First off, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Patriots mailbag throughout the entire season. I'll still run one every Friday throughout the offseason, so make sure to keep checking back for it.
This week's was loaded with some quality questions, and I had to put some in the reserve for next week. Apologies if I didn't get to it this week, but there were too many great questions to get to them all.
I can sense the emotion from the Patriots' fan base. While there's been a run on Pepto-Bismol in the New England area, there's a lot of excitement for the offseason and things to come with this young team. Let's dive into those topics now.
Hey! The only way I am getting over that loss is by looking forward to the offseason and having unrealistic hopes about the future, but hey, whatever works. So, is there actually any chance of signing Mario Williams this offseason? I understand he has played both 4-3 and 3-4, so he has the versatility that Bill Belichick craves. And I know he would probably ask for huge money but for a player that has just turned 27 and fills a need, is he not worth it? Thanks!
Hi! Williams is going to be a huge get for someone this offseason, and I'm sure the Patriots are interested to an extent. Remember, two years ago, the Patriots made a soft push for defensive end Julius Peppers, who signed a six-year, $91.5 million deal ($42 million was reportedly guaranteed) with the Bears. Peppers was 30 at the time, and he had some concerns about his effort.
Williams is three years younger than Peppers at that point in his contract talks, and he's considered a better citizen. Therefore, he's likely looking at a $100 million contract, and there's less than a 1 percent chance the Patriots will offer him that. He'd be a phenomenal addition, but it's hard to fault a guy for taking that type of payday.
Any rumors or information to why Tiquan Underwood was cut?
It really sounds like it was strictly a football decision to get another defensive end onto the field for depth. Obviously, it doesn't look great when said defensive end doesn't play a single snap, but those are the breaks. I haven't heard a single word about it being for disciplinary reasons, and I strongly believe if it was about discipline, Underwood wouldn't have been allowed to show up Saturday for the team photo.
There are 30 teams in the NFL that would love to be in the Patriots' shoes. They played well and were one first down from the title. Defense will need some help, but basically, the team is where it needs to be. My question is do they trade a running back for that defensive help: Stevan Ridley or BenJarvus Green-Ellis?
–John Matula (Alliance, Neb.)
It's an interesting thought because the Patriots have some good young running backs on the roster, but I don't think it will happen. First, Green-Ellis is an unrestricted free agent, so it wouldn't make sense for him to agree to a sign-and-trade that helps the Patriots but hurts his new team.
But beyond that, running backs don't have very much trade value, especially ones who aren't proven. Obviously, the Broncos set the standard by trading Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey, but I don't think anything of that magnitude would be on the horizon anytime soon, particularly since the league has been heavily swayed in the passing direction.
The other thing is running backs can emerge out of nowhere. Arian Foster and Green-Ellis were undrafted. DeMarco Murray flew up the depth chart in Dallas last season. Willis McGahee and Cedric Benson each found the fountain of youth to surpass 1,000 yards. Even Reggie Bush hit the millennium mark in 2011. And there are plenty more examples like those in recent seasons.
Impact players on defense are harder to come by than running backs with potential, so if the Patriots were to trade someone like Ridley for a defensive player, I think they'd be lucky to get 70 cents on the dollar, if that.
Do the Patriots have any idea who they will take in the first round of the draft at Nos. 27 and 31?
–Barry Russell (Lexington, Ky.)
I'm going to get more involved in my draft preparation next week, so I don't have a great answer for you just yet. But I think they need to add three types of players in the draft — a playmaker in the secondary, a pass-rushing defensive end or linebacker, and a wide receiver who can contribute now and develop into a top-two type of weapon down the road. From that group, they need to take the best player available at those first-round draft positions.
What is Devin McCourty's future — cornerback or safety? It looks like the pass defense was much more consistent with him at safety, and Ras-I Dowling (presumably) returns next season.
–Brian (Somerville, Mass.)
Dowling will be back, and I'd expect him to make a push to start at cornerback. Remember, after missing a vast majority of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury, Dowling started in Week 1 in Miami before the injury derailed the rest of his season.
As for McCourty, my guess would be at cornerback, but either way, this is something Belichick must address in the next few weeks because it should impact personnel decisions in free agency and the draft. Building on the last question, I think they need to put McCourty where he can be the most effective as a playmaker. He's obviously got those skills, which he showcased by forcing nine turnovers as a rookie, and if he can get back on track, the defense will look like a completely different unit.
Hey Jeff, my question is: Will Tom Brady stay in football with the Patriots and win another Super Bowl for New England? Please, Brady, do not think of retiring! You have unfinished business, and you and the Patriots have to win another Super Bowl!
There's no chance Brady would retire right now. And based on his last two seasons, I think he'll remain in his prime through his current contract, which takes him through 2014. Will they win another Super Bowl? I can't predict that, but I do know they're set up to continue competing for them. The Patriots are in a much better position now than they were after 2007, when the windows were closing on a large chunk of the core of their team. They're set up for success for as long as Brady remains in charge.
Isn't the Foxboro facility closer to Providence? I know most of the visiting teams often stay there and fly there.
–Jim Medici (Charlotte, N.C.)
Jim is referencing this column, in which I made a case for New England/Boston to host a future Super Bowl. I put the column together after going to my first Super Bowl last week, studying the logistics of the event and then translating them to the New England region. The only way a Super Bowl in New England would work, in my opinion, would be to host the majority of the events in Boston.
To your point about the proximity of Providence, yeah, it's a few miles closer than Boston. But I think the lore of the bigger city, which has dealt with massive sporting events in the past decade, makes more sense to host an event like the Super Bowl. Plus, and it's just a guess here, if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts put a bid in place to host the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, I don't think they'd be thrilled about creating the brunt of the financial opportunities for Rhode Island.
I'm sure there would be elements involved in Providence if the Super Bowl was brought to Gillette Stadium, but I think the main draw would have to be Boston.
Nice article on Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan, though you aren't really thinking there will be any questioning Coughlin again, are you? Also, Rex Ryan doesn't even deserve his name in the same sentence as Tom Coughlin.
–Ted Kelley (Foxboro, Mass.)
Thank you, and that was written before the Super Bowl, too. But yeah, if Coughlin finds himself on the hot seat again, the Giants need to shop at a new furniture store.
Where does Vincent Jackson end up playing next year?
It's hard to predict where he'll end up because there are so many impressive wide receivers on the market. At this point, it's about trying to figure out which teams value certain types of wideouts. I wouldn't rule out Jackson to the Patriots, though I also don't think he'd be one of their top priorities. Jackson fits exactly what the Patriots need, and there were a lot of rumors that linked him with the Patriots during his contract fiasco in San Diego. Were they substantiated? I'm not sure, but there was too much smoke there to ignore.
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