Patriots Mailbag: Will Passing on Mark Herzlich Hurt Patriots’ Linebacking Corps?

Patriots Mailbag: Will Passing on Mark Herzlich Hurt Patriots' Linebacking Corps? FOXBORO, Mass. — After an eerily quiet opening to the week, the Patriots went crazy Thursday with two huge trades to address a couple needs. I addressed those and other concerns in this week's mailbag.

Why oh why didn't the Patriots sign Mark Herzlich instead of the no-names they're signing? You would think, after Tully Banta-Cain being released, there would be more urgency. Plus, you've made the Giants even stronger, as linebacker is their only weakness, as is our team. Why?

–Rob Allan Falls

I understand the fans' sentiment toward Herzlich, who is a tremendous story after overcoming cancer. Obviously, he was a very good player at Boston College before his diagnosis, and there probably isn't a person on the planet who doesn't want him to succeed in the NFL. Herzlich will work hard, and he might be a good pro some day.

However, can you really say the Patriots made the Giants "stronger" after every single team passed on Herzlich in the draft? Even the Giants passed on him eight times, including four times in the sixth and seventh rounds of a draft that many believed was loaded with subpar talent.

I'm not going to say the Patriots were right in not signing Herzlich. I actually thought he was worth bringing into camp from their perspective. But the Pats used a seventh-round pick on a special teamer in Malcolm Williams, a defensive back in name only who had almost no experience playing for TCU's defense. And the league spoke as a whole by letting Herzlich slip out of the draft altogether.

Think about that. Every single team has an entire collegiate scouting staff that studies these players year round, and none of those teams were comfortable drafting Herzlich — not even with one of the 51 picks that were used in the seventh round.

Again, I'm not trying to bash Herzlich. I think a guy with his work ethic and personality will have a shot to grow as a player and make some contributions down the line. And obviously, there are a number of players who have gone undrafted and then turned out to be stars. But if that was a sure thing with Herzlich, he would have been taken by the third round instead of slipping out of the draft altogether.

With the release of Banta-Cain, Belichick must have someone in mind to fill his spot. Do you see Rob Ninkovich and Eric Moore being able to pick up the slack, or are you hoping he gets a Matt Roth or Mathias Kiwanuka on the free-agent market?

–Bagoon Stevens

I pegged Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham as the starters at outside linebacker before Banta-Cain's injury was revealed, and I thought Moore, rookie Markell Carter and possibly Marques Murrell would work with Banta-Cain as situational pass rushers. Though Banta-Cain made it sound like he'll move on from the Patriots, I definitely wouldn't rule out a comeback just yet. Aside from the notion that the Patriots were a little steamed over his surgery, the release also gave them some cap relief. If he's willing to return for less money, it could possibly happen.

Roth makes sense because he knows the system, but teams that are trying to spend up to the salary cap floor are playing with monopoly money right now. If Roth wants to take advantage of the unique spending situation this offseason, I wouldn't blame him one bit. If he wants to get paid as a role player and potential starter with the Patriots, then they might have a match.

I think that's why the Patriots have been involved in the trade market, by the way. They're closer to the salary cap than most teams, and it would be a little more difficult for them to make it work with a marquee free agent.

Since the Patriots have already acquired Albert Haynesworth [Thursday] for a fifth-round pick in 2013, and Bill Belichick said in his press conference [Thursday] morning that the deal is yet to be completed, is he lying through his teeth?

–Christopher Mehegan

Belichick said the trade was in the works, and it hadn't been completed at that point. Haynesworth will have to pass a physical for the deal to go through — which is the case for every trade in the NFL — and he still had to restructure his contract, which is a conditional case for some trades. So no, Belichick was not lying.

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