Fans have personnel concerns about LB, RB, QB
A lot of varied thoughts among Patriots fans this week. Some of the main thoughts are personnel-based, as it seems many fans have taken a step back and are analyzing the team's roster.
The main theme I picked up was that linebacker, running back, and quarterback are positions that concern Patriots' followers from a depth perspective.
Do you think the Patriots will bring back Junior Seau for one more year?
Dave Nelson, Massachusetts
A: I have been surprised at the volume of e-mails asking this question. Seau seems to have created a lot of interest among the Patriots' fan base, and part of that might be due to the team's depth situation at linebacker. Seau's locker is intact at Gillette Stadium, so I take that as a sign that he is not forgotten. But at the same time, the Patriots had left Roman Phifer's intact a few years ago, and he never did return. As for my opinion, if Seau is healthy and willing to come back and fit into the Patriots' plans, I do think he'll be back.
What's on the free-agent market as far as middle linebackers and running backs? I remember the Pats were looking at guys like Jamie Sharper last year. Any vets that the Pats might be looking at to add some depth? I'm also concerned about what might happen if Laurence Maroney goes down. Does Corey Dillon not want to play any more?
Josh Theberge, Hermosa Beach, Calif.
A: At this point, the free-agent market is combed over pretty good at all positions. Some of the inside linebackers available are Dhani Jones (Eagles), Junior Seau (Patriots), Keith Adams (Dolphins), Chad Brown (Steelers), Rocky Calmus (Colts), Chris Clairborne (Giants), Dexter Coakley (Rams), Barrett Green (Giants), Isaiah Kacyvenski (Rams), Wesly Mallard (Buccaneers), Shelton Quarles (Buccaneers) and Ike Reese (Falcons). All are at different points in their careers. A player like former Harvard standout Kacyvenski might fit because he would add immediate impact on special teams. As for running backs, Chris Brown is one of the top players available. Former Patriot Antowain Smith is also a free agent, as are Duce Staley and Kevin Barlow. As for Dillon, as he stated in February, he does not plan on playing right now. That could change, but as of now, he has no interest.
I understand that we got Sammy Morris but I don't believe he's going to be the player that can help out Laurence Maroney in the running game. I believe we need someone who can run hard. I wanted us to draft Michael Bush, but it didn't happen.
Jeffrey Picanco, Peabody
A: The Patriots have had some preliminary discussions with representatives for free-agent running back Chris Brown. As of earlier this week, Brown's situation was in a holding pattern. I think the Patriots would be smart to add a player like Brown, as it would be somewhat similar to the punting situation. Maroney is recovering from offseason surgery, and a player like Brown would add veteran insurance. When healthy himself, Brown has been productive in the past. Morris might surprise you, though, as he can play on early downs.
I was watching one of the NESN video clips and one of the commentators made a very valid point that it seems to me that no one has considered. He stated that the Patriots have backup for 52 players but not for Tom Brady. I'm sorry but I would have more confidence in the aging veteran Vinny Testaverde than Matt Cassel. I hope and pray that the Patriots get a veteran QB before the season starts to back up Tom. It would just be the irony of the century for the Patriots to get Tom Brady the fantastic weapons on offense, only for him to get injured and ruin our season. Any thoughts?
Patrick Flanagan, Milton, Vt.
A: My thoughts are that there probably isn't a veteran quarterback available who is better than Cassel right now. I don't think anyone has seen enough of Cassel to know if he could step in for Brady, but based on the work ethic and confidence I've seen from him, I wouldn't be surprised if he emerges in a Matt Schaub type of way. Schaub was the Falcons' backup and shined in limited opportunity in the preseason, thus making him a valuable player in the trade market. If you gave me the choice between Testaverde and Cassel right now, I'd take Cassel.
