Will Vince Wilfork show up for minicamp? Wilfork's contract, as well as that of Logan Mankins, are hot topics this week
The Patriots will be busy this week, with an organized team activity on Tuesday and then their mandatory minicamp Wednesday-Friday.
It looks like some positive momentum has been generated up to this point and the idea is to cap it off right. I expect to see some crisp practices this week at Gillette Stadium.
My prediction is also that Vince Wilfork will show up for the mandatory minicamp, primarily because he could be at risk of losing $500,000 if he doesn't. If that $500,000 wasn't a factor, I think he would stay away in a continuing statement of displeasure with his contract situation.
Let's get right to the questions ...
Mike, aren't the Patriots in a cap situation where they can't do anything with Vince Wilfork without cutting or modifying existing contracts? That last I saw was that the Patriots had a little over $4 million in cap space with the draft picks yet to be signed. How can they give him a deal now? Given the CBA is about to be re-negotiated, why would you commit long-term to anyone without some idea as to what this CBA will contain? The Patriots might have been smart to have all those contracts expire after next season.
A: Rick, the Patriots are a bit tight to the cap, so they would have to create some space to sign an extension with Wilfork. Such bookkeeping measures are fairly common, though, and I don't think that would be the major hurdle. I'd also point out that the Patriots are tight to the cap in part because of their own doing from signing all the players they did this offseason, which I think is important context to add to the situation. As for the CBA, I think that is a minor factor with Wilfork, but I wouldn't go farther than that. I look around the NFL and see other teams extending players --San Francisco just signed offensive tackle Joe Staley through 2017 -- so I think it's a bit misleading to point to the uncertain labor situation as the main reason not to sign a player to an extension. I believe the Patriots would sign Wilfork to a deal through 2017 if he agreed to the terms they drew up. In the end, I think it comes down to finding a middle ground or a short-term compromise.
Hey Mike, after listening to both Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins talk about their contracts I kind of have mixed feelings. I would hope the Patriots take care of both players but I don't know if that is do-able. What is your gut feeling on both Mankins and Wilfork? Will they get contracts before the season?
A: Curtis, I'd say no on Mankins. This is one example where I think the uncertain labor situation is a major factor. Because Mankins will have five accrued seasons, he would be an unrestricted free agent in a capped season, but a restricted free agent in an uncapped season (players would need six accrued seasons). Because of this, I think the smart course of action from the team side is to wait to negotiate any extension. As for Wilfork, my hunch is no. I think he will receive some type of short-term incentive (e.g. no franchise tag in 2010) to return under his current contract.
Mike, if the contract situation between Wilfork and the Patriots completely breaks down, akin to the Deion Branch scenario, and the Pats go to the market with Wilfork, what would he be worth on the market? What would be fair value?
John from Manchester, N.H.
A: John, I think Wilfork could land $10 million per season on the open market. That's why I currently say a contract in the $8 million per season range seems like a fair deal, when Wilfork has one year left on his contract (this would be similar to defensive tackle Tommie Harris's deal with the Bears). With 12 teams running the 3-4 defense, or some variation of it, there likely wouldn't be a shortage of suitors for Wilfork on the open market.
Hi Mike, my question revolves around the running backs. Can you explain what the differences (running styles, blitz pickup, pass catching etc.) are between Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor? They seem to be the same type of runner to me. Also, what are your thoughts on the signing of Patrick Pass? If the assumption is to add depth, then one must believe he makes the team.
Nick Marotta, Montreal, Quebec
A: Nick, I see Morris and Taylor as different in this regard: Taylor is more of a breakaway threat with more big-play explosiveness. Morris, to me, is an efficient runner who is also more likely to run over someone (Heath Evans used to call him "Sammy the Bull"). In terms of blitz pickup and pass-catching, I'm not sure how to compare them. As for Patrick Pass, I don't see him on the final 53-man roster at this time.
Mike, I am totally confused with the Patrick Pass signing. I don't get it. Why we would bring Pass back to the Patriots at this stage of his career having played sparingly in the past few seasons. Surely there are better free agent full backs available. Can you shed some light on this one?
