Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and remember, I’ll have a mailbag every Friday throughout the offseason.
How does the restricted free agent process work? Could the Patriots sign Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace?
–@514Nipper, via Twitter
Is there any realistic chance of getting Mike Wallace? I know he is a restricted free agent, but does the fact that the Steelers have no salary cap space make it easier to potentially sign him? Also, which first-rounder would the Steelers get? The highest (from the Saints) or the allotted Patriot one? Thanks!
To the first question, the Steelers have the option of controlling Wallace’s rights because he is a restricted free agent (less than four years of NFL service). Therefore, the Steelers will likely place a tender on Wallace. There are five levels of tenders, though the dollar amounts haven’t been officially released for this offseason, to my knowledge. If the Steelers place the highest-priority tender on Wallace, it would be for a one-year contract, likely in the neighborhood of $3-4 million. It would also put a heavy amount of protection on Wallace by costing another team a first-round draft pick if they wanted to sign him, similar to how the Jets stole running back Curtis Martin from the Patriots in 1998.
So, let’s say the Steelers give him that tender. The Patriots could then offer him a contract, let’s say for four years and $25 million. The Steelers would have a week to either match the offer or let him sign with the Patriots. If they match it, he returns to the Steelers. If the Steelers decline it, the Patriots would sign him, but they’d have to fork over a first-round draft pick, which is a gigantic price. Since the Patriots have two first-round picks, I believe they’d have to give up their allotted selection (No. 31), though I’m not completely certain on that just yet.
There’s also the possibility of a sign-and-trade, which would allow the Steelers and Patriots to work out their own terms for compensation. That’s how the Patriots acquired wide receiver Wes Welker from the Dolphins in 2007.
To the second question, I’m not sure Wallace fits the Patriots’ system. He’s strictly a deep threat, though he has shown an ability to read defenses and run better routes in the last year. He isn’t anywhere close to a finished product, and I’m not sure if that would be intriguing to the Patriots, who could continue developing him, or it would turn them off, instead preferring someone who could step in and contribute immediately. I’d speculate it would be the latter.
And finally, yes, the Steelers have to get creative to meander around their financial woes. Earlier this month, NFL.com reported they’ll be $22.5 million over the cap entering the new league year, which will cause them to release some players and rework some contracts. My guess is that will impact Wallace in the sense that the Steelers won’t want to place a franchise tag on him, which would run them about $9 million.
Would you agree that Brandon Lloyd is the best fit at wide receiver for the Pats? I like him because he has good speed, phenomenal hands and can run any type of route. His relationship with Josh McDaniels is also a huge factor, and Lloyd wants to keep playing for him. All of this coming after we lock up Wes Welker, of course.
–Yo Soy Fiesta
Lloyd makes a lot of sense because he has done it for McDaniels in two places under less-than-ideal circumstances. With that, it’s only natural to assume he could be helpful in New England with Tom Brady throwing him the ball.
I’m fairly certain Lloyd won’t command big-time money because he’ll be 31 in July and hasn’t had much success outside of his two very good runs with McDaniels. Lloyd led the league in receiving yards in 2010 after seven seasons of blah with the 49ers, Redskins, Bears and one year in Denver. Then after a slow start in 2011, Lloyd found it again with McDaniels in St. Louis after a midseason trade. In 2010 and his St. Louis stint in 2011, Lloyd had 128 receptions, 2,131 yards and 16 touchdowns. The rest of his career, he’s amassed 183 catches, 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns.
That shows when McDaniels has Lloyd going right, he’s a special player. Therefore, there isn’t much incentive for the league’s other 31 teams to really break the bank for Lloyd.
The problem is Lloyd is represented by agent Tom Condon, who hasn’t negotiated with the Patriots since Ben Watson‘s rookie deal hit a snag. If the Patriots believe Lloyd is worth it, they’ll need to end the cold war.
Jeff, why is Kyle Arrington never in the discussion about upgrading the defense? I think he is awful at cornerback. He plays 10-15 yards off the receivers and is a poor tackler. He had seven interceptions, but there were many, many more completions against him. It’s very frustrating to watch him play.
–Ron Senatore, Brewster, Mass.
For starters, when Arrington (or any cornerback) plays that far off the receiver, it’s by design, so put that on the coaching staff for the play call. They do that to disguise their looks, and while I don’t think it’s very advantageous to line up with that much depth, I just wanted to pass along the team’s intended strategy.
As for Arrington, he’s a better tackler than you gave him credit for, though he did miss an open-field attempt in the Super Bowl. His speed and tackling ability were why he broke into the league because he was such a strong special teamer at the start. With that, I think the Patriots know what they’ve got with Arrington. He’s still learning, but they know what they can do with him each play. He’s better in zone than man coverage, though he’s pretty good when he’s asked to be physical at the line of scrimmage.
During the 2010 season, I spoke with a scout who was surprised with Arrington’s progress, and the scout said Arrington still looked like a No. 3 cornerback who had the ability to grow into a No. 2. I still think that’s a realistic possibility. One thing about Arrington, he might get beat, but it’s seldom by a ton, which puts him in position to make plays on the ball, evidenced by his seven interceptions. As Belichick said a few times during the season, Arrington is always around the ball.
Arrington wasn’t the problem this year. Cornerback Devin McCourty couldn’t really hit his stride, and when he started to get to that point, he was moved to safety. I think there was just a general lack of depth in the defensive backfield. If McCourty can take that next step next year after a full offseason, it would benefit players like Arrington and Ras-I Dowling because the Patriots could get a little more aggressive with the safety help on their side of the field.
