Things move fast in the NFL.
One day there can be a question as to whether the Patriots and receiver Randy Moss would strike a deal. Now that its done, I am surprised at how fast the page has been turned. This was a big deal - for both Moss and the Patriots - and I am slightly perplexed at the idea that there would have been a lot more discussion about Moss had a contract not been reached.
With that in mind, the main theme in this weeks mailbag is Whats next?"
So we'll move on to the questions...
Now that Moss is signed (thank God), what position or even players do you suspect we target next?
Bill , Marquette, Mich.
A: My hunch is that we'll see the defensive backfield and linebacker spots garner some attention. Free-agent cornerback Jason Webster is in town today (March 4) and it would not be surprising to me if he's signed. (Editor's note: Webster and the Patriots agreed to a contract shortly after the mailbag was posted.) I could see him as a viable possibility to replace Randall Gay at a significantly reduced price tag. Based on the way things have unfolded, and keeping in mind that the Patriots' philosophy is designed to be a consistent contender and not a window-is-open-for-a-Super-Bowl-run type of team, I like the club's free-agent strategy this year. I imagine it must be difficult to maintain such discipline while some other clubs are signing players - and appearing to overpay players - at a frenzied pace. So I'll tip my caps to the likes of the Patriots, Colts, Packers, and Giants. I would imagine not too many "experts" have called any of those teams winners in free agency, but my general feeling is that any club that has stuck to its team-building principles and not gotten swept into the high-priced free-agent fray is probably doing the right thing.
Now that Randy is in the house, I predict the Pats will be looking to bring in veterans at a few key positions - DB, LB, and TE (as well as draft some young studs DB's and LB's). Do you think there will be $$$$ for any more high profile signings like old friend Ty Law? How about TE Alge Crumpler to drive opposing defenses crazy? Are there any LB's left worth the money?
Jeremy, Newfane, Vt.
A: I don't think it will be a situation where the Patriots will be strapped money-wise, but in terms of Law, I'm not sure what he's looking for. When Law looks at Asante Samuel getting an average of about $10 million a year, it would be his modus operandi to say to another team "Do you think I'm half the player Asante is?" and then ask for $5 million a year. I don't mean that in a critical way, but more as a reflection as to how I've seen Law approach his contract situations. Crumpler, as we now know, has signed on with Tennessee. At linebacker, Clark Haggans (Steelers) is still available and when I put on my amateur scouting hat a restricted free agent like inside linebacker Adam Seward (Panthers) catches my eye. On the whole, I don't feel like too many players are worth the prices on the open market.
Any info on whom and how we will fill CB and LB slots?
A: Nick, I always like to remind myself that there are three parts to any offseason - free agency, the draft, and trades. So right now, we're only a very short period into one aspect of the offseason. I'm sure the picture will come into focus as the days pass by and more information will become available. I've tossed out a few names - Haggans, Seward, Webster etc., -- but in general they are more guesswork than based on any concrete information.
Is there any update on Jabar Gaffney?
A: As of Tuesday morning, the Patriots and Gaffney's representatives were maintaining contact. Like the Randy Moss situation, I see both sides benefiting from continuing their relationship. Remember, Gaffney was available to all 32 teams in October of 2006 and the Patriots helped revive his career. In turn, Gaffney played 2007 at a minimum-level deal, basically "sacrificing" a season to use the Patriots as a two-year springboard to restore his value. So I see both sides winning out, which is why I'd be surprised if Gaffney winds up elsewhere. It seems to me his best fit is in New England, assuming the price is right.
I found Tim DiPiero's statement regarding Randy Moss' contract somewhat strange. First, I can't remember the last time a Patriots player's agent released contract details. And second, the concluding statement, "Randy took less than he could have to rejoin his teammates." It seems like Tim DiPiero needed to make sure everybody knew that. Your thoughts?
Hiram, New York, N.Y.
A: Hiram, agents release contract information all the time, but are often uncomfortable having their name attached to it. So, from a journalistic perspective, I found Tim DiPiero's approach refreshingly honest. As for the idea that Randy Moss took less, and making sure that was publicly known, I think DiPiero was answering two of the main questions reporters had: "Were there any other offers and how they did they compare?" So again, from a journalistic standpoint, I appreciated his comments. On the flip side, I can see how the comments would potentially upset the Patriots. The team had just dished out a $12 million signing bonus and $15 million in guarantees - no chump change - and here they are being painted as having a sub-par offer compared to another team. But DiPiero was likely just showing how much Moss has matured by pointing out that he didn't go for the money, and instead valued the Patriots' situation. I don't think DiPiero was trying to sling any arrows at the Patriots.
