Mailbag: How to improve the roster?
This week's Patriots mailbag is primarily personnel-based, looking at various possibilities to improve the roster. It also looks back at last week's informal workouts at Boston College.
With little time to waste, let's get right to the questions.
Q: Hi Mike, do you think there is any chance the Pats will contact Plaxico Burress? He could be the Randy Moss-type receiver some believe the Pats need. And he could be motivated in the same way Corey Dillon was. I realize the Pats drafted heavy for the running game but Burress might be a cheap and very effective weapon, if only for a year. And, they could prevent him from going to the Dolphins or the Jets. -- Greg (Boca Raton, Fla.)
A: Greg, I'd be surprised if the Patriots sign Burress, but as the process plays out, I won't be surprised if the Patriots' name is attached to Burress in some form. Burress' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, does a great job generating interest in his clients, or at least creating the perception of interest. I just don't see the Patriots having interest in the total package that comes with Burress at this point -- a player two years removed from football, and one who comes with some significant off-field issues.
Q: Hi Mike, I was wondering if to bolster their receiving corps the Pats could go after Brad Smith as a versatile offensive player, slot receiver, and special teams player? Or do you think that the Pats are confident with their development of Taylor Price, Julian Edelman, and Brandon Tate. Or could they still sign him even if they like their young receivers? -- David (Storrs, Conn.)
A: David, I could see Smith as the type of target the Patriots would look toward in free agency, especially when considering his special-teams value. But I do think the team still believes in Price, Edelman and Tate as players who have more to offer. I think the team ultimately will invest in them over a free agent at the position.
Q: Mike, with all this talk about needing a deep threat receiver, I was wondering what Taylor Price's stats were? Can you look up his 40 time and height? He looked good in the Miami game and I think can make an impact after his red-shirt year. -- Leon (Kingston, Canada)
A: Leon, I wrote about Price during the Patriots' informal workouts. His ESPN.com draft profile is a good reference to look back at his testing numbers leading into the draft. Price ran a 4.41 in the 40. His height was measured at 6-foot-0 3/8.
Q: Hey Mike, do you think adding a wide receiver like Steve Smith or Chad Ochocinco will make this offense almost unstoppable, since they already revamped the running game in the draft and have tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski playing like they did last year? -- Jorge Garcia (Mexico City)
A: Jorge, I think you could put Smith or Ochocinco on any offense, and that unit will be upgraded. But one thought I had is that one of the big questions for this team will be what happens along the offensive line. We've seen plenty of examples over the years of teams with excellent skill-position players but who struggle up front and the result is that it paralyzes the offense. So, I think it's a bit too simplified to say one of those players -- Smith or Ochocinco -- is all the Patriots need to become an unstoppable offense.
Q: Hello Mike. Assuming there is free agency, where (position group) do you see the Patriots making additions? I only ask because it seems that for the most part the Pats trade lower draft [choices] for depth, but with the draft already taking place that may not be as advantageous. Second, it seems to me that there will be a series of cuts this year to veterans that either were hurt or under-achieved last year. Specifically, I could see such veterans as Ty Warren, Julian Edelman, Leigh Bodden, Brian Hoyer and Alge Crumpler getting cut. What are your thoughts on some surprise veteran cuts? -- Blake (Washington, D.C.)
A: Blake, I could see the Patriots possibly looking at an interior offensive lineman in free agency, as well as an outside linebacker. As for possible veteran cuts, I envision a spot on the 53-man roster for all of the players mentioned. Edelman, in particular, caught my eye in workouts. Hoyer also is developing and has made strides. With Warren, Bodden and Crumpler, it's all about recovering from surgery.
Q: With the drafting of Nate Solder and the emergence of Sebastian Vollmer, along with the ongoing Logan Mankins saga, what are the chances that the Pats re-sign Matt Light? Do you think they will throw Solder into the fire right away or do you think there is a good chance that they will try and keep Light for a little bit longer? Light has been one of the most prominent locker room leaders for years now, and I feel that Belichick would have a hard time letting him go. What are your thoughts? -- Mike (Braintree, Mass.)
A: I agree with you, Mike. I think the door is still open for a Light return, but I don't see the Patriots setting the market for him. So if another team ups the ante on him, I could see Light playing elsewhere next season.
Q: Hey Mike, looking at the lists of which Pats attended the workouts at BC, I was disappointed to not see Brandon Spikes or Jermaine Cunningham. It seemed liked all the other second year guys were there. Any idea why they weren't? -- Juan (San Francisco)
A: Juan, I saw Cunningham at the workouts and spoke with him after one of them. I did not see Spikes. Attendance can be tough to take in situations like this, and overall, I wouldn't read too much into it. I spoke with one player who was battling an injury and didn't want to risk things and that's why he wasn't on the field. It doesn't mean he isn't committed to the team. He just has to be smart about his health.
