Feeling the draft
Patriots fans gearing for NFL Draft, wondering about Samuel's deal, Bledsoe's retirement
Since our last mailbag in mid-March, a few topics have dominated the e-mails from Patriots fans:
We'll tackle some of those questions and more.
Can you share the players scheduled for free agency next year and how you feel this may impact this year's draft?
A: I'd start with cornerback Asante Samuel, assuming he signs the one-year, $7.79 million tender offer. Others include linebacker Tedy Bruschi, defensive backs Eugene Wilson, Randall Gay, Artrell Hawkins, and Chad Scott, and receivers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. Based on this list, defensive back should be a priority in this year's draft. I'd also put linebacker atop the list.
What's your read on the LBs in the first round after Patrick Willis: Jon Beason, Paul Posluszny, Lawrence Timmons. Do you see any of these guys as fits for the LB unit inside, beside Bruschi? Do you think any of them present enough value to be considerations at 24 or 28?
Carlos Korten, Brooklyn, N.Y.
A: Beason would be a steal at 24 in my opinion, a player who would add the most athleticism of any prospect at inside linebacker. From what I've seen of Posluszny, he doesn't have enough special traits to warrant a first-round pick. I see Timmons as more of a 4-3 type linebacker, and not a good system fit. On the flip side, don't forget about Michigan's David Harris. He is a prototypical fit inside in the 3-4 and I could see him as a first-round pick. If Beason isn't there, I like the Patriots to grab Harris with one of their first-round picks.
I've seen a ton of mock drafts with a safety being chosen with one of the Patriots' first-round picks. One name I haven't seen is Aaron Rouse from Virginia Tech. Sporting News has him rated No. 4 among safeties and ESPN has him rated 5C. With all the talk of finding the heir to Rodney Harrison, I'm just wondering why his name hasn't been mentioned as a possible pick at No. 28. His overall grade appears to be right up there with the other top safeties in the draft and it's said he's a team-first guy. Plus at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds he's a big safety like Harrison.
Tim Kelliher, San Diego
A: I don't think Rouse is a first-round type of player. The top safeties are LaRon Landry, Reggie Nelson, Michael Griffin, and Brandon Meriweather, all of whom are likely to be picked in the first round (unless Meriweather slips due to off-field concerns). Rouse is a cut below and Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News -- whose opinion I have great respect for -- notes that he is slipping as the draft nears.
My question regards the "mock drafts." I've read a few to get an idea of some of the players available, but I'm thinking the writers are a bit clueless. Several have the Patriots taking an offensive lineman with one of their first-rounders. To me that seems like an area of strength, not an area that could use a player who could step in and play right away like a linebacker or defensive back. I know Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli can be unpredictable, but an OL in the first round seems a bit tough to fathom. What do you think?
A: If the Patriots had just one first-round pick, I would agree, but the presence of that second first-round pick makes me think it's possible. If the Patriots feel there is a franchise-type left tackle available, I could see them pulling the trigger. But if it was for a guard, center or right tackle, I'd say no.
What are the chances that Asante Samuel will be traded prior to draft? What is his value?
Robert Walsh, Sahuarita, Ariz.
A: I'd say it is highly unlikely that Samuel would be traded before the draft, as the Patriots wouldn't move him unless they felt they had his replacement lined up. Some e-mailed about the possibility of a trade between two disgruntled franchise players -- Samuel for Lance Briggs -- which I'd say is unlikely because so many things would have to line up correctly. Also, Samuel would have to work out a contract with another team before being traded, which is another important step in the process, making it less likely for a trade to be consummated that quickly.
With Asante Samuel, is it possible that the Patriots are concerned about his motivation and commitment if he gets too much guaranteed money? A guy with a "Get Paid" tattoo has certainly been using money as part of his motivation. Think LaVar Arrington. I don't doubt Asante would play just as hard on game day, but some guys seem to need the prospect of future dollars to motivate that last little bit of extra preparation (and other guys will do it regardless of the money). What is your opinion of Asante and his motivation?
Tom Roberts, Acton
A: I would buy into this line of thinking if the Patriots did not make a long-term contract offer to Samuel. But since the Patriots have made a long-term offer to him, which includes double-digit millions of dollars in bonuses/guarantees, I don't think that is a significant factor that has led to the current status of contract talks.
How is it that I am seeing and hearing all these Patriots fans saying that Samuel isn't worth the money he's asking for. First off, it is a lot of $$$$ but why don't they at least offer a decent amount in the beginning. Ty Law said the same thing about what they offered him. Why now just pay Asante what he wants -- he's young and coming off a fantastic season. All they're going to do is create a bunch of holes in there secondary.
Andre Kinyo, Smithfield, Ohio
A: As is the case with any negotiation, there are two sides. I don't think the Patriots should simply give Samuel what he's asking for, and I don't think Samuel should simply accept what the Patriots are offering. If both sides are committed to reaching a resolution, they'll meet somewhere in the middle. But to pin this on one side or the other, I just don't think that is fair.
