This edition of the mailbag has a wide variety of topics, from questions related to the seemingly never-ending labor battle between NFL owners and players, to Tom Brady’s potential replacement.
They are all great questions, and I look forward to seeing what is on your mind in the days and weeks ahead. At this point, all we know for sure is that there will be a draft from April 28 to 30. Before and after then? Who knows …?
When is it time for the Pats to draft a replacement for Tom Brady? And when they, do you see them going for the mobile, scrambling quarterback? Is Brian Hoyer a capable backup to Brady? Is there anyone better out there to replace him?
Zack, London, U.K.
Zack, I’m going to give you a Belichickian answer here: the Patriots are always looking to improve, at every position. Hoyer works very hard and is well-regarded within the team. However, if the Pats think they could draft someone this year as a potential Brady successor, they would do it, and perhaps that would allow them to trade Hoyer. After all, on teams where there’s a shaky starter, few guys are more popular than a backup who is seen as having potential, whether he’s on that team’s roster or another’s. It was just a couple of years ago that they used a third-round pick on Kevin O’Connell; that pick didn’t work out, but they found Brady in the sixth round, so their future QB could be anywhere.
I recall reading somewhere that players … only receive $5,000 per exhibition game. Is that correct? If so, then the owners are getting full ticket prices for practice games and some TV money for them all while paying token salaries. Why the big push to make those games regular games, when the expenses for them are quite low?
That’s a great question, Davmac, and the truth is that players actually made far less than $5,000. According to the now-expired collective bargaining agreement, veteran players received $200 for each preseason game and rookies didn’t receive a dime. During training camp, vets got a stipend of $1,225 and rookies an $825 stipend. So by charging full price for tickets to preseason games – and nearly all of those tickets in Foxborough were sold even if all of the seats weren’t filled, though that isn’t the case in every city – owners were making far more money for those games.
But the league and teams make the bulk of their money through television deals, and logic holds that tacking on two more regular season games means they can demand even more money in future television deals.
Do you think it is ethical for the Patriots to require all of their season ticket holders to pay in advance for the 2011 season when there is an owner-imposed lockout occurring? I for one do not.
It is quite the conundrum, Ray, to be sure: renewal notices must be returned paid by March 31, and currently the first court date concerning the lockout is April 6. But if ticket holders do not renew by the end of this month, they’ll likely lose their season tickets. I’m not an expert in business ethics, and I very much understand being bothered by committing so much money to something that’s so unsettled at the moment, but I do think making that payment could be a show of good faith – at this point, both the owners and players are saying there will be football in 2011, so sending that payment is a sign that one believes that will happen. And don’t forget one other business tenet, supply and demand: if a few angry season ticket holders relinquish their tickets because of this labor mess, someone will certainly step up to acquire them.
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With Stephen Neal retiring, could Oakland’s Robert Gallery fill the void? Are the Patriots interested in Gallery and his defensive teammate Nnamdi Asomugha?
Larry, East Boston
Gallery has been very good for Oakland since he was moved to left guard, but he’s never played right guard. That might be a minor issue given the success Patriots’ offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has had in getting the most out of his players. The bigger issue might be pay: according to an Oakland Tribune story earlier this month on the Raiders’ and Gallery’s agreement that they would part ways, the team was willing to pay the 30-year old $2.5 million a year – and he was asking for $8 million.
As for Asomugha, he’s likely too expensive. He made $28.5 million over the last two seasons and is still regarded as one of the very best at his position. While it never hurts to have great players, the Patriots do have a rising star at corner in Devin McCourty, and Leigh Bodden is expected to be back at full strength after missing all of last season with a rotator cuff injury.
And since you brought up Neal, I’d love to take the chance to stress what a tremendous athletic career he enjoyed — here is a man who was the best amateur wrestler in the world and then became a starter on an NFL offensive line, without having played a down of college football. It is quite a story.
