There's plenty to dissect in each area, though this week's Patriots mailbag concentrates more on the free agent market than the draft pool. And we'll start things off with an interesting question about a potential trade.
What about an offseason trade for Jared Allen? What would it take?
It's a good thought, and while it's possible, I'm not sure it's realistic. The Vikings are in a weird spot, to the point where you could make arguments for why they should and shouldn't trade the defensive end who recorded 22 sacks last season. On one side, they're in a complete rebuilding mode, so they should entertain the notion of trading Allen, who turns 30 in April. The Vikings are clearly the worst team in a strong division, and with a young quarterback and few receiving threats, they won't be winning anytime soon. Trading Allen would help them net another young piece.
Yet, running back Adrian Peterson's knee injury should sideline him for a portion of the 2012 season, and it will make him far less exciting to watch over the course of the year as he works toward regaining full strength. That might make Allen the most marketable guy they've got. If they trade him, it could send a poor message to the fan base.
Here's the tricky part. Allen's base salary is $11.6 million in 2012 and $14.3 million in 2013. The Vikings reportedly have $5-10 million in cap space entering free agency, which isn't much. It'd be in their best interest to ask Allen to take a pay cut, and it would probably be in Allen's best interest to tell them to kick rocks, which could yield a trade. Of course, the parameters of that trade would almost certainly call for the inquiring team to slash his salary, but at least it would give Allen a chance to win while he's still in his prime.
Right now, the Vikings could land a first-rounder for Allen, if not more. But if they do happen to ask him to take a pay cut and he refuses, his trade value would decrease since opposing teams would be aware of the Vikings' preference to trade him.
Allen would absolutely help the Patriots. He's got 77.5 sacks over the last five seasons, and he's a one-man wrecking crew off the edge. The Patriots already have a good foundation of young players, so they could afford to surrender one of their first-round picks for a proven commodity. Since they're picking late, it might take more than that, maybe even a third-rounder, which would still be worth it. They'd just need him to rework the deal, possibly by sliding some of that money into a third year of a new contract.
I've been wondering about three free agents that I haven't heard much hype around but personally think could be good fits with New England. They are Josh Morgan, Adam Carriker and Mike Tolbert. From the little I know of them, Morgan seems to have the potential to be a great deep threat and runs nice routes, Carriker could solve the issues at defensive end, and Mike Tolbert could fill BenJarvus Green-Ellis' role if he leaves. Your thoughts?
I'd rule out Morgan. Yeah, he's got some nice speed, but the Patriots need an upgrade, not a role player who hasn't been very consistent.
Carriker is an interesting thought. He's big and powerful, and he'd be an asset if the Patriots revert to a 3-4 front. Carriker never lived up to his hype, but he's also been put in some different situations in his stops in St. Louis and Washington. Maybe there's a coach out there who could figure out how to best utilize his skills.
I like Tolbert because he's a punishing runner between the tackles, and he can also catch passes. That's a rare combination nowadays. However, he puts the ball on the ground and can have some mental lapses, which is the opposite of Green-Ellis. Tolbert could probably command more money than Green-Ellis, too, and the latter two factors make me believe the Patriots would prefer to stick with what they've got if possible.
Jeff, if you don't think Mike Wallace can work underneath, go back and watch the Steelers game. The Pats were so afraid of him, they were giving him big cushions, and he killed them underneath. I think he would create mega space for Wes Welker and the tight ends.
Right, but that was more of a product of the Patriots' worst defensive game plan of the season than anything. They were helpless against crossing patterns, and their soft zone got exposed by everyone on the Steelers, not just Wallace. Granted, Wallace's speed helped spur that game plan, but linebackers Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes weren't able to execute their zone assignments that night.
Wallace is a great deep threat, and I have studied his game fairly extensively. He's learning how to run better routes to set up the deep ball, and he knows how to take advantage of cornerbacks and safeties when they lose their leverage. However, Wallace can't set up the short and intermediate routes as well yet. If he's dedicated to becoming a more well-rounded receiver, it will come in time. But it needs work.
How many transactions do you think Ross Ventrone will be a part of in the 2012 season?
–Colby (Hopkinton, Mass.)
All of them.
It seems as though the Falcons won't re-sign John Abraham (at least before he hits free agency). Would the Patriots consider bringing him in? Would he be a good fit, and what would he cost? Thanks!
If the Patriots stay in the 4-3, I think they'd look toward players like Abraham and Robert Mathis to provide depth behind Andre Carter (assuming he's healthy enough to re-sign) and maybe Mark Anderson. Abraham turns 34 in May, so he could command something like $3-4 million in a one-year contract.
Is it more likely that the Patriots go after one of the second-tier receivers and use the cap space to instead go after defensive upgrades such as Thomas DeCoud? If so, who would be the best options? Assuming he gets his legal (and over-exaggerated flopping) issues sorted, Jerome Simpson is clearly a developing talent, but what about the likes of Pierre Garcon, Devin Aromashodu, Mike Sims-Walker and even Braylon Edwards?
The Patriots have enough resources to upgrade the receiver position, and there's not a lot of exciting defensive talent in free agency, which could lead to teams overpaying for mediocrity on that side of the ball. I'd stay far away from Simpson because it's never really the best idea to target players who have been alleged to be running drug rings. That stuff doesn't usually work out too well.
Garcon and Robert Meachem would probably highlight the lower tier of receivers, but there's still a risk involved with each. I raised the idea of Sims-Walker last offseason, but after digging around, he sounds like he's a little too interested in his own stats, and I'm not sure the compete level is very high. Lastly, I used to think Edwards was a phenomenal talent, but he's basically gotten himself exiled from three organizations, so that's a red flag.
Do you think the Patriots could sign Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Lloyd and also re-sign BenJarvus Green- Ellis? What kind of offensive fire power would that be?
–Barry Cummings (Brewster, Mass.)
Sure, they could, but I think it would be a mismanagement of assets. They've already proven they're still one of the league's elite offenses, and an added element of explosion would complement the roles that are filled elsewhere. Plus, I think it's dangerous to add too many outside pieces because there's no guarantee they'll all be able to pick up the system.
I think their ideal scenario involves retaining Welker, signing either Lloyd or Wayne — or even Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson or Wallace — as an upgrade on the outside and then retaining Deion Branch. That would likely mean the end of Chad Ochocinco's run in New England, if that's not a forgone conclusion already.