Marty, Toronto, Ontario
A: Marty, I'll be interested to see what Pass has to offer in practices and to hear what Bill Belichick has to say about this signing. My initial thought is that the team didn't draft a running back, and they must have not seen the necessary progress from rookie free agent Omar Cuff, or felt he was having trouble processing their system. With Sammy Morris not practicing at this point, they were a little short on numbers at the position. I'd be surprised if Pass is on the club when the 53-man roster is formed.
Hey Mike, just wanted to inquire about Paris Lenon, the linebacker from Detroit we picked up. He seems to be on the backburner in many of the fans' minds probably because he came from the Lions, but any time you pick up a team leader in tackles, it can't be a bad thing right? I thought at first he would be 4th on the depth chart at ILB, but if he is able to bulk back up to 250 pounds or so could we see him ahead of Gary Guyton and Tedy Bruschi by the start of the season?
A: Benny, I think sometimes the tackles stat can be misleading, especially on bad teams because the defense can be on the field for so long. I think Lenon has a good chance to make the club, but I think it would be an upset if he is playing ahead of Bruschi and Guyton. I see his primary contributions coming on special teams and as a backup.
Do you think Sebastian Vollmer is a lock?
Buz, Gilbert Ariz.
A: Buz, I would mark Vollmer down in pen on the final 53-man roster. I don't see any way the Patriots cut ties with the 58th overall selection of the draft. Vollmer, who one scouting preview said was solely a right tackle, has been working on the left side in recent practices.
With all of the tight ends on the roster, how many do you see them keeping? Do you think any of them are locks to make the team? Is Alex Smith athletic enough to be used as a receiver in some situations?
A: At this time, three would be the number I'd lock in on, Dave. I see Chris Baker and Alex Smith as locks, with Benjamin Watson having the edge on David Thomas and Tyson DeVree for a third spot. It wouldn't shock me if they keep four, but they'd have to ask themselves the question: Do we want to carry one less at a different position, like running back, to do that? I do think Smith is athletic enough to be split out wide in more of a pass-catching role.
Don't you believe that Rodney should go to the Hall of Fame? I think that he should be there just for the way that he played the game. But the fact that he's the only player to have 30-plus sacks $ 30-plus interceptions in the history of the NFL should mean that he would at least merit consideration.
A: Martha, I am not a good judge of Hall of Fame credentials, so I generally defer to the veteran writers who have a richer history following the game. My first thought is that Harrison will fall short. I asked a few voters and included their thoughts in the Boston Globe Sunday football notes.
Mike, Greg Ellis, recently released from Cowboys -- a fit for the Pats? It would make sense, I would think ... or is he too old and too costly?
Brian, Greenville, S.C.
A: I haven't seen enough of Ellis to feel great about answering this one, Brian. At this point, the Patriots have not expressed any interest. I think they are happy to be working with the group they have right now.
Hi Mike, has a player been traded, then released by that team, then re-signed with the team that first traded him? I'm of course thinking about Vrabel and wondering if there might be some hope there of him coming back.
A: Leslie, the first example that came to mind was Jason Taylor in Miami. In terms of Vrabel, I don't see him coming back to the Patriots. I think that train has left the station and isn't coming back.
Mike, should we be concerned that neither Meriweather nor Mayo were present at either of the media-allowed OTA sessions thus far? Are you aware of any injury situation for either/both that may be affecting them & keeping them out of practice?
SF Patriot, San Francisco, Calif.
A: My feeling on this one is that you'd rather have the players out there, but it's too early for concern. If it's this way toward the end of training camp, then I might look at it differently. I am not aware of either player having an injury situation, but that's what I assume is holding them back. I saw Mayo at the team's Charitable Foundation golf tournament and he wasn't on crutches or anything like that. He appeared to be in good spirits, giving one reporter a hard time for showing up late.
