Patriots Mailbag: Wes Welker Reunion Could Be Thwarted By Money Issues


June 5, 2015

The New England Patriots are a beat-up bunch, and it’s only June.

The Patriots only fielded 72 players Thursday during their second organized team activities session open to the media, meaning 18 players were absent for a variety of reasons. Many of those players still are recovering from offseason surgeries suffered (and played through) during New England’s Super Bowl XLIX run.

Of course, playing through those injuries was worth it for the Patriots, since they took home their fourth franchise title, but having so many players absent for these voluntary sessions could wind up biting the Patriots during the regular season.

This is the time when players come together and jell, and a unit like the Patriots’ defensive tackles could use this time to adjust without former captain Vince Wilfork. Instead, the Patriots are left mostly with rookies and newcomers at the position, and it’s unclear when veterans will be back on the field.

Before I get married Saturday, let’s dive into one more mailbag:

@DougKyedNESN is Dobson coming back as a real weapon?
I’m not sure if I’d go that far yet. Brian Tyms passed Aaron Dobson on the depth chart last year, and Dobson will have to pass Tyms to even be considered the Patriots’ No. 4 receiver.

I expect Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola to be the Patriots’ top three receivers and for Tyms, Dobson and Brandon Gibson to fight it out for the No. 4 and possible No. 5 roles.

Josh Boyce, Zach D’Orazio, Chris Harper and Jonathan Krause also will have opportunities to crack the roster, while Matthew Slater will serve his usual role as a special teams ace, providing depth at receiver.

Dobson has higher upside than Tyms or Gibson, but he took a major step back in 2014, and he’ll need to recover from a disappointing sophomore season marred by injury to regain a regular role in the Patriots’ offense.

@DougKyedNESN Do Pats view James White/Tyler Gaffney in the same way they viewed Vereen coming into the league? Is Cadet insurance for them?
The Patriots definitely view White in the same mold as Vereen, and head coach Bill Belichick even said so after the Wisconsin product was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Belichick dismissed the notion Gaffney could be used similarly to Vereen during the NFL Annual Meeting in March. He noted Gaffney is 220 pounds, while Vereen is 15 pounds lighter. Gaffney did show skills as a pass blocker and receiver at Stanford, however, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility Gaffney is used on third downs.

I asked Gaffney about playing on third down Thursday after OTAs, and he’s certainly open to the role.

@DougKyedNESN #mailbag Which rookie Olineman are you most intrigued by? Does Marcus Cannon start more or less than 12 games?
I’m most intrigued by Shaq Mason, mainly because he’s more raw and athletic than Tre’ Jackson. I think Jackson likely can play sooner, but Mason has higher upside at either guard or center. Mason was known as one of the best run blockers in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he lacks experience in the passing game.

I think Cannon definitely starts fewer than 12 games, unless either Nate Solder or Sebastian Vollmer suffers a major injury. The Patriots tried Cannon at guard last season, and it didn’t work.

@DougKyedNESN você acha que o Garoppolo irá jogar bem nos primeiros jogos?
I used Google translator from Portuguese to English, and apparently I was asked, “Do you think (Jimmy) Garoppolo will play well in the first game?”

If Tom Brady’s suspension holds, then yes, I do think the second-year QB plays well. He’ll be going against an inexperienced Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, which really helps. Projected Steelers starters Senquez Golson and Sharmarko Thomas are as raw, if not more so, than Garoppolo.

@DougKyedNESN why not sign Wes Welker ?
My best guess would be money. There’s no point in Welker playing and risking his health for a veteran minimum contract. The Patriots, or another team, have to view him as having enough value to garner more than a minimum contract.

The Patriots also already have Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to play Welker’s old role in the offense. Edelman certainly is better than Welker at this point, and cutting Amendola actually would cost the Patriots cap room. It makes more sense financially to keep Amendola over Welker.

Amendola’s 2015 cap hit is $3.166 million, and the Patriots would have to eat $4.1 million in dead cap if he was cut, more than canceling out any savings and lowering the amount of room the Patriots can carry over into 2016.