Now that there is a lockout, are there any Patriots players that you know of who would stay in the area and work out? Or is there a lack of suitable facilities in the area?
Jerod Mayo and Rob Ninkovich joked at a charity event earlier this month that they planned to use the Bowflex and treadmill in Mayo’s Foxborough-area basement, JB, but I don’t know how many of their teammates feel the same way. Devin McCourty and his twin brother Jason have been working out at their alma mater, Rutgers, while Kevin Faulk said that he’ll be forced to move his rehab to Louisiana because of the lockout. I suspect many of the younger players especially will return to their college programs, but ultimately they are on their own to find a regiment and stick to it until the lockout ends.
Any chance that the Pats go after Randy Moss again? After all, he expressed his allegiance to the organization. Everyone loves him (I think). I know he can be had for a decent price. He knows his role and spreads out the offense. Please don’t compare him to Deion Branch!
Dino De Simone, Montreal, Quebec
I was told at the Combine that Moss won’t be back in New England, Dino. He likely wouldn’t cost much, you’re right, but I think there are just too many issues for him to return. Moss’ relationship with Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was shaky at the time Moss was traded, and I was told that Brady gave a thumbs-up to the deal. All that said, the Patriots do need someone who can stretch the field; it just isn’t Moss.
I think the Patriots are a young and talented team, and they have a ton of draft picks. I don’t think they need to dip too heavily into free agents this year, and that they can get value in the draft. That being said, I’d love to see the Patriots go full-court press to try and get Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. Any chance of this happening?
Scott E., Randolph
At the moment, the chances would appear very slim, Scott. Fitzgerald’s contract – which runs through 2011 – prevents Arizona from trading him or using the franchise/transition tags. Fitzgerald and the Cardinals began talking about a new deal before the lockout began, and at an appearance in New York City last week the receiver said he’s “absolutely” hopeful that he and the team will come to terms on a new deal..
Any word on Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams? I believe he is about to become a free agent. Doesn’t he seem like a perfect fit, depending on contract demands, for the Pats? I know he had a down year last year, but so did just about everyone on the Panthers. In my opinion, he could have a couple of huge years with opposing teams focused on the Pats’ passing game.
A report out of the recent Combine said that the Panthers were interested in keeping Williams around, Bill. Obviously any contracts and player movement are on hold during the lockout, but here’s a name to mull over: Willis McGahee. The Ravens aren’t going to bring McGahee back, and though he is now 29, because of the emergence of Ray Rice, he’s had just 209 carries over the last two seasons. If you’re looking to add a veteran back, he could be a consideration for the Pats.
Could you shed some additional reading between the lines regarding the Marcus Stroud signing? Is this any reflection on either Ty Warren or Gerard Warren? Mike Wright’s health? Does this in any way reflect the coaching staff’s feelings regarding Brandon Deaderick? Or are we reading too much into it and everyone will be in camp (if there is a camp) and the coaches will let the chips fall where they may regarding who deserves to be on the 53 man roster? Watching Stroud play a couple of times last year, he was not as effective as I remember him from the Jaguars. I wonder if that was father time, injury or lack of interest in a lost season?
Ronk, Providence R.I.
When it comes to Stroud, Ronk, I see it as a typical Patriots free-agent signing: low risk with potentially high reward. A longtime personnel man who knows Stroud told me he expects him to come to New England with a chip on his shoulder after being released by the Bills, and he’ll be in great shape. If he’s given the right role, he could excel: the veteran struggled with his conversion to 3-4 defensive end when Buffalo made a scheme switch, though Stroud welcomed the challenge. He excelled as a tackle on a 4-3 line, and we’ve seen the Patriots use a four-man (or even two-man) sub package on numerous occasions. Maybe that will be his niche with New England. And at the very least, all accounts are that he’s a tremendous locker room and character addition.
As for Wright, several reports are that he’ll be ready to go for 2011. Ty Warren is rehabbing in Texas, and Gerard Warren is a free agent and it’s unclear right now whether he’ll be back.