Walsh thoughts and Pats rookie free agent talk
There is a little bit of everything in the Patriots mailbag this week.
With the draft in the rear-view mirror, it seems that some fans are shifting their attention forward to the May 13 meeting between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and former Patriots employee Matt Walsh.
Others are keeping their thoughts on the field, wondering "Will Junior Seau be back for another season?" The possibility of free-agent acquisitions, such as cornerback Ty Law, is also explored.
At the other end of the spectrum is the crop of rookie free agents signed by the Patriots. Is there a gem in the bunch that includes Georgia Tech linebacker Gary Guyton, Liberty linebacker Vince Redd, and Mississippi running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
Let's get on to the questions. ...
Hi Mike, with the pending conversation between Roger Goodell and Matt Walsh, I'm curious as to what measures are being taken to protect the Patriots against false accusations. Also, if Walsh produces a tape that is potentially damaging to the Patriots, the alleged Rams Super Bowl walk-through for example, what steps will the NFL take to verify that the team ordered its production and it was not Walsh acting on his own? My chief concern is that Goodell may be more concerned with administering knee-jerk, critic-pleasing punishments than with finding out all the facts. Thanks!
Christopher, Washington, D.C.
A: Christopher, I read over the agreement between the two parties (read it here) before answering this question, and the part that answers the first question -- what measures are being taken to protect the Patriots against false accusations -- is addressed in the third section titled "indemnification." If I am reading the agreement correctly, Walsh will not be protected legally if he is found to be intentionally untruthful. I believe that alone is a major measure that protects the Patriots against false accusations. On the second part of the question -- if Walsh produces a tape, what steps will the NFL take to verify the team ordered its production -- I'd start by saying I don't believe it will get to this point. I don't think Walsh has that tape, nor do I think he taped the walk-through. I think he'll tell the NFL he was at the walk-through, along with other Patriots officials who were setting up equipment, and that he only referenced the thought that the walk-through could have been taped. Hypothetically, if Walsh does have a tape, I think the league would be in a tough spot in terms of determining whether it was authorized by the team. Ultimately, I think the NFL would penalize the Patriots, because even though the tape might not have been authorized, it was still produced by an employee of the team, and thus the team must be held accountable.
Hi Mike, I read your article on Dom Capers in the Globe. You mentioned how it was considered a coup for the Patriots to get him as he has already been a head coach for a number of years. I recently heard a commentator on the 4-letter network put forth the following conspiracy theory. Apparently, his sources say that Capers was brought in shortly after the Matt Walsh story broke so that he can take over temporarily as head coach if Walsh divulges information that would cause Bill Belichick to be suspended for several weeks during the upcoming season. The commentator maintained that Capers was Bob Kraft's second choice when he hired Bill Belichick. This seems a bit far-fetched to me. I suppose we'll find out more after Walsh meets with Goodell, but I was wondering if you have any info that might shed more light on this. Thanks.
A: I have heard this theory as well, David, and I don't buy it. While Capers was under consideration for the head job in 2000, I don't think that was the reason he was brought in this year. I think it was specifically to work with the defensive backs and to help a defense that hasn't closed the deal the last two years -- first in the AFC Championship in 2006 and then in Super Bowl XLII.
Mike, draft day is over, rookie free agents are signed, so what is the latest information on the Patriots re-signing Junior Seau? Are they in discussions? I look at Junior's play last year and cannot help but think he is still an asset -- on the game field, on the practice field, in the locker room; he could serve as a mentor to Jerod Mayo's transition. Your thoughts?
Tim, Hershey, Pa.
A: Tim, as we know, Seau is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. I think he can still play and could be an asset to the team. Seau spoke briefly with the New Bedford Standard Times (Mass.) in their April 27 editions. Here is a snippet from the article: "Seau confirmed Saturday that the two sides have spoken, and he's expected to return to the area shortly for a physical, but he's not totally convinced that he's in the team's plans."