I still see reports that the Patriots are negotiating with the Washington Redskins for the sixth pick, offering one of their firsts and Asante Samuel in order to draft the safety from LSU, LaRon Landry. Any truth to this from where you sit? Aren't nearly as good safeties available at the bottom of the first round or is the LSU guy really special?
A: Landry is really special, according to talent evaluators who know a lot more about these draft-eligible players than I do. That being said, I haven't seen any reports regarding the Patriots negotiating with the Redskins about the sixth pick. All I saw was a story out of Washington that indicated the Redskins were expected to call the Patriots regarding Samuel. I don't believe it's a scenario the Redskins are interested in at this time.
I'm curious as to Asante Samuel. If he should hold out for 10 games, would the Pats have to pay him for those weeks? Or would he only get paid for the next six-plus weeks that he plays?
Wanda Howland, Plaistow, N.H.
A: Samuel would not get paid for those weeks, because technically he is not under contract. To return to the team for the final six games, Samuel would have to sign a contract. That option, which I had previously presented as a possibility, seems unlikely because Samuel does not need another accrued season toward unrestricted free agency. Probably the only reason he would do that is to gain some leverage against the Patriots for next year, so if the team elected to franchise him again, they would have to do so at a 20 percent increase of his 2007 salary. A few e-mailers asked if the Patriots could trade Samuel if he doesn't sign the tender, and the answer is no. Technically, Samuel would have to sign the tender to be traded. He would do so if a trade was consummated, which would mean the team acquiring him had reached a contract extension with him.
I don't get it. The Pats get the third-toughest schedule while the Super Bowl winners get the sixth-toughest. I know there isn't a lot of difference when it comes down to percentage points but I would at least expect the Colts to have the toughest schedule. Is the league going too far when making out the schedules? Shouldn't the Bears & Chargers be up there also?
Wayne Yee, Monson
A: The NFL has a predetermined scheduling formula that was put into place when the league went to eight divisions with 32 teams, and is designed so that all teams play each other on a rotating basis. My feeling is that strength of schedule is overrated, because so much changes from year to year in the NFL. What appears to be a difficult schedule now might not be so difficult come the fall, as evidenced by the fact that of the 12 playoff teams from 2006, seven were different from the year before.
Why doesn't the NFL just have off weeks on the eighth or ninth week? If all teams can't take the one week off, isn't better if half the teams get it off during the eighth week and the other half get it off on the ninth week. Surely this could be arranged and would benefit all teams equally. It makes no sense to have some teams get it off early and some get it off near the end of the schedule. What is the rationale behind the current setup?
A: I checked with the NFL offices on this, and the answer comes down to television. If the NFL had 16 teams off in Week 8 and 16 teams off in Week 9, it would leave just eight games on each of those weeks. The NFL has to fill six television spots each week -- 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. games on both CBS and Fox, the Sunday night NBC slot, and the Monday night ESPN slot. Choosing from just eight games would likely result in weak television schedules. The NFL feels that evenly spacing the off weeks out leads to more competitive schedules for the networks.
With Drew Bledsoe retiring, any word on if the Patriots plan on honoring him or starting some type of Ring of Fame?
A: The Patriots are sure to honor Bledsoe in some way, and plans are scheduled to be unveiled next month for a Patriots Hall of Fame at Gillette Stadium. I would expect Bledsoe to be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame at some time, although much like the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there will be a group of voters (including sportswriters) that ultimately decides that.
With Drew Bledsoe retiring, I think it would be a nice gesture for the Patriots to retire his number and sign him to a one-day contract so he can retire a Patriot. Drew had his shortcomings, but let's remember that he was one of the main reasons the Patriots became a relevant franchise, not to mention he brought them to a Super Bowl and put up some formidable stats. Do you think the Patriots will retire his number?
Patrick Murray, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
A: I don't. The main reason is that there won't be enough numbers to go around if numbers keep getting retired. The team has seven numbers that have been retired, compared with the Packers' five, and the truth is that some of those seven (Bruce Armstrong?) shouldn't be retired. Because of this -- and with the NFL promoting the idea of teams getting away from retiring numbers unless it is especially clear cut -- I think we'll see Bledsoe honored in a different way, like an induction into the team's soon-to-be-unveiled Hall of Fame.
It was an emotional time for all of us that remember the game in which Darryl Stingley was injured. I turned 8 years old the day before that exhibition against the Raiders and he was among my favorite players on the Patriots. I cannot remember anything else about watching that game on TV from my home in Barrington, R.I., but the injury itself is one of the first genuine memories in my life as a sports fan. As an adult, Mr. Stingley's example has made him more than just a sports hero for many Patriots fans like me. I realize his career was a short one, but I feel that his off field contributions to the organization and inspirational life should be honored by the Patriots. Can you tell me if the Patriots and Ben Watson would consider retiring his number 84? If not, are the Patriots formulating any other plans to honor Mr. Stingley formally during the season?
Ted Allen, Washington DC
A: Hi, Ted. I was 3 years old when Stingley was injured, but I have since read a lot about him, and talked with a lot of people about him, to understand the special person and player he was. I'm sure the Patriots will honor him accordingly, although I wouldn't expect his jersey to be retired.