It seems many folks think Brandon Meriweather will be groomed as the next Rodney Harrison. But it looks as if he's really a free safety who can hit. More accurately, I think his selection may be in preparation for the possible loss of Eugene Wilson following next season. Productive when healthy, he's as oft injured as Daniel Graham has been. It sounds like Meriweather will be able to contribute right away and so their four best DBs figure to be Harrison, Meriwether, Samuel and Wilson. Is it finally time for us to see Wilson at CB? Though hampered by hamstrings, CB is surely less taxing on the body than FS. And I think Hobbs in the slot/nickel is probably where he belongs anyway. Your thoughts?
Johnny Boston, Washington, DC
A: Agree completely on Meriweather's projection as more of a free safety than in-the-box safety. Part of his appeal to the Patriots was his coverage ability. So I see Meriweather, at the very least, being involved in substitution packages. I also like the idea of moving Wilson to cornerback on a more permanent basis. Wilson's contract does expire after 2007, and while he's been injured at times, he has started 49 games over four seasons. That's good production. One scout agrees with your assessment that Hobbs is the best fit in the nickel role, but I'm not so sure about that. I think he's competitive on the outside and figure that is a good competition that will play out in training camp.
My question is in regards to the salary cap. Right now, we have seven receivers that could potentially make the team (including Troy Brown), yet the Samuel deal is not finalized yet. What does our cap number look like and how does the Samuel situation affect it?
Eric, Washington, DC
A: I don't have an exact cap number, but the Patriots won't be handcuffed in any way regarding Samuel. As most teams would, they have factored in the $7.79 million tender offer to Samuel into their calculations as they have made their offseason moves. And if Samuel signs a long-term deal, chances are good his cap number will be less than $7.79 million, so that could potentially create more space.
With Todd Sauerbrun leaving, are we short at punter? I haven't heard what's going on with Josh Miller, and I know we have a couple guys in NFL Europa but Miller was a stud up until he got hurt. What about this situation?
Todd Nagy, Lee Vining, Calif.
A: I would evaluate the punter situation this way: Miller is on the road back from offseason shoulder surgery and the Patriots were covering themselves with Sauerbrun. Now that Sauerbrun wiggled free and is with the Broncos, the Patriots don't have a veteran safety net if Miller, who is 36, experiences any setbacks. Danny Baugher and Tom Malone are punting in NFL Europa and will challenge for the job, but Miller is naturally the favorite. Had Maryland's Adam Podlesh been available when the Patriots picked in the fourth round, I wonder if they would have selected him. I believe they liked Podlesh the best among the crop of punters in the draft.
I was wondering if the Pats would consider trading both first-round picks next year to Chicago for Lance Briggs? I know we are old at linebacker and was wondering if the Pats would have cap room if we traded for him.
A: I don't think the Patriots would make that deal, especially not knowing where the 49ers' first-round pick might be. That could be an especially valuable pick if the 49ers falter a bit. Also, I think it's important that a team adds first-round talent to its roster each season, from a youth and production standpoint, as well as a salary standpoint. Those rookie contracts keep a team's cap situation healthy. So based on those factors, and not even considering the salary cap ramifications of signing Briggs, I don't think the Patriots would make this trade.
It seems that the Pats need to gear their team to beating the Colts. Towards that end, I am in favor of keeping the two picks and drafting Jon Beason and Brandon Meriweather. What are your thoughts?
Corey Ramsey, San Diego
A: Wanted to give you a tip of the cap, Corey, as this e-mail came in before the draft. You called Meriweather. Nicely done. I really liked Beason, but he went 25th and the Patriots wouldn't have had a chance to select him. If the Patriots took Beason at 24, I think the Eagles would have taken Meriweather at 26.
A couple of things: First, I do not see Asante Samuel as a top-tier cornerback. He is a good one and does go for interceptions, but $8 million-$10 million a year could be spent better. Second, should the team be looking at Kevin Faulk's future replacement? That seems like an important role and Faulk isn't getting any younger.
John W. Graham, Albemarle, N.C.