Q: Hi Mike. Is there any unofficial list of the players that attended the workouts earlier this week? Any significant absences other than Matt Light and Logan Mankins? I'm curious about Brandon Spikes and Brandon Deaderick, both players who look to have some ability but also had off-field concerns last season. Were either of them there? Especially curious about Spikes, as he is supposed to be a leadership type. -- Dave (NYC)
A: Dave, Jeff Howe of NESN.com and Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe put together incomplete lists that included the majority of players. I didn't put together a list, only noting some of the absences that caught the eye (e.g. Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Alge Crumpler). One thing I'd caution on these lists is that they don't include everyone. Rookie outside linebacker Markell Carter, for example, was present at the workouts.
Q: So I am just wondering if there is anything that would prevent a Randy Moss, Sidney Rice, Ricky Williams etc. from attending the Patriots workouts. As they are informal unsanctioned workouts, would it not be a great way to explore how a potential free agent might fit chemistry wise? -- Dave Peck (York , Maine)
A: Dave, that would have been an option. I think the reason it doesn't happen is that Bill Belichick doesn't want players making personnel decisions, or even thinking along those lines at all. He wants their focus on the X's and O's as part of his "do your job" mantra.
Q: Hey Mike, I read that Rex Ryan indicated in his book that Bill Belichick was trying really hard to convince Jason Taylor to become a Patriot before he joined the Jets. I am surprised that Taylor didn't jump at the chance to be a Patriot, unless they couldn't come to an agreement on money. Thoughts? -- Jay (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)
A: Jay, that's been one of the questions I've been curious about in each of the past two offseasons. We know that Bill Belichick and Jason Taylor have a good relationship -- and that Belichick was dealing with Taylor directly -- but I wasn't sure why the sides couldn't come to any agreement. Perhaps it was strictly financial. The Jets did give Taylor a lucrative deal last season.
Q: Mike, since the rookies haven't gotten contracts yet and just got out of college how are they able to afford staying in New England and hiring trainers and such? Have many of the rookies taken out insurance to protect their potential future earnings [in case] they are injured. -- Nancy (Haverhill, Mass.)
A: Nancy, I don't think the rookies are staying in New England, but they did make the trip last week for the informal workouts. Some of them have their agents lay out the money for flights, hotel, rental cars. Sometimes, teammates step up and offer a place to stay, and that contributes to the team bonding aspect of the workouts.
Q: Mike, I saw an article on ESPN.com a couple days ago that talked about how complex offenses will suffer the most because of the long layoff. Do you think Belichick agreed with that idea and his seeming focus on beefing up the run in the draft is a move toward simplifying the offense in case the passing game doesn't gel right away? -- Dave (Los Angeles)
A: Dave, I don't think the selection of offensive linemen Nate Solder (first round) and Marcus Cannon (fifth round) and running backs Shane Vereen (second round) and Stevan Ridley (third round) was a nod toward simplification as much as it was about a need to add talented youth to those positions. That's one of the things I think Belichick generally does a solid job at executing -- balancing a short-term situation (e.g., lockout) against a longer view. I don't think teams want to lock in on certain players this year just because of the lockout, then look back 3-4 years from now and wonder why they passed on better players because they were thinking from a short-term perspective.
Q: Hey Mike, I just finished watching the Top 50 to 41 players on NFL Network. I was surprised by where Wes Welker was ranked. I was expecting him to be at least in the mid-30s. Do you think that his dropped passes had a huge impact on him being so low, or was it a combination of his recovery and the dropped balls. I think that if he has fully recovered, he should be great next year. Your thoughts? -- Ted (East Brunswick)
A: Ted, my thoughts on Welker's ranking were highlighted by what his "presenter" -- Bills coach Chan Gailey -- said about him. "I think people don't probably give Wes enough credit for his down-the-field stuff because he is so known for the underneath," Gailey said. In summary, I think players probably still pigeonhole him as a slot receiver.
Q: Hi Mike, any chance you can post the videos on our Pats that make the Top 100 list? -- Jason Brown (Nova Scotia)
Q: There has already been rookie and veteran mini camps missed, no UDFA signed and no free agent period in the NFL. Even if the lockout doesn't cost the NFL any missed games, one could argue [that] the quality of the earlier games could already be lessened. At what point do the owners and players lessen the quality of the season or at least the early games? -- David (North Attleboro, Mass.)
A: David, I'd say the end of July would be the end date in my book.
Q: Hi Mike, when and if the preseason begins, is there the possibility that the quantity of injuries (pulled hamstrings, etc) will be very high, and the [difference] between the teams will be the quality of the job made by the strength and conditioning coaches? -- Memo Alfaro (Tijuana, Mexico)
A: Memo, I think you bring up a good point, and this will be something to watch based on the lockout and the potential of a shortened training camp/preseason. For the Patriots, they have Harold Nash in his first year as head strength & conditioning coach, so this is a challenging dynamic for him to deal with.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.