plan?

Mike S.

While I’m not opposed to trading a second-round pick for a talent who went near the top of the first round a year earlier, I still wonder if the timeline would work out to make Rosen a fit in Foxborough. If he’s just going to sit behind Brady for four years then what’s the point? He won’t get to play and develop. And I’m not so sold on Rosen that I’d be pushing Brady out the door to get him on the field. Also, Rosen already had a taste of NFL action so I can’t imagine he’d be happy just playing in the preseason, which is pretty much the role the backup has in New England. And if the team can get a Trey Flowers replacement in the fourth round I’m all for it. But I’m not sure it’s that easy. It’s hard to hit the lottery twice.

Andy Hart

I am very unimpressed with the Bennett trade. Firstly, Eagles were shopping him around so it was the "buyer's market", and you often make such point on PFW. Secondly, taking a 33-old player, past his prime, assuming his hefty $7.2M salary and giving two draft picks (5th and 7th round), IMHO is too rich. Why did Pats have to surrender so much draft capital?

Mark Leznik

First, Bennett is still a very good, productive player. So I don’t think his $7.2 million salary is out of the ballpark of his value. Second, the Patriots reportedly will give up a fifth-round pick in exchange for Bennett and a seventh-round selection. So they are getting a proven, versatile edge player to move down a couple late rounds in a future draft, assuming the trade goes through as reported when it can become official later this week. That’s not much to give up. If he plays up to potential it will actually be a steal.

Andy Hart

Hey guys. Huge fan and been listening for years. You 4 are the most entertaining bunch of analysts in the game. Thanks for the laughs guys!

Lorenzo Perea

There was more to this email that was actually out of date by the time we posted this week’s mailbag. But I wanted to be sure to include all the important stuff from this fan of our Patriots.com radio show which has been recently rebranded as “Patriots Unfiltered.”

Andy Hart

At what position are you looking at for the first pick in this year's draft?

Wayne Leighton

While I think the biggest need right now might be wide receiver, I’m not sold that the top selection by New England will be at that position. It’s a deep crop of wide receiver prospects, so there may be value at the position later in the draft where the team has plenty of picks. Belichick has never taken a wide receiver in the first round in his time with the Patriots. And there is a lot of developmental risk at the position, both in the Patriots system and across the league. So, I’m going to say that the first pick comes at either tight end or defensive line, and my ever-growing gut tells me to lean toward the latter.

Andy Hart

Tom Brady is not the GOAT. To be the Greatest Football Player Of All Time, you must be capable of playing more than one position and capable of playing offense and defense, at least in theory. Tom would have been a defensive liability at any position you could place him in and a liability in any offensive position except QB. Jim Brown and Jim Thorpe could have played defense. Thorpe played defensive positions in college and may have played such positions as a pro. Jim Brown obviously could have been a monster of the midway had he chosen to play LB and been drafted by the Bears. Brown also may have made a passable QB had the position been legitimately open to him in his day.

Tom Brady is not even the Greatest Of All Time Quarterback. He does not possess the sublime beauty of Peyton Manning or the pure mastery of the throw first West Coast offense that Joe Montana and Steve Young demonstrated. (And clearly the mobility of Steve Grogan blows Tom's doors off.) Brady when relied upon as the primary weapon is 2 and 2 in the Super Bowl. (SB's XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI) When he is just an important component of the team, where the defense and the running game dominate or are equal components, he is 4 and 0 (SB's XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, LIII).

In short Tom Brady is most effective as a Game Manager, mixing up the plays, handing off, congratulating his lineman when they get the running back in the end zone, and making timely completions periodically throughout the game. Considering his career winning record he is easily the Greatest Game Manager Of All Time.

My question is - Am I wrong?

Andrew Spence

My answer – yes, dead wrong. And even though this feels like an email from a troll, the length of it makes me feel like it’s worth a response. First, when people are talking about the GOAT, they are talking about modern football, not two-way, leather helmet stuff. Jim Thorpe is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the planet, you won’t get an argument there. Same with Jim Brown. But greatest quarterback of all time? That’s Brady. It is what it is. He’s got the rings, the Super Bowl appearances and, like the guy with the “sublime beauty” Peyton Manning, all the fancy statistics. He did it so many ways, both as a complementary part of a team led by a defense and by throwing the ball all over the field. His resume stands on its own and is bulletproof.

Andy Hart

I believe that Bill Belichick has never been selected as Coach of the Year. If you looked at the list of the top 10 coaches in terms of victories, are there any other coaches who have never been selected as Coach of the Year?

Gerry Krug

The premise of this question falls a bit flat as Belichick was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2003, 2007 and 2010. (Really, though, couldn't he win the award every year!) He, Chuck Knox and Don Shula are only coaches to have won the award three or more times, with Shula getting the nod four times, in 1964, 1967 (tie with George Allen), 1968 and 1972.

Andy Hart

What's more thoughts on the Patriots taking a shot on Charles Clay or Jimmy Graham if Graham ends up available?

Joel Guadarrama

I wouldn’t have much interest in Clay. If he became available I think I would kick the tires on Graham, although reports out of Green Bay this winter seem to indicate the Packers plan on retaining the veteran. I also would only want Graham to play a complementary role alongside Rob Gronkowski, not to replace the future Hall of Famer if he decided to retire or weren’t a part of the tight end depth chart in New England.