Hi Mike. I'm sure there's some flexibility, especially for special-teamers, but I would guess that the 53-man roster has a pretty standard number of spots set aside for each position. Do you know what the typical breakdown would be for a Patriots roster? I'm particularly interested in the large number of linebackers and seemingly endless number of cornerbacks currently on the team. I'd also love to see Junior Seau and\or Ty Law back in the red, white, and blue for one more season. But I wonder if we have to choose between the proven, talented, and experienced veterans that could be crucial to making a championship run this year and the unproven young talent that we need to develop in order to remain contenders in coming years?
A: Probably the best way to do it, Robert, is to list the breakdown in positions that the Patriots had entering the 2007 season. I think you hit on the challenge for any team -- how to balance the older players against the younger up-and-comers while also accounting for the inevitable injuries that hit. Obviously this roster snapshot changed over the course of the season, but here was what the Patriots had on their initial 53-man roster entering last season:
Quarterback - 3
Running back - 4
Wide receiver - 6
Tight end - 3
Offensive line - 9
Defensive line - 6
Inside linebacker - 5
Outside linebacker - 3
Cornerback - 5
Safety - 6
Punter/kicker/snapper -- 3
Hi Mike, with the addition of linebackers such as Victor Hobson, Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, Bo Ruud, Gary Guyton, and Vince Redd, do you feel this will improve the pass rush enough to offset what may be a mediocre secondary? Or do you feel the secondary will be successful because they have good talent there?
Jim, Seminole, Fla.
A: In theory, Jim, the pass rush should be improved. So, too, should the speed of defensive backs in the multiple-defensive back packages. I do think any time you lose an Asante Samuel, it's a tough blow, but something tells me that Fernando Bryant is going to come in and surprise some people. He's started 109 games in the NFL, production that should not be overlooked. So to answer the question, I think the Patriots defense will be just as strong as it was in 2007, yet with different strengths and weaknesses.
I haven't seen Matthew Slater play in college and I don't know his height and weight. But his build reminds me a little of Kevin Faulk's. And I remember you previously stating that the Pats will need to find a replacement for Faulk at some point. I'm wondering if the Pats were thinking Slater could potentially be that guy, along with a special-teams player, of course. He seems to be able to play all over the place as it is. So that thought crossed my mind.
Ben, San Francisco
A: It's an interesting thought, Ben, and Slater (6-0, 198) could potentially get a carry or two on reverse plays, but I don't see him as a third-down type of back. I think the biggest issue would come in pass protection, an area in which Faulk is especially proficient. Slater really has no background in that area, and I think it would be a tough transition for him.
I attended Liberty University this past year and was able to watch Patriots rookie free agent Vince Redd play in person a half dozen times. Vince is 6-6 and has a history in basketball. What are the chances that he makes the roster as a special-teamer or even a coverage linebacker if the team were to go to a rotation like they did last year?
Colby, Orlando, Fla.
A: Colby, looking at Redd it's hard not to be impressed with his physical stature. He also seems to move pretty well. He's obviously a longer shot to earn a roster spot, but it appears he has some legitimate tools with which to work. As long as he shows the ability to retain information and work hard, I would think he's a likely practice squad candidate. Still, he's not a bad pick if you're looking for the next Randall Gay (2004), Mike Wright (2005), or Pierre Woods (2006) -- rookie free agents to make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Not to go overboard, but I like this rookie free-agent class as a whole, and Redd is one reason why.
I was curious about one of the undrafted free agents in camp this past weekend. It's Gary Guyton, the linebacker from Georgia Tech. Any chance the Pats would consider switching this guy to safety? He was one of the fastest players timed, with a 4.33 40-yard dash. And at 6-foot-1.5 inches tall and weighing 244 pounds he appears to be pretty athletic. One service had him as the sixth-rated OLB in the entire draft. I'm intrigued, and wonder what your opinions of this player are. Thank you.
A: Dave, I spent considerable time speaking with Guyton, and I was very impressed with his enthusiasm and desire. He easily could have been drafted, and he's another reason why I like this rookie free-agent class. I don't see him moving to safety, however, because my sense is that he is actually more of a downhill type of player who might not be best suited to moving laterally. I saw him working at both strong-side inside linebacker and outside linebacker in rookie camp, both of which are more downhill type of positions.
What are the chances of the Patriots signing Ty Law?
