Eye on the draft
Several fans had questions about Richard Seymour's new contract and its impact on the salary cap. The key details of Seymour's deal filed with the NFL Players Association break down like this:
Signing bonus: $5.34 million
Option bonus: $18.66 million (split into two parts)
2006 base salary: $585,000
2007 base salary: $600,000
2008 base salary: $730,000
2009 base salary: $3.685 million
ESPN's Len Pasquarelli, in his Insider Tip Sheet, revealed an important detail today that helps clear things up.
The key is the option bonus. Pasquarelli reported that it's split into two parts -- $6.66 million in one part and $12 million in another part. The $6.66 million, Pasquarelli reports, can be paid any time between Aug. 3 and next March. The second part is due by next March.
Because of this, the Patriots were able to work within the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement that restricted Seymour from earning a raise until 12 months had passed from his last raise (Aug. 3, 2005).
So the Patriots will be able to use some of their cap surplus in 2006 as long as they exercise the option before the 2006 league year ends.
Now on to some draft-related questions.
Do you think the Patriots need to pick a wide receiver in the first round of the draft? If so who will it be?
James Dispirito, Attleboro
A: I expect the Patriots to use one of their higher draft picks on a receiver, because I think that currently ranks as their most pressing need. The problem, according to two scouts, is that this draft isn't a great one for pass-catchers. The Patriots recently hosted Florida's Chad Jackson at Gillette Stadium, and he's one of the only receivers considered worthy of a first-round pick. They also have plans to meet with Notre Dame's Maurice Stovall, so those would seemingly be two receivers on their radar. Michigan's Jason Avant and Oregon State's Mike Hass are other players whose production and strong work habits would seemingly catch the Patriots' eye after the first round.
Hi Mike. Three players in the upcoming draft who I would love to see the Pats take are: Chad Greenway, Manny Lawson or Jimmy Williams. I know they don't like to go corner real early, but Williams has great size and speed. What are the chances the Pats end up with one of those three?
Jason Cunningham, Manchester
A: I think the Patriots could definitely go with a corner in the first round. It's one of those positions that I believe they value higher than most others. As for Williams, there is some question among scouts whether he's a better fit at safety, although he's made it clear he wants to play cornerback. The Pro Football Weekly draft preview called him undisciplined on and off the field, and that raised a flag to me. Greenway and Lawson could both help the Patriots at linebacker, although Greenway disappointed some scouts with his performance at the Combine. Lawson has some impressive measurables, although as mentioned in last week's mailbag, he would appear to be a bit light (241 pounds) to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 considering that Willie McGinest (270), Mike Vrabel (261) and Rosevelt Colvin (250) tip the scales heavier. Of the three, Greenway, a projected inside inside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 alignment, would seem to be the best fit.
Do you think that the Pats had a plan to pick up second-level free agents for depth purposes and rebuild their losses through the draft?
Michael Sullivan, Tampa, Fla.
A: That sounds about right, and I'd also add in that their top priority was locking up Richard Seymour and Deion Branch.
A lot of people seem panicked about the Patriots. I'm not, I know losing Vinatieri was hard, but we can win anyway. My question is: do you really think we need that much defensive help? We started slow with guys like Starks in the lineup, but by the end of the year the Patriots' defense was more dominant than it was in any of their Super Bowl years. I don't think we need all that much help.
Scott Varney, Taylor Mill, Ky.
A: The Patriots are in solid shape up front, with Richard Seymour (signed through 2009), Vince Wilfork (2009), Ty Warren (2008), Jarvis Green (2009) and Marquise Hill (2008) part of the d-line core. So I'd say the only help they need there is for the future. At linebacker, the team is a bit long in the tooth as Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin -- the top three players -- will be 33, 31 and 29 when the season begins. Youth and athleticism is needed there, especially given the importance of the position in the 3-4 defense. And I believe you can never have enough defensive backs. So I think the Patriots still need defensive help, and while I agree that the unit was playing well at the end of last season, I felt some of that could be attributed to opponents that couldn't exploit their weaknesses.
Is there a possibility that the Pats may be looking at LaVar Arrington. I believe he would be a good replacement for Willie McGinest at rush defensive end or outside linebacker.
Dave Finnegan, Tecumseh, Kan.
A: It is possible, although I'd say it's unlikely based on the high salary Arrington is reportedly seeking and the fact he is represented by the Poston brothers, who the Patriots have had some tug-of-wars with in the past. One published report out of South Florida quoted Dolphins coach Nick Saban as saying his team was trying to sign Arrington, so I'd put Miami as a possible destination, with the Packers, Giants, Bengals and Jaguars reportedly in the mix.
Eleven is a lot of draft picks. Do you think the Patriots will turn some of these over into 2007 picks? What is the projected strength of the 2007 draft versus the 2006?
Jeff Elliott, Budapest
A: Unlike last year, when the Patriots turned some 2005 picks into 2006 picks, I think the team will use extra selections to hop up and down this year's draft board. I expect it to be similar to 2003, when the team also had 11 picks but dished some of them away to target specific players (i.e. Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, Bethel Johnson, Asante Samuel) who were picked after making a trade to get in position to take them.
With the flurry of free agent activity by some teams, will some of the active teams in free agency be up against the cap once the draft picks salaries are figured into the salary cap? Who are some of projected veteran cuts going to be after the draft pick salaries are figured in that may be of interest to the Pats? Lastly, is it fair to think that the Pats can fill all of there remaining holes solely through the draft since at best it seems like even when you have a good draft you only get 2-3 starters with the rest of the picks destined to ride the pine until they are ready to fill a role?
John V., Rochester, Mass.
A: Because of the extension of the collective bargaining agreement in March, teams were granted more salary cap space ($102 million in 2006; $85 in 2005). So my expectation is that there won't be many June 1 cuts. As for the Patriots being able to fill all their holes in the draft, it depends on how you view their holes. I think they need a No. 2 receiver, kicker, inside/outside linebacker and defensive back. I think they can fill most of those holes through the draft, especially with 11 picks and the ability to navigate the draft board through trades.