I’m not sure all three players could coexist on the Patriots either. I think a player like Reggie Wayne might make more sense for the Patriots than Welker, despite the latter’s desire to reunite with Brady.

@DougKyedNESN which revolutionary war politician would make the best New England Patriot?
Definitely Benjamin Franklin. He probably could have held Ernie Adams’ job.

@DougKyedNESN What type of impact do you think Malcom Brown and Jordan Richards have in year 1?
Malcom Brown could be a pseudo-starter from Week 1 in the Patriots’ defense. The Patriots like to rotate their defensive tackles, which means Brown could receive a solid share of snaps even if he’s not officially a starter.

Brown’s best role to begin his NFL career likely is at three-technique defensive tackle or at one-gap one-technique. He’ll need some time bulking up before he can take on Vince Wilfork’s old run-clogging, two-gapping role.

Brown is seeing a solid share of snaps at OTAs right now because Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch and Dominique Easley all are sitting out. Having a lack of experience around him probably isn’t helping, but the reps will pay off during training camp and the preseason when he’s fighting for playing time.

Richards likely will start his career as a dime defender, similar to the role Tavon Wilson has carved out, but he has the upside to play strong safety. I just don’t think he’ll immediately pass Patrick Chung on the depth chart. I also think Richards will contribute heavily on special teams.

@DougKyedNESN How many tight ends do you think they keep? Is it the end of the Hooman era?
I could see the Patriots carrying three or four tight ends, but I’m not sure if the Michael Hoomanawanui era is over. The key to the Patriots’ offense, ultimately, is trust, and it’s obvious Brady and Bill Belichick trust Hooman.

I think Rob Gronkowski is the only absolute lock at tight end to make the 53-man roster. I think Scott Chandler, based on his usage at OTAs, is a near-lock, but the Patriots have a way of surprising people. The Patriots also seemed pretty stacked at tight end in 2013 until they cut Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells.

Hooman, Tim Wright, A.J. Derby, Jake Bequette and Fred Davis are competing for one or two spots on the roster.

Bequette is an intriguing option at tight end, by the way. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, he has prototypical size for the position. He’s also a great athlete. He ran a 6.90-second 3-cone, 4.07-second short shuttle and 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2012 at 274 pounds. We’ll see how the converted defensive end adjusts to his new position as OTAs, minicamp and training camp continue, but he looks fine so far.

@DougKyedNESN What wrestler would make a great NE Patriot and what NE Patriot (beside Gronk) would make a great wrestler?
I put a lot of thought into the first part of this question, and I’ll say either Neville or Kevin Owens. I could see Neville as a third-down back or slot receiver in the Patriots’ offense. He keeps his mouth shut, he’s gritty and he’s a hard-worker. He also doesn’t seem like he’d fumble very often.

Being “the man gravity forgot” would probably come in handy on a football field, as well. His vertical leap has to be pretty impressive.

Owens just looks like a guy who would sign with the Patriots during training camp and last four practices before being waived again. He also has the Patriots’ no-nonsense approach.

For the second part, here’s a power ranking of players Vince McMahon would sign in a heartbeat:
1. Rob Gronkowski: I know you said not to include Gronkowski, but c’mon. He’s obviously the No. 1 draft pick on this team for WWE. He basically already plays a character.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo: Think a heart-throb John Cena.
3. Chandler Jones: The fighting pedigree helps, he’s huge and he has a personality.
4. Sebastian Vollmer: He’s bigger than most of the WWE roster, and Vince loves foreign monster heels.
5. Jamie Collins: He can backflip on command. Imagine what he could do from the top rope.
6. Sealver Siliga: He’s 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, and he can move.
7. Brandon Spikes: Have you seen him tweet?
8. Marcus Cannon: He wouldn’t even need to talk — just glare.
9. Devin McCourty: He immediately would be one of the best talkers on the roster.
10. Darryl Roberts: He’s an absolute freak athlete. He put up 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, and he broad jumped 11 feet, 1 inch.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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