Patriots Mailbag: Time to Move On From Randy Moss, But Too Early to Look for Tom Brady’s Replacement

Patriots Mailbag: Time to Move On From Randy Moss, But Too Early to Look for Tom Brady's Replacement Randy Moss‘ comments this week yielded a predictable question for this week’s mailbag, and I kicked this thing off with my thoughts on a potential reunion with the Patriots. We also got into some logistics with the Pats’ draft and then hit on a very interesting question about Von Miller‘s draft stock, and whether or not it could be affected by his court presence against the league’s owners.

Once again, thanks to everyone who participated, and check back every week.

What do you think the chances of the Patriots signing Randy Moss are?
–Connor

I really don’t see it happening, nor do I believe it would be a good move for the Patriots. Look, they traded him for a reason, and if Bill Belichick thought Moss made them better, there’s no way he could have justified the addition of a third-round pick at the expense of losing Moss after such an important Monday night win in Miami.

Could they get him cheap? Yup. Would they hope Moss realized it won’t get any better than it is in New England, thus maximizing his potential? Certainly. But Moss desperately wanted one last big contract last season, and he had the worst year of his career. He had all the motivation he needed to play well, and he wasn’t even average. Moss’ apologists could say that he lost momentum by playing for three teams, but that punishment was self-imposed.

It wasn’t even a question that the Patriots played their best football without Moss, and their offense was much more efficient, especially once they completely adjusted later in the season. That’s why it’s best for the Pats to tip their cap and walk away.

Hi, Jeff! I know that the media is going crazy about the wide receiver position and what happened in the playoffs, with our “smurf” receivers and the manhandling at the line of scrimmage, but I don’t think this is a top priority. Defensive end, offensive linemen, outside linebackers, maybe even running back (just to get the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands when he’s not that terrific). So, wide receiver in the first round ? I could live with that if A.J. Green or Julio Jones slipped all the way to No. 17. But what about a late-round guy?
–Pierre (France)

If I were the Patriots, I’d consider drafting a wide receiver under two of the following scenarios: A.J. Green or Julio Jones miraculously slip to No. 17 (won’t happen), or Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin is still around at No. 33 (likely). Even with Baldwin, though, I still think the Patriots have more pressing needs that I have addressed in each of my mock drafts.

There appear to be a good group of wideouts who will be available late in the second round and then in the third round, but the Patriots are still developing Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman, and Taylor Price is essentially a draft pick after he was inactive 16 times last season, including the playoffs. The Patriots certainly need more production out of their third wide receiver next season, but I don’t think it’s going to happen with a mid-round draft pick.

I’d rather see the Patriots add a veteran wide receiver — I’ve lobbied for Donte Stallworth in the past because I think he’s a more realistic option than Chad Ochocinco — and see if he can win a competition against the younger guys in training camp. It just doesn’t seem worth it to add another developmental project.

Do you think Von Miller’s presence in the anti-trust lawsuit will decrease his draft stock? If so, do you think he might be around when the Patriots pick at 17?
–John

That’s a really interesting question, John. First off, I’ve had Miller go to the Bills in all seven of my mock drafts, but I wouldn’t completely rule him out as a candidate for the No. 1 pick, and there is a strong consensus that he won’t fall below Arizona at No. 5. Because of that, I think it would be a major, major long shot for him to fall to No. 17. If the Patriots are really interested in Miller, they’ll need to trade into the top 10.

Miller is far and away the best pass-rushing outside linebacker in the draft, but some have criticized his motor and desire to bring it on every play. If teams are questioning his talent across the board — keep in mind, the slightest faults can drop someone out of the top five — I guess it wouldn’t be completely shocking for an owner to step in and make sure they don’t take Miller because of his placement in the legal process. But if that team’s scouting department views Miller as an absolute can’t-miss prospect, it would take a truly stubborn owner to demand a lesser talent in the draft.

It seems like there are a good crop of quarterbacks in the draft class who are development projects with high potential. Should the Patriots use their late second-rounder or one of their third-rounders on one of them to plan ahead for Brady’s retirement? Thank you.
–Amill34

It’s a legitimate question and one that has to take a number of things into account. First, though, I do believe the Patriots will draft a quarterback, but I’m not sure if they’ll try to use one of their second- or third-round picks on one. And before I get into it, I went really in-depth into this topic a few weeks ago.

There are a few points to consider, starting with Brady’s contract that runs through 2014, though he says he wants to play longer than that. He’ll turn 38 at the start of the 2015 season. So, if the Patriots want their backup in place to start for the 2015 season, they should address that area soon, but if Brady will play through 2016 or 2017, well, that’s a pointless exercise.

Next, the Patriots are really happy with Brian Hoyer, who will enter his third season in 2011. But he’s in the last year of his contract, so the Pats are going to have to increase his salary to keep him around past that. However, if another team offers him an opportunity to start in 2012, the Patriots can’t match that, and they’ll lose him. Learning from Brady and Belichick is nice, but starting is better, no matter what team you’re talking about. Hoyer also turns 30 during the 2015 season, which isn’t awful, but also isn’t ideal for either side in the relationship. Plus, I have a lot more on this topic in the link above.

If you’re looking at some developmental projects late in the second or third round, keep an eye on Andy Dalton (TCU), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) and Greg McElroy (Alabama). McElroy, a game manager with questionable arm strength, would really fit the Patriots, and he’d be a good get in the fourth or fifth round.

Because of age factors — with Brady, Hoyer and any potential rookie — I think it’s too early to look for Brady’s replacement, especially with a high draft pick, but the Patriots should prepare themselves in case Hoyer finds a better situation when his contract expires after the 2011 season.

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