Barney, South Boston
A: Barney, I'd say the chances of Ty Law coming back to New England are growing slimmer by the day. Seems to me that what he's looking for, and what the Patriots are offering, are not aligned at this time. Also, the Patriots drafted two corners, so their depth chart is actually more stocked now than when they first spoke with Law. Perhaps that could change if there is an injury in training camp, but there is nothing stopping Law from signing now. Just a hunch, but I wouldn't be surprised if Law ended up in Cleveland.
Hey Mike, any chance the Pats might make a move for Jeremy Shockey now that the draft is over and they are still thin at tight end and have an extra second-rounder next year (especially considering the emphasis the team seems to place on the position)? I think the concerns about his attitude are legitimate. But BB seems to have had positive effects on players that are deemed malcontents elsewhere but have a strong desire to win. If not Shockey, are there any other veteran TEs available that the Pats might target?
A: I don't see the Patriots making a move for Shockey, Jeff. If anything, I think the club will be looking for more of a blocking tight end, and I see Shockey more as a pass-catcher than a blocking presence at the line of scrimmage. I don't see any immediate help on the horizon at tight end.
Do you see any veterans at the LB or CB position who might be cap casualties prior to the June 1 deadline who might be interested in signing with the Pats?
Ben, Tampa, Fla.
A: Ben, because of the increase of the salary cap the last few years, I don't see many teams shedding players to create space. So there shouldn't be a big market of players coming available in this category. One team to keep an eye on is the Raiders, as they are tight to the cap. But I can't think of any specific names that stand out.
I still see a need for interior linemen. What is your take on this, and are the reserves they have now good enough to get them through next year until they can replenish through either the draft or free agency?
A: Rob, when I look at the interior of the Patriots' offensive line, there are guards Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal, Russ Hochstein, and Billy Yates. Dan Koppen mans the center spot, with Hochstein and Yates the backups. Dan Connolly is also a developmental prospect to keep in mind. I think the team could probably use another player there, which might mean a call to the Gene Mruczkowski Annual Patriots Hotline in the coming weeks.
Is Brandon Meriweather going to be the starting free safety? I noticed you didn't put him in as part of the starting corners in your blog.
Richard, Los Gatos, Calif.
A: In a base defense, Richard, I'd put Meriweather at safety. My feeling is that he is more comfortable and better suited for that spot. Yet in sub defenses, which include five and six defensive backs, I do think he's capable of playing corner, probably the "Star" position in the slot.
Mike, I'm wondering if there's been anything this off-season about Chad Jackson. Any indication that he'll be challenging Gaffney for playing time as the third receiver? Or, conversely, are there any signs that the coaching staff isn't happy with him? I'm curious if his lack of production is a result of missing so much time and so many practices due to injury, or if he's just a run-of-the-mill bust.
A: Jackson is always in impressive physical shape, MarkZ, but I think his situation is less about physical condition at this point and more about what he does on the field. Passing camps and training camp will tell the story, so I wouldn't read into too much at this point. It goes without saying this is a huge year for Jackson. Coaches and scouts generally say it takes three years to judge a draft. This being Jackson's third year, if it doesn't happen for him at this point I think it's fair to say he's a disappointment. I've personally given him a longer leash in terms of not attaching the bust label to him, but by year three I think it's put-up or shut-up time for any player drafted as high as Jackson.
Will the Patriots get Roosevelt Colvin back in the lineup, as I think he is very important to the team? And what is going on with Troy Brown? I think the Pats need to let him retire when he is ready, but he has earned the right to stay with the Patriots as long as he wants.
Paula, West Virginia
A: I don't think Colvin will be back, Paula. He is recovering from a foot injury and is probably still not at the point where he can pass a physical, and I just don't see him coming back at the type of deal he's likely going to sign -- for around the minimum. The Colts expressed some level of interest, and I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up there. As for Troy Brown, the Patriots told him there is always a place for him in the organization, and I think that is true. There just isn't a place for him on the football team right now, and I think Troy is wrestling with whether to try to play elsewhere.
Given that the Patriots have two second-round draft picks next year, do you think a deal can be worked out for Jason Taylor?
A: Rob, there were quite a few questions on Jason Taylor in the last few weeks. I don't think the Dolphins will trade Taylor to a division rival, so I believe this scenario is a non-starter.