What is the likelihood that Calais Campbell ends up in a Patriots uniform next season? Could he be the next Richard Seymour for Belichick?
Campbell is a full-grown man with strong talent, but the 6-foot-8, 300-pounder is probably going to get the franchise tag in Arizona. Yeah, he’d be an asset to the New England defense, but it doesn’t look like a realistic option.
Hey! I’m almost positive the Pats will make a big move on either side of the ball, but I was wondering if they should or would make a move on defense for either Mario Williams or a cheaper Robert Mathis? Or should they look at one more linebacker like D’Qwell Jackson or Curtis Lofton? Do you think the Pats will add more secondary help, primarily at safety such as adding LaRon Landry? Finally, on offense, would DeSean Jackson be a target? I know he is a hot head like Randy Moss was before coming to New England, but I think he could be a great addition because of his special teams and deep-threat ability. Thanks!
–Jermaine, Washington, D.C.
Hi! A lot of questions, so I’ll try to run through them quickly. I’ve already speculated Williams could be in the hunt for a $100 million contract, and I’d be stunned if the Patriots were the team to give it to him. I’m sure they’ll kick the tires because it would be irresponsible for them to ignore such a talent, but at the end of the day, there are a few teams with a ton of money out there. One of them will unload it on Williams.
Mathis would be a good fit, as would John Abraham, but those are both 4-3 players. I’m still not sure if Belichick will stay in the 4-3 next season or revert to the 3-4. The same could be said for Lofton. Jackson is another good option, but I’d think the Browns will make it difficult for him to leave town.
The safety position needs to be a priority this offseason, and Landry will be an option. However, he’s dealt with a severe run of Achilles injuries, so his health is the first order of business. After that, remember, he starred for Nick Saban at LSU, so Belichick would obviously like him.
Lastly, it sounds like Jackson will be franchised in Philadelphia, but I wouldn’t go near him anyway. His elite athleticism is great and all, but he’s a complete liability behind the scenes. There’s no need to pay big money for players who skip meetings, get benched and cause distractions like that.
There are four big free agent wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, and Mike Wallace. Think the Pats try and make a move? Thanks.
–Ryan Casey, Philadelphia
Don’t forget Reggie Wayne, too. I think Jackson could be a fit, but reports out of San Diego insist he wants to stay with the Chargers. Bowe is an elite athlete, but there’s something missing with him. He also quit on the Chiefs when they tried to upset the Steelers late last season, failing to reach for a ball that was intercepted behind him. Of course, I already got to Wallace and Lloyd.
Colston would make some sense because he has done well in a sophisticated passing system, and he’s got the attributes of a player the Patriots need at the position. He is also close with Arrington, as they went to Hofstra together. I’d rank Colston at the top of the four players you listed, but he’ll probably command too much money. Wayne and Lloyd still appear to be the two most realistic options in free agency.
Jeff, this one is hard to swallow, not only because of the Super Bowl loss but because I have a sad feeling that I will never be able to appreciate another Tom Brady Super Bowl win and that makes me very sad. Do you think Brady has the talent, clutch gene, willpower and youth to win one or two more? And do you think Brady and Belichick’s legacy has crumbled due to two straight Super Bowl losses? I want to be able to tell my kids in 10 years that Brady and Belichick were the best tandem to ever play the game. Do you think this is still very much a reality no matter how many they lose? Because I bet if they lost in the AFC Championship Game, they still would have their legacy, which doesn’t seem fair. This has been bothering me a lot, and I would really appreciate an honest answer. Thank you.
–Nervous Fan, Boston
OK, where to begin. First, Brady has put together the best back-to-back regular seasons of his career, so he’s got plenty left in the tank. If I were to guess, I’d say he’s got three more years left in his prime, and the Patriots are young enough that they’ll keep improving, which should give them time to make at least one more run.
Their individual legacies have taken a hit with the second Super Bowl loss, yes, but more wins can make up for that. But in terms of the tandem? I think they’re the best tandem of all-time no matter how it shakes out.
The last point you bring up has been one of the more interesting debates over the last two weeks because the legacies of Brady and Belichick have taken a hit due to their two losses in the Super Bowl. And with that, like you said, it actually would have been better for them to lose in the AFC Championship.
It’s such a crazy notion. But I think that’s because the bar has been set so high. Quarterback Joe Montana (4-0) and head coaches Chuck Noll (4-0) and Bill Walsh (3-0) were undefeated in Super Bowls, and that’s to their credit.
If the Patriots won Super Bowl XLVI, I think you could have made the case that both Brady and Belichick were the greatest of all-time at their respective professions. Now, the picture is foggier, and that debate will probably need to take a backseat until they each retire. That’s the fairest way to do it anyway.
What’s the best thing about Super Bowl Media Day?
–Wade, Portland, Ore.
The chaos. There’s so much going on with thousands of reporters and “reporters” trying to speak with 60-someodd players, plus the coaches and team executives. And the cool thing is it all happens directly on the field where the Super Bowl is going to take place in five days. It’s a lot of fun. Then, of course, there are the random celebrities who are there to act as reporters, as well as the random “reporters” who dress in, umm, different clothing — from the club dresses to the superhero costumes — to make themselves stick out. It was a fun day.