Patriots Mailbag: Brandon Meriweather Worth Keeping, While Larry Fitzgerald Looks Like Unrealistic Trade Option

Patriots Mailbag: Brandon Meriweather Worth Keeping, While Larry Fitzgerald Looks Like Unrealistic Trade Option It’s time to get my Paul Revere on and deliver some Patriots mail.

Bad history references aside, I got deep into the draft in this week’s mailbag, and I also answered questions about the possibility of trading Brandon Meriweather and acquiring some certain wide receivers.

I got pretty deep into my take on the Patriots’ draft strategy, as well as a best-case scenario for their first three picks, so let’s open it up and get to it. Thanks as always for a great round of questions, and if I didn’t get to it this week, I’ll be back next Friday.

I really enjoy your blog every week, and here’s my question. Do you think the Patriots have someone they are really high on, and if yes, will they trade up for a change and select that elite player? We need impact players on our team.
–Mike

Thank you, Mike. I can see a few players who would really be great fits in New England’s system, most notably California defensive end Cameron Jordan, who I’ve had going to the Patriots in all six of my mock drafts. And UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers is another great fit because he can play in both directions, which is crucial at that position for Bill Belichick, who has never shown any interest in drafting downhill pass rushers who can’t drop into coverage. I’d actually take Ayers at No. 17 if Jordan is off the board because there seems to be a pretty big drop-off in outside linebackers after that.

I also think Alabama running back Mark Ingram will entice Belichick, especially with his roots to Nick Saban, but I think they have other priorities that will prevent them from going in that direction. Sticking with that position, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots were aggressive in targeting Mikel Leshoure from Illinois. The belief last year was that the Patriots wanted to add a running back in the second round, but an early run on running backs took New England out of the picture. I think they’ll try to be ahead of the game this year.

There appear to be three really good tackles in this class — USC’s Tyron Smith, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo — and at least Carimi or Castonzo will be there at No. 17. However, Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana should be around in the 28-33 range, and he can play both guard and tackle. That flexibility will greatly benefit the Patriots during a very uncertain transitional period along the line.

If the Patriots walk away with three of those players, they’ll have done a tremendous job.

Jeff, it’s very publicly known that out of the $9 billion in annual revenue the NFL makes, the players get a $4 billion cut of that. How exactly are they getting that $4 billion? Is it related to player contracts? How can we get a definitive amount to $4 billion for all the players when all teams spend different amounts of money on their players? And how is it the players’ cut when it seems the owners get to decide how much they want to pay a guy for playing?
–Brett Favre

Thanks for the question, Brett. I hope retirement is going well. Those numbers are estimates, but the way the two sides divvy up the money is fairly simple. Under the current salary cap, the owners take the first $1 billion off the top of the total revenue, and then the players receive 59.5 percent of the remaining money for contracts and such.

Where’s our outside linebacker? I have a different approach on this one all together. Unless someone slips, I’d trade No. 17 to Denver for Nos. 36 and 46 (point value is very close). Take Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod at No. 28. If Buffalo doesn’t take a quarterback in the first round, everyone will be looking to jump them in the second round. Trade No. 33 to Arizona for a 2012 first-rounder and a 2011 third (pick 69). Take Temple defensive lineman Mo Wilkerson at No. 36. The Raiders see the opportunity to get their replacement for Nnamdi Asomugha, and take Penn State interior lineman Stefan Wisniewski at No. 48 and trade pick 46 for a 2012 first-rounder. Take Baylor guard Danny Watkins at No. 60 North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little at No.  69, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray at No. 74, Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus at No. 92, South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews at No. 124, Oklahoma’s Jeremy Beal at No. 156, TCU safety Tejay Johson at No. 188 and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter with the seventh-round compensatory pick we always get.
–Waldoon

Wow, that’s a well thought-out strategy. I just want to address a few things with it. First, the Patriots had 20 players on their final active roster in 2010 who were homegrown members of the 2009 and 2010 draft classes, and they had three more on injured reserve. At the very least, 15 of them — if not 20 — are virtual locks to make the team in 2011, so I’d like to see the Patriots add quality over quantity in this draft class. They’ve got good depth, so I’d prefer to see them trade up, rather than trading down, like you said with the 17th pick. Obviously, it would be great if they turned the 46th pick into a 2012 first-rounder, but that’s an extremely optimistic view.

I do, however, agree that the 33rd pick has a tremendous chance of turning into a 2012 first-rounder, but if not, the Patriots will definitely get a quality player at that spot.

I also don’t believe, at least right now, Wilkerson or Watkins will be on the board at Nos. 36 and 60, respectively.

At any rate, nice job with the homework. That was some really in-depth stuff.

How do you think the Patriots will fill the wide receiver need? Trade, free agency or the draft? And who do you think could be wearing a Patriots uniform as a wide receiver next season?
–T.J.

A veteran would make the most sense because it takes so long for younger receivers to adjust to this offense. Plus, the Patriots are still developing Brandon Tate and Taylor Price, as well as Julian Edelman, so I could see why they’d be wary to add a rookie to the mix. I like the idea of bringing back Donte Stallworth because of his familiarity with the offense, and it would be a low-risk move that fits the Patriots’ style.

I’ve heard some rumors about Larry Fitzgerald wanting to be traded out of Arizona, and he is a class act with a good team attitude and locker-room presence which would fit the Patriots’ mold perfectly. I’d prefer him instead of the rumors of trying to bring Randy Moss back. What is the Patriots’ interest if this is viable, and what do you think it would cost us in a trade to get him?
–Malloydk

I don’t think it’s going to happen anymore. I’m under the impression the Cardinals would use Fitzgerald as a trading chip in order to acquire a quarterback, but it sounds like they could reel in Philly’s Kevin Kolb with a package of draft picks. And if the Cardinals get Kolb — or any starting-caliber quarterback for that matter — without giving up Fitzgerald, I don’t think they’ll be too willing to trade their best player.

For the Pats to get Fitzgerald, I’m pretty sure they’d have to surrender two of their first three picks in this year’s draft, and I’d highly doubt Belichick would be interested in that.

And as a disclaimer, players can’t be traded until there’s a new CBA. If the Cardinals strike out in the quarterback market and don’t believe they can extend Fitzgerald’s contract, which expires after next season, a team might be able to steal him for a second-rounder in 2012. Since the Cardinals would be expecting the Pats’ 2012 second-rounder to be in the mid-to-high 50s, they’d probably need to add a fourth-rounder, too. That’s just a guess on my part, though.

Even though Brandon Meriweather had a Pro Bowl year by default, don’t you think it’s time the Patriots sold high on him, as he consistently got burned and tackled poorly?
–Tyler

Before the shooting allegations, I said I wouldn’t be shocked if the Patriots parted ways with Meriweather, but I think it’s worth keeping him in 2011, which is the last season of his rookie deal. He’s only owed $1.65 million in salary, and he wouldn’t command much more than a third-rounder on the trade market. Meriweather did have a down year in 2010, but I really liked how he played in 2009. He’s got the potential to be really good, and at that salary, it’s worth keeping him around.