Do you see that last season's "loading up" of major free agents for the Patriots will be the last time we see that kind of spending by Bob Kraft in quite a while due to financial constraints and cap space? Seems the Pats have been very quiet this year and not going out and getting the two to three more impact players to put the team over the top. Cheers!
A: The way I would characterize it, Larry, is that I don't see the Patriots signing another Adalius Thomas in the coming years because I think that money will be going to players already on the roster, like Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady. What made 2007 stand out to me is that the big money went to players from other teams. This year, for example, the big money went to Ty Warren (contract extension during the 2007 season) and Randy Moss. It makes sense to me to devote that money to players you know, on your team, instead of those on other clubs. So just because the Patriots didn't sign players from other teams to big-bucks contracts this year, I don't see that as failing to load up.
I read in an interview that Ellis Hobbs always listens to Phil Collins before each game to get himself pumped up. Do you think this might be why he struggled so much last year?
A: You really showed your "True Colors" with this e-mail. While Hobbs was surely saying "Take Me Home" after the Super Bowl XLII loss -- and being left out on an island against Plaxico Burress -- I don't think he struggled as bad as this question makes it seem. I still think there is a "Long Long Way to Go" in Hobbs's career, and that he's a starting-caliber cornerback. I think he gets a bad rap here, right there with one of my old-school favorites, Phil Collins.
I have a question about Drew Bledsoe. I was wondering if you think the Pats are ever going to retire his number? I know that he never won a Super Bowl for us, but I do believe that he was a big part of the Pats' success and a huge reason for where this franchise is today. Your thoughts?
Mike, Pflugerville, Texas
A: Mike, I have no doubt the Patriots will honor Bledsoe appropriately, and wouldn't be surprised if it happens in 2008 or 2009. A big part of stuff like that is making sure the player is indeed retired. In Bledsoe's case, it looks like he's taken that road and isn't turning back. To start, I expect him to have a prominent place in the team's new Hall of Fame. Then, I figure, they'll bring him back for a game. As for retiring his number, I think those days are over. You just can't retire numbers any more, because you need them for players on the roster. The NFL is encouraging teams to find other ways to honor players from the past, like a "Ring of Honor," and Bledsoe would surely be part of that.
Mike, could you give us an idea of what's going on in the off-season workouts so far? Who's participating, who's not around, typical attendance, schedule, rookie integration, etc.?
Tony Merlino, Mansfield
A: I don't have an official attendance, Tony, and the Patriots make it a point not to provide that. My understanding is that players usually work out four days a week, with a day off usually on Wednesday. The rookies will return later this month to join parts of the program. For a little insight, here is a comment from veteran cornerback Fernando Bryant about his experience in the program: "The off-season program is one of the best I've ever seen, because it's not generic. Some teams might have a program where everybody does the same thing; everybody is going to bench on this day, run on this day, things like that. Everything here, the first couple weeks, is generic, but then it gets to the point where everything is based on your position -- what you need in your backpedal, if you're a wide receiver it's what you need in your cuts, offensive linemen it's what you need in your pass protection. Everything is based upon you getting better on the field as a football player. Most programs it's based on you getting completely stronger. That's not what this is really based on, and that alone, you have an upper hand on people. The things we're going over now, in my nine years in the league, haven't been in other programs. That says a lot. They know how to win."
Hello Mike, is it a concern that Tom Brady has been jet-setting all over the world, or is it the drive by media making a big deal of it? Also the yearly question: Will the Pats be wearing throwbacks, and for which game?
Sean, Hazleton, Pa.
A: Sean, I haven't had a chance to talk with Brady to gauge whether it's a concern or not. I stated my opinion in the past -- I believe the off-season program is important because players like Brady himself have told me so. In turn, I think I'd be a hypocrite to say it didn't matter that he wasn't there. What is hard for me to gauge is how often he has been there, so this is a tough question to answer at this time. From a perception standpoint, I'd say it doesn't look good. As for the throwbacks, I think we'll see the third "silver" jersey in 2008, and the Pat Patriot throwbacks in 2009 for the franchise's 50th anniversary.