There's a bit of a silly article today in the Herald by Ian Rapoport, as set out below...with my comments:
"Here are five questions to ponder between now and the start of camp:
The Patriots quarterback downplayed concern about the lack of a contract extension, vowing to “go with the flow” and saying no one outside the situation could help. Yet that may not be true. If labor negotiations progress to a point where Kraft has a guess at the new salary cap, contract talks may accelerate. That’s a longshot, meaning either Brady’s contract dominates the preseason or Kraft takes a leap of faith to ease Brady’s possible hard feelings. Brady stayed mum on his contract, but came out for the union against an 18-game season. Does that indicate a hard-line stance?
RESPONSE: What nonsense! This is why I referred to the article as a "bit silly". What a stretch!! What does Brady coming out against a possible 18 game schedule have to do with his contract? Hoow does that "indicate a hard-line stance"? Heck, I'm against an 18 game season, too! There are too many injuries during the regular 16 game schedule as it is. What will adding too more full speed games do? This is a shortsighted money grab by the owners. Watering down the regular season by adding two more full speed games hurts the quality of the regular season...and will serve to shorten players' careers.
It was obvious the situation surrounding the Pro Bowl guard would be awkward, as he had no desire to sign his $3.3 million, one-year tender. No one knew it would result in Mankins’ demanding a trade and ripping Kraft. Don’t rule out reconciliation, but Mankins wants a long-term deal or a new team. It’s hard to imagine the Pats giving in. If he’s a camp no-show, he’ll lose millions he can only recoup in a trade and a new deal with that new franchise. There is still a chance for a happy ending, but the bet here is on more public posturing first.
RESPONSE: Mankins is allowing his ego to run amuck...and was foolish to attack the integrity of Bob Kraft. Though he's a very good player, Mankins is no Steve Hutchinson. The Pats offered him a 5 year, $35mil. deal. That seems reasonable. But, in fairness to Mankins, we don't know how much of the $35mil. was guaranteed. My guess is that the Pats will let him sit and stew. If a deal can't be reached by August, Mankins likely will be traded...but only if the Pats can get a #1 draft choice in return.
3. Who will win the jobs at outside linebacker?
The Patriots cleaned up their locker room with the release of Adalius Thomas, creating competition at one of their weakest positions. Special teamer Pierre Woods manned the other spot, but it’s open season there, too. No wonder coach Bill Belichicksaid camp will be “interesting” on defense. With rookie Jermaine Cunningham, mystery man Shawn Crable and gritty Rob Ninkovich joining veterans Tully Banta-Cain [stats] and Derrick Burgess, who can tell who has the upper hand? If Cunningham has a productive month and a half, it may be him.
RESPONSE: Correct. Someone must emerge from the pack and take the job. Otherwise, look for Derrick Burgess to get the nod. The Pats only had only 31 sacks last year. Of their 31 sacks, 10 of them came against the Buffalo Bills, including 5 of Tully Banta-Cain's team leading 9.5 sacks. Someone must step-up, and turn the heat up on opposing passers.
4. If Wes Welker is healthy to begin the season, who exits?
For all the optimism Welker created, showing up at OTAs four months after knee surgery, his apparent quick recovery has another side: Questions come sooner. The signing of Torry Holt eased the burden on Welker, but if the All-Pro is ready by opening day, who is released? The wily Holt? Special teams captain/receiver Sam Aiken? Or does the team carry seven receivers and go with three safeties? A good dilemma for Belichick to have.
RESPONSE: Getting Welker back to 100% should be a main concern. He should be held out for at least the first 3-4 games, no matter how healthy he claims to be...as a precautionary measure. He's too valuable to the offense to risk. WR/KR Brandon Tate bears watching. If he's fully recovered from his knee problems, he could be a major contributor. Randy Moss, Julian Edleman, and veteran Torry Holt are in, Sam Aiken stays, largely because of his value on special teams, and rookie Taylor Price rounds out the group.
5. How quickly does this crop of rookies bum rush the starting lineup?
One of the league’s oldest teams is suddenly getting younger. Thirteen rookies from 2009 and another 12 from 2010 are battling for spots. The team hopes 8-to-10 stick, and they will go far in determining the season. Does Brandon Spikes supplant Gary Guyton at inside linebacker, providing youth and power? Does Devin McCourty challenge Darius Butler for snaps at cornerback, providing physicality? Is it Taylor Price, instead of Holt and Brandon Tate, impacting the receiver position? Is Cunningham, wearing Thomas’ No. 96, the new face of the pass rush? Energetic youngsters could penetrate the locker room.
RESPONSE: This is perhaps the main question...how will the 2010 draft class impact the team? Zoltan "the Magnificent" should be the starting punter. Brandon Spikes should start, or at least see plenty of action, at ILB. How top pick Devin McCourty, Cunningham, and the TEs perform will go a long way to determining how well the Pats do in 2010.