What are the Pats' draft picks this year, by round after the first - one per each round in their normal position? When will supplemental picks be assigned, and how many would you guess that they will get?
Michael Cassily, Manchester, N.H.
A: The Patriots have selections in every round, plus an additional third-round pick (6th in the round; 69th overall). The supplemental picks the Patriots might receive for Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, Donte' Stallworth, etc., will actually come in the 2009 draft. The reason is that supplemental picks account, partially, for how players lost in free agency perform on the field. So it takes a year to determine that. Later this month, the NFL will announce supplemental picks for the 2008 draft, and those selections are based on what happened last year. I don't expect the Patriots to receive any compensatory draft selections in the 2008 draft, as they signed more players (Adalius Thomas, Sammy Morris etc.,) than they lost.
It seems there are six "elite" players in the draft, so for the Pats to trade down, they might need to have Ryan or McFadden slide. If none of the top six slide, my fear is that there will be no demand for the #7 pick and the Pats will be forced to overdraft a CB or LB. Is this a legitimate concern, and if so, can the Pats just skip their turn in the draft (like the Vikings in 2003 with Kevin Williams) until they find a player they like in a good value slot?
A: Last week, when assessing the options at No. 7, I made a similar point by noting that if Ryan/McFadden are on the board it would seemingly create more action for the pick. The Patriots could technically pass on the pick. From an elementary view, I don't think the Patriots would overdraft a cornerback or linebacker at No. 7 if they didn't feel the player was worth the value. That's why, in one scenario, it wouldn't shock me to see them pick a defensive lineman like Sedrick Ellis (USC) is they were stuck with the No. 7 selection. As free agency has shown us, you can never have enough defensive linemen. And with Richard Seymour (2009), Vince Wilfork (2009) and Jarvis Green (2009) all having contracts that expire in two years, it's never too early to start replenishing that area.
Now that Moss has been signed; is there any chance a new deal could be worked out for Rosevelt Colvin? Any word on other teams interested in talking to him?
A: Steve, I think Colvin's situation comes down to his health. I'm not sure he could pass a physical right now. So I'd say his status is in more of a wait-and-see mode. Right now, I don't believe teams would sign him without knowing how his injured foot will heal. I also sense that, right now, the Patriots and Colvin view the split as more permanent.
How does the Steelers signing Ben Roethlisberger to an 8yr $102M deal influence the Patriots future dealings with Tom Brady?
Gregg, Manchester, N.H.
A: The way I see it Gregg, is that Brady is signed through 2010 and Roethlisberger's deal further defines the top quarterback market for when the sides decide it's time to hammer out an extension. It's just another piece of information that will be used throughout the process.
What is the status of our tight end situation? I believe all we have is Watson and Spach signed. At this point, do all signs point to the draft? If so, is a considered a deep draft at tight end?
A: The Patriots also have 2006 third-round pick David Thomas at tight end. I think Thomas can be a solid player for them, but health is the concern. He missed most of last year with a foot injury. I would expect the Patriots to draft a tight end, and wouldn't be surprised if there is a free-agent signing. In terms of style of tight end, the team would be seeking more of a "Y" option, which is the traditional in-line blocker. The "F" tight end is one who will usually move around more often, almost like an H-back. As for the tight end crop in the draft, I thought this piece by Erik Scalavino on Patriots.com was a good read.
I have 2 questions: 1) Does a signing bonus go against your cap space for the year? 2) What happens if a team goes over the salary cap?
Mike, Pflugerville, Texas
A: A signing bonus is pro-rated over the length of the contract. So in the case of Randy Moss, he received a $12 million signing bonus over a three-year deal, which means the signing bonus is counted as $4 million against the 2008 cap; $4 million against the 2009 cap; and $4 million against the 2010 cap. A team is not allowed to go over the cap. All contracts are submitted to the NFL and the league will disallow a deal if it is not compliant with a team's cap situation.
What kind of incentives are put into a contract for a special teams player like Aiken? Games played? Tackles? Is it conceivable for him to make the maximum $2 million or are there some incentives that are pretty far out-of-reach, like receptions?
A: Aiken signed a two-year contract with a potential maximum value of $2 million, and those incentives are said to be reachable, according to his agent, Alvin Keels. I think they would be tackles and games played, as you suggest, Pat.
Now that we have Moss back, do you think the Pats will try to trade a 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick for Chad Johnson? That would be an absolutely unstoppable offense. Or, could they trade the 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick for Jason Taylor?
A: I would say the Chad Johnson chatter is dead for now. The Bengals aren't going to trade him. The Dolphins say the same thing about Taylor, and if they do move him, I'd be surprised if it was in the division to the Patriots.