One of my favorite times of the year! I was just wondering if you could post a list of prospects who have visited Foxborough this year? Maybe even a list of players drafted by the Patriots who did/did not work out for the Pats. It probably doesn't mean much but there hasn't been much to read about of late.
A: Here are a few of the prospect visits to Gillette Stadium that I have confirmed: receivers Aundrae Allison, Chris Davis; linebackers Jon Beason, Patrick Willis, and David Harris; running back Michael Bush; cornerbacks Leon Hall, Daymeion Hughes, and Josh Wilson. There have been reports of other visits, and a list was put together by the Boston Herald, although I have not confirmed those players' visits. Those names include: running back Chris Henry; receivers Robert Meachem, Sidney Rice, and Steve Smith; tight end Joe Newton; punter Daniel Sepulveda, outside linebacker Anthony Spencer; and quarterback/receiver Isaiah Stanback.
Thanks for taking my question. I am a true Patriots junkie. I have been checking every website available that has info on my team. I haven't heard about Rodney Harrison. Is he recovering and does it look like he'll be back? And what is going on with Junior Seau? I thought he fit nicely in the Pats defense and looked like he was getting a hold of the defensive schemes before he got hurt. Does it look like either one will be back?
Anthony Amero, Susanville, Calif.
A: Harrison previously mentioned that he felt like he would have played in the Super Bowl had the Patriots advanced that far. That might have been optimistic, but I took it to mean that his injury situation wasn't long term. Seau is still a possibility to return, but I think a lot will depend on what the Patriots come away with at linebacker in the draft. Seau's recovery from his broken arm is also a consideration, and I'm not sure how that is coming along. If I had to make a prediction, I don't think Seau will be back.
I feel there may be considerable similarities between Wes Welker and Tim Dwight at his peak. What makes Welker more dynamic in the passing/return game? Can you ease my concern that Welker may fade quickly into little more than fourth option at receiver and punt-returner signaling for the occasional fair catch?
Joy Odango, San Leandro, Calif.
A: The first difference I see is speed -- Dwight was known for his speed, while Welker is not. But I would rate Welker as a better receiver based on his feel for the passing game and knack for getting open, specifically while working out of the slot and finding openings in zone coverage. The main similarity I see is that both are fearless. You always have durability concerns with players the size of Welker and Dwight, but I think Welker is a superior receiver to be put into the same class as Dwight.
What is the buzz on Al Wilson? Any chance he could sign an incentive-laden contract with the Pats?
A: Wilson has a neck injury that could end his career. According to various published reports, he has not cleared a physical. Based on his physical status, I would say this is unlikely.
Any update on the Chad Jackson timetable? I really hope he's OK as I think he could learn a lot from the other receivers on the depth chart and I really would hate to see him not blossom because we know what he's capable of.
Danny Ferraro, Gloucester
A: Jackson tore his ACL in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 21, and those injuries require anywhere from a six- to 12-month recovery. I haven't learned anything new on his status. To me, the Jackson issue is two-fold. First, he has to recover from his knee injury. Second, he has to commit himself to being a good pro. I think there are some concerns about the second part of the equation among some of the Patriots' coaching and scouting staff.
In one of your recent interviews, I was a little disappointed in one of the questions you asked Vince Wilfork. Prodding him about his contract, I feel, was inappropriate. In a day and age when all we do is rip players for whining about their current situation (and this particular player has not even made a peep about it), why bring it up? What was the point? I'm curious what answer it was that you were looking for. His answer was correct, this topic is two to three years away.
A: That question was asked in the wake of a significant market shift in the NFL, and I was curious how a player under contract was reacting to some of the big money being spent around the league. I thought it was a fair question, as I have been curious how some of the money the Patriots spent on such players as Adalius Thomas and Wes Welker would be received by others in the locker room. As for the answer I was looking for, it was nothing in particular, just the truth of whatever Wilfork was feeling.
If Todd Sauerbrun's signing is upheld, wouldn't it be reasonable for him to just go through the motions in training camp and preseason? If the Patriots then release him, he can sign with Denver, the team he wants, yes?
Mike Martorano, Tewksbury
A: That is a possibility, but it would be highly unprofessional and I wouldn't expect Sauerbrun to do anything but put his best foot forward in training camp. Also, at the end of the day, he'd be punting for a significant salary, one that he wouldn't be assured of earning in Denver even if he was cut.
Now why the heck would the Patriots be interested in a 34-year-old Tory James? Would this be another one and done while they try to develop a young, drafted CB?
Paul, Naples, Fla.
A: I think the interest in James was a direct response to the Jets hosting restricted free agent Randall Gay on a visit early last week. I looked at it as the Patriots lining up a backup option if Gay was going to be signed away from them. It is possible that Samuel's situation tied into that as well.
[Edit: The Patriots agreed to terms with James on Tuesday night. Obviously, it wasn't a direct response to Gay. Looks like the move is to add more depth and flexibility to the defensive backfield.]