Hopefully this posting finds all of you well, and enjoying summer with family and friends. The questions in this mailbag focus on three things: the Patriots’ pass rush, the NFL’s labor problems, and whether a certain receiver whom Pats fans have seen in their nightmares might fit here in New England.
With the labor talks looking positive, I’ll be taking this week and next week off, and hopefully when I return we’ll have real, actual football to talk about and not revenues and a rookie salary cap and other things most fans would rather not talk about.
Would there be any chance that the Patriots would be interested in Plaxico Burress? They’ve signed veteran receivers before.
Dan, Matawan, N.J.
That’s a question a lot of Patriots fans likely considered after Burress’ recent release from prison, Dan. And I apologize, but I don’t know if I have a definite answer on this one. My first thought is no: Burress is 33, will be 34 in August, and hasn’t played a game of NFL football since Nov. 23, 2008 and was suspended by the Steelers and Giants during his time with each for violating team rules.
But then I remember that this New England team is still coached by Bill Belichick, and he has surprised on many an occasion. At this point, all Burress wants is a chance (Corey Dillon and Randy Moss both worked for a couple of seasons, and after three years away, he’s fresher than any other player his age who has been playing while Burress was serving his sentence for weapons possession. One other note: Burress’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus, and the Pats have a very good relationship with Rosenhaus.
So maybe it’s possible, if Burress is willing to sign an incentive-laden deal that leaves the Pats with little to lose if he doesn’t pan out. Or maybe I’ve just had way too much time to think about this answer thanks to the lockout.
Who do you think has the greatest potential out of the young talent on the roster to step into the pass-rushing role?
Mike, East Haven, Conn. (submitted via Twitter)
The first player I thought of, Mike, isn’t a young guy, but he is fairly new to the Patriots’ roster: Eric Moore. We all remember Moore’s story: he was signed by New England in early December after playing with the UFL’s Florida franchise. As are many players signed that late in the season, Moore was considered a body, someone to help give depth but of whom little was expected. But he played in the Pats’ final four regular-season games, starting three, with a strip-sack of Chicago’s Jay Cutler in his debut. At 6-foot-4, 268 pounds, Moore has the size the Pats like at outside backer, and he fit in pretty quickly.
If you’re looking for someone a little younger, I’d say Jermaine Cunningham. He showed flashes last year but was stalled by injuries. We’ll see how a year of experience coupled with being healthy helps this year.
The salary cap is likely to be a big part of this new collective bargaining agreement, and I think a guy like Leigh Bodden could be a victim of [teams having to adhere to potentially smaller caps]. The Patriots are never early players in free agency (except when they signed Adalius Thomas in 2007). How do you see free agency working out and will they look at a pass rusher?
Paul, New Brunswick, Canada
From what I know, Paul – and as of this writing, there’s nothing concrete done with the new CBA – the salary cap won’t be going down much, if at all, from the $127 million it was in 2009 (remember the 2010 season was uncapped). If that remains the case, I’d think Bodden, whose base salary in 2011 is $3.9 million, is safe, even with the emergence of Devin McCourty last year and the team drafting Ras-I Dowling with the first pick in the second round.
As for free agency, it promises to have a wild, wild West-type feel because it will be a much shorter window for teams to get things done than usual. One name that’s become pretty popular as a potential Patriot: Matt Roth. Roth spent the last two years in Cleveland and will likely hit the open market with new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron moving the team to a 4-3 after the Browns were a 3-4 club under Eric Mangini. Roth was productive with the Browns – in 22 games, he recorded 7.5 sacks and website ProFootballFocus recently ranked him as one of the most effective edge rushers of the last three years.
Is the season back on track – what’s going on with labor talks? I haven’t been able to keep up with the NFL News lately and need clarity. Thanks.
Eric Johnson, Sacramento
As of this writing, nothing is set in stone, Eric, but reports point to things going in a positive direction. The two sides have held four sets of two-day, face-to-face meetings over the last month, with last week’s being held at Nantasket Beach Resort here in Hull, Mass., and they are also reportedly talking quite a bit outside of those meetings.
The major issue has been – and continues to be – how to divide the more than $9 billion in revenue the NFL is expected to generate for the coming season, a number that promises to only go up in the coming years. If the two sides can agree on just how to split up that ever-growing pot, everything else will fall into place after that. Not that “everything else” will be easy, mind you, but it should be a lot easier than figuring out how they’ll cut the pie to make both sides happy.
I’ve heard the number July 15 thrown out several times as the date when free agency could kick off and the league would really get rolling, but after speaking to a player representative last week, it sounds like that date is coming more from the league/owners’ side than the players’ side.
This lockout is going on too long. What are the money people doing to get the teams/owners back to work? The TV sponsors have a very large interest in the outcome. Have they said anything to get both sides to agree? From a retired regular working person I am disgusted with the greed of both sides. My opinion is that they are not listening to the fans that are paying to watch football and purchase the advertised products. A word to both sides: stop drooling over the extra money and get the situation resolved.
Bill Pacunas, South Dennis
I’d be willing to bet that you’re not the only football fan who feels this way, Bill. As I’ve watched all of this unfold over the last few months, I’ve seen everyone from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith to owners and players all mention “the fans” and how the fans are losing out and they have to get something done for the fans. Let me let you in on a little secret: in this case, the fans are nowhere near the top of the priority list. This lockout has been entirely about money, and who gets how much money, pure and simple.
On your point about money people, the problem is that the owners are the money people, and since this is a lockout, as opposed to a strike, they made the decision to halt league proceedings and keep players out of facilities. And as for TV, well, as Judge Doty revealed in his ruling against the NFL earlier this year, the owners knew they were going to lock players out and got some of their broadcast partners to agree to pay them even if there weren’t any games played in 2011.
(Recommended reading: this piece by National Football Post’s Andrew Brandt from a little over a week ago, which outlines why the owners opted out of the 2006 CBA so early – the reason was of course money, but Andrew clearly explains how things changed in the ’06 agreement vs. previous CBAs)