Andy Hart

I personally feel that TE is one of our biggest needs, and should be addressed early in the draft if possible. The question I had for you is how much do you like the prospects, especially the top 4-5. And assuming Hockenson is the consensus top in the draft, how high would you go to get him, and what would you give up to go get him? Follow-up, if they stood pat at 32, I understand the crop of TEs is a particularly strong one, do you see one that may fall into the Pats lap? Or is there anyone else you might consider moving up for?

Tom

Jersey

I do like the tight end crop. Hockenson is the top guy in many ways. His stock is interesting in that some think he could go on the top 10 and others predict him to be on the board late in the first round. I would probably be willing to trade up to the early 20s to get him. As I said earlier, I’m not as high on his athletic teammate Fant. I would be interested in Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr., especially if I might be able to snag him in the second round. Regardless, I think it’s fair to say the Patriots will have the chance to draft at least one of these top three targets. Now the question is whether they want to. We’ll find out in late April.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, thanks for all your work you do - huge fan of the site. I have an extremely hypothetical question that I know is dependent on multiple factors, but I was curious what you think Tom Brady would be worth right at this moment in terms of draft picks?

Brad G.

This is hard to answer. But to the right team, a team that is a QB away from winning the Super Bowl, I think Brady should be worth at least two first-round picks even at the age of 42. In many ways he’s more valuable in New England than anywhere else, though. Still, it’s a fun question to ask. I wouldn’t want to trade him out of Foxborough or be the guy to give up two-plus first-round picks to add him. It would be a risky, questionable trade on both ends. Thankfully, I don’t think we have to worry about it happening.

Andy Hart

Ok,so Unfiltered Q & A is the new name for Ask PFW? Glad you are keeping this feature and since I'm on the subject, thanks for all the great years of coverage with the(Patriots Football Weekly) newspaper, I will miss it.

Now on to this coming season. I feel good about a lot of the positions on the roster. Running back will have another weapon in Jeremy Hill. Linebackers getting a big boost from Bentley and Sam coming back and I'm looking for Derek Rivers to step up too. The Def. backfield should nearly the same and I'm hoping they re-sign Jason McCourty for another year. The offensive line is looking intact too, other than Trent Brown and who knows, maybe they even resign him? So with all that, where is the real needs of this team other than receiver and tight end?

Gary Abrams

Thanks for the kind words and clearly a glass-half-full attitude! Now, let me be the counterpoint (wet blanket?) to your positivity. Hill is a free agent, so he may or may not be back to add size and depth to the backfield. Bentley and Christian Sam certainly could add depth at both linebacker and on special teams, but still also have plenty to prove. The loss of Brown at left tackle leaves a huge hole on Brady’s blindside. While that worked out more than OK with Brown replacing Solder last fall and we all have incredible faith in Dante Scarnecchia’s ability to coach up young Isaiah Wynn or find another guy I don’t totally dismiss it as a concern. That said, the three biggest areas of need right now are wide receiver, tight end and defensive line. There are no games until September and that’s good, because right now the Patriots don’t have enough bodies at receiver, never mind guys with the proven ability to make plays for Brady. Even with additions – through trade, free agency or the draft – wide receiver is going to be a major question mark for the second straight summer and season.

Andy Hart

How is it that the Pats don't have the $$ to keep LT Brown and DE Flowers? Gilmore has a big contract, Brady is underpaid, Edelman is only at $2M (?), where is the $$ going that they let these key, experienced FA s go???

John

Greenville SC

Brady has a cap number of $27 million right now for 2019, which isn’t as below-market as many might think, even though he could clearly push the envelope for any amount he wanted if he so chose. The Super Bowl MVP and only returning WR Edelman is obviously underpaid with a salary of $2 million and cap figure of just $4.5 million for next season. But as has been the case so often for so long in New England, the Patriots have a middle class that’s paid a little more than many other teams as well as an aging core of well-paid veterans in Gronkowski, Hightower, McCourty and Marcus Cannon. In an ideal world maybe some of those guys would alter their contracts to take pay cuts and lower their cap numbers. Maybe that will happen. Until then, the Patriots don’t have a ton of cap room. That said, if they really wanted to they could have manipulated and maneuvered cap room to sign anyone they targeted. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about putting a value on player and sticking with it. In regards to both Flowers ($90 million/$18 million AAV) and Brown ($66 million/$16-plus million AAV) I happen to agree with them. Maybe I’m a homer. Maybe I’ve been covering Belichick’s frugal financial ways too long. But I wouldn’t have paid those guys that money either.

Andy Hart

Do you think that it is worth having WR Hogan back even on a vet minimum? I don't and I am concerned that with the lack of receivers, Pats may end up getting this very underperforming player back.

Ken K.

I would definitely take Hogan back at the veteran minimum. It’s no secret that he’s struggled to get open over the last year-plus. But, he also has a proven track record catching passes from Brady and making plays in big games. There is a value and comfort in having that around. I wouldn’t build my passing game around Hogan or even lean on him to be a No. 1 or No. 2 WR, but for a team with only Edelman on the roster, under contract and ready to produce moving forward I think you could do a lot worse than Hogan to fill out a depth chart. He did catch 35 balls with three score in a down year in 2018, his fifth straight NFL season with 34 or more receptions. But as I said earlier, wide receiver is the team’s biggest need right now in my opinion.

Andy Hart

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