No one talks about the loss of the offensive coordinator. What do you think of the new one? Will the Pats put up the same points without him? Will Bill and Brady call some of the plays?
Stanley Myslenski, Plainville Conn.
A: Stanley, I haven't had the chance to speak with Bill O'Brien much, but from afar, I'm impressed. He seems smart and appears to me a good teacher. My personal feeling is that the Patriots will miss Josh McDaniels, but O'Brien will do a fine job filling the void as a play-caller. I don't expect to see much of a difference in the long run, although there could be some short-term hiccups as one would expect with anyone in a new job.
Hi Mike, Rex Ryan was on WFAN today with Mike Francesa and he said "I didn't come here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." Can we expect more frosty handshakes next year?
A: I listened to that interview, Adam, and it struck me the wrong way. I thought it was a sign of disrespect. I understand what Ryan is trying to do â give his team a little swagger -- but I don't think it should come at the expense of common respect. Ryan is an entertaining quote, but I thought he took that one a little far for my liking given his resume, and that he's never been on the sidelines as a head coach. I would have been cool with something more along the lines of: "This is a tough job and winning three Super Bowl rings is a great accomplishment, but we don't fear anyone, including Bill Belichick."
Hey Mike, I was just wondering what your thoughts are concerning signing our players to contracts. I've noticed that a lot of teams are starting to sign their draft picks, and I know that the main focus has been on Wilfork's contract, so is that what's holding up the signing of our rookies? It seems like things are coming to a boil, I hope we can get all of them signed! Thanks for all your great work.
A: Manny, the Patriots generally wait until July to start signing their draft choices. Most of the contracts are slotted anyway, so they aren't overly challenging negotiations. Another factor with this is that teams can only have 80 players under contract at this time. The Patriots, however, have 88 players on their roster because their 12 draft picks remain unsigned, allowing them to carry the eight extras. Once they start signing their picks, some of those extra players will have to go.
The Patriots are known for being one of the best franchises in the NFL but recently they are one of nine teams to opt out of the coaches pension plan. How is that better for their employees? How will it affect then in hiring quality coaches in the future? Dante Scarnecchia is an older coach and one of the best, and I would hate to lose him over this. Why did they do it?
David, North Attleboro
A: David, I don't think it is better for their employees because the NFL pension plan was considered one of the best benefits. But as I understand it, after reading Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, the issue is pretty complex and deals directly with the stock market. As part of the NFL's pension plan, employees received a defined benefit, or a known amount. This defined benefit didn't account for fluctuations in the market, which made it difficult for owners to plan. So that's apparently what led to the switch.
My question is in regards to the Supplemental Draft. I was reading up on Jeremy Jarmon from Kentucky and they are saying he is a mid-round pick at best. I am assuming at worst is that he doesn't get drafted. In the event a player makes himself eligible for the supplemental draft and is not drafted, does that make him a free agent or must he wait until the following years draft to attempt to be drafted again or wait until another specific point in time to be signed as a free agent?
A: Mike, the player would become a free agent. One recent example is Chris Patrick, an offensive lineman from Nebraska. He was actually with the Patriots at one point after going undrafted in the supplemental pool.
Hi Mike, kind of an oddball question: When rookies or free agents show up to Gillette on their first day, how do they know where to go or who to see? It just makes me think of someone starting a new job. Usually on their first day a new employee is told to check in with the receptionist/HR person/department head/etc., and then they're given the standard introductions and tours. How does it work with the Patriots?
A: I can check on this, Dan, but I think most of these players are picked up from the airport by a team official, or they are staying in a hotel with their teammates and transported to the stadium by a team official. If I recall from hearing him talk about it, Bill Belichick might have made some airport runs when he was breaking into coaching with the Baltimore Colts. Usually, the driver is someone working his way up the ranks.
Mike, I am planning to short trip to Massachusetts and Connecticut this summer (July) and was wondering what date training camp starts.
Jean Kelly, Montreal, Canada
A: Safe travels Jean. There has been no official date announced at this time. The camp is likely to start in the last week of July or the first week of August.