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Going Deep

Words with Frenz mailbag: Chris Johnson makes sense for the Patriots at the right price

The New England Patriots are known as one of the more diligent teams in the NFL. Thus, when a well-known player is released by his team, the buzz from Patriots fans is palpable.

On Friday, the Tennessee Titans released running back Chris Johnson, immediately sparking the curiosity of more than a few Patriots fans who would like to see some of CJ2K's explosive, big-play ability in a Patriots uniform.

One problem: CJ2K hasn't been so explosive or big-play crazy since the 2,000-yard season that earned him that nickname. In fact, he has fallen no fewer than 600 yards short of 2,000 each season since hitting 2,006 yards in 2009.

Would he be worth a look for the Patriots anyway? We'll get to that and more in this week's mailbag.

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As you probably gathered from the headline, this move would make sense but only at the right price. The Patriots still need to add depth to their offensive backfield after LeGarrette Blount signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent.

In that sense, Johnson is about as far from Blount as it gets in terms of skill set, so he may not be a fit. At his best, Johnson is a blazing-fast version of Shane Vereen.

There is reason to doubt whether he will ever be at his best again, though. Johnson will be 29 years old on Sept. 23, and his production has slowly tapered off since 2009. In a stretch from the middle of the 2009 season to the beginning of the 2010 season, Johnson had 100 rushing yards or more in 12 consecutive games. Since the streak ended, he has posted over 100 rushing yards in 18 games.

If he is open to a low-risk deal, the Patriots should consider adding him, but with both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to hit the open market next season, the Patriots may be better off looking for longer-term options than Johnson.

However, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, it sounds like CJ2K drew trade interest from every AFC East team except the Patriots.

Well, the Patriots released Adrian Wilson on Friday, so that's one man down.

Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson, Patrick Chung, and Kanorris Davis all have special teams ability, so that eliminates one potential advantage that one might have over another. My personal preference would be Tavon Wilson, the younger of the four and the one with the most experience on defense out of the young safeties — Chung has more overall experience than Wilson on defense.

That being said, Chung's experience in the defense could be a big advantage for him. Whoever ends up winning that final job should be ready to step in and start if Duron Harmon goes down with an injury. Chung also has experience at both free safety and strong safety, which could be even more bonus points for him in his bid to make the roster.

At present, I would say Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung are the top choices in that battle, but this situation may not be resolved just yet. The Patriots could be in the market for another safety in the draft if they are not satisfied with the depth chart as it stands.

I feel like I answer this question in every mailbag. It's hard to put a finger on which team is the front-runner to be the runner-up in the AFC East, with the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets all making their share of solid moves this offseason.

It's fair to mention that Tom Brady's passer rating and completion percentage have both been in decline for each of the past three seasons, although he has been working with a changing group of receivers and has not had a dynamic outside-the-numbers presence in years. It's also fair to mention that the Patriots' win totals have not changed much in those years, with 14 wins in 2010, 13 wins in 2011, and 12 wins each in 2012 and 2013.

Right now, and until Brady and Belichick both retire or suddenly become awful at their jobs, it's going to be very hard for anything to "make me believe" that the power structure in the AFC East has shifted. It is still the Patriots' division.

On that note...

Brady signed a three-year extension in 2013, and with two years remaining on the deal when he signed it, his contract does not expire until after the 2017 season. It's possible that Brady could retire before then, but he has always said he wants to play until he is 40 — and he will hit that magic number just before the 2017 season.

So, if you believe what he has said for years, and if you believe he can physically continue to play through the age of 40, it looks like Brady will play for another four seasons. A lot can change between now and then, though, so don't mark your calendar for that date just yet. It would be a surprise for him to play much further beyond 2017, though.

Great question. It's on a case-by-case basis, most likely. A few things change when a player makes the switch. They lead into their protection on a different foot — a left tackle pushes off his right foot for his first shuffle step into pass protection, and a right tackle pushes off his left foot. The left tackle uses his right arm as the first to make contact with defenders when re-routing them around the quarterback, and the right tackle uses his left arm for initial contact.

In terms of assignments, it used to be that the left tackle faced the better pass-rusher on a consistent basis, but as NFL defenses have evolved and become more complex, it has become equally important for the right tackle to be able to hold his own in pass protection. Likewise, it can be beneficial to have a left tackle that excels at blocking in the running game, which would open up the possibility for outside runs in both directions.

Got room for one more.

Because they don't have enough non-injury prone safeties who can cover.

Thanks everyone! Further questions, as always, can go in the comments section or send me a tweet and I'll answer there. Thanks for reading. Happy birthday to me!