A: When it comes to Samuel, I look at his value in terms of bonus and guaranteed money more than salary per year. At this time, I think a fair deal for Samuel, based on the current market, would pay him $14 million-$16 million in bonuses and guarantees. That is right around the figure Dre' Bly received from the Broncos. As for Faulk's future replacement, I think that's part of the value that Sammy Morris brings to this offense. I remember in the AFC Championship game that when Faulk was injured in the second half, the Patriots turned to Heath Evans in their third-down package. This year, that player would be Morris, who is strong enough to play on first and second down, but shifty and sure-handed enough to also play on third down.
Where is Marquise Hill on the depth chart? Is it possible the Patriots will cut him? We never hear anything about him. Isn't this Ty Warren's contract year? Could he fit into Ty's position if we can't re-sign him?
Sean Gildea, Quincy
A: Hill has played in only 10 games since being selected with the final pick of the second round in 2004. Based on his lack of emergence to this point, it is entirely possible he could be cut. Of the 10 defensive linemen currently on the roster, Hill would be sixth or seventh -- behind Ty Warren, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Jarvis Green and Mike Wright. So that puts him in a group competing with Le Kevin Smith (2006 sixth-round pick), Kareem Brown (2007 fourth-round pick), Santonio Thomas (2006 practice squad player), and Zach West (2007 rookie free agent). From a pure positional standpoint, he'd be a backup end, behind Warren, Seymour, Green, and Wright. From the Patriots' standpoint, I think they see an athletic 6-foot-6, 300-pound player, and those guys are hard to find. That's probably why he's stuck around despite his limited production.
The only thing I haven't heard about Randy Moss as a Patriot is what number will he wear? He wore 18 as a Raider and 84 as a Viking. These are both spoken for on the Pats. Any idea?
Marc Ricard, Taunton
A: Moss will apparently finalize his number choice when he arrives in town. Nothing is official at this point, but I know the folks at the Patriots' Pro Shop, who have already received requests from fans seeking Moss jerseys, probably wouldn't mind seeing the process sped up a bit.
All right, dumb question but I was curious where the rookies sit in the locker room. Are they in the main one with the vets? Do the higher picks get better spots? Do the Pats provide the rookies with any kind of written "life with the Pats/NFL" orientation guide and what's in it?
A: I don't think it's a dumb question at all, Mike. Most of the rookies have temporary lockers in the middle of the main locker room. Occasionally, some of the rookies get permanent lockers that aren't in the middle of the room. The Patriots have an extensive orientation program for all their rookies.
What is the status of Rodney Harrison? When will he be ready for the season? If he is not ready for the season who do they move to safety?
Arliss Wilson, New Brunswick, Canada
A: Harrison touched on his rehab over draft weekend, saying: "I'm doing well, working hard, staying to the routine that I've done the last 13 years. I feel a lot better. It's not bothering me at all. I'm pushing my body, doing different things, and it's gone as good as it could go so far." I think Harrison will be ready for the season. If he wasn't, I would think James Sanders would step in there.
Now that Drew Bledsoe has retired, is it possible that he could return to the Patriots as a quarterback coach? It seems like it would be a great fit. Brady likes and trusts him and Bledsoe knows the Pats system inside out.
Ed Morse, Brattleboro, Vt.
A: Hi Ed, I don't think Bledsoe is interested in coaching, and I'm also not sure the Brady-Bledsoe relationship is exactly as described. Assuming Bledsoe was interested in coaching, I think it would be hard for him to come back to a place where he lost his job, and then coach the player he lost it to.
If Randall Gay cannot sign with another team, and the Pats want him in camp, why has no new contract been signed yet? Also, is Troy Brown ready to go yet?
Bryant Hopkins, Milford
A: The signing of Gay is a formality at this point. He is working out after signing a waiver to protect himself. It's just a matter of when the sides want to put in the paperwork. I don't think Troy Brown is ready to go at this point.