Patriots Mailbag: What Innovation Could Make Even Bill Belichick Envious?

We’re less than two weeks removed from Super Bowl LII, and it already feels like we’re in the dog days of the offseason.

The NFL Scouting Combine and start of free agency are right around the corner, however, so the lull in football activity won’t last long.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag as we’re in the midst of one of the slowest portions of the NFL calendar year.

Do you think the NFL is becoming a league where 3rd string QB’s will become special teams players, for more versatility? The Saints did this with Taysom Hill
— @PatsFanMatt
I’m not sure if it will be a trend, but I love the idea of using a third quarterback on special teams, and I’m very surprised Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t think of it first. Although maybe he did, because the Patriots’ third-string quarterback on most occasions is a wide receiver — Julian Edelman. The difference is Hill, a former BYU quarterback, is listed as a QB on the New Orleans Saints’ roster.

It takes a special athlete to be a quarterback/special teamer too, though. Hill is 6-foot-2, 221 pounds and ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash with a 7.03-second 3-cone drill, 38.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump. He’s basically Nate Ebner, but he played college quarterback. That kind of athleticism is needed from core special teamers.

There are mobile quarterbacks out there right now but very few who are freak athletes like Hill. It’s an interesting career path for players who were used as option quarterbacks in college who don’t have the skill set to translate to pro passers. Many times, a team’s best or most athletic player is put at quarterback in high school. Maybe some of those guys could make a pro career in the kicking game.

Is there even a chance that the Pats can land Sherm or Graham this offseason? Possibly both? #MailDoug
— @N_lillypad
Yeah, I would say there’s a chance. Jimmy Graham is a free agent, and the Seattle Seahawks reportedly are willing to trade Richard Sherman.

The biggest question mark on Graham is whether the Patriots would be willing to pay whatever he ultimately commands in free agency.

With Sherman, it comes down to the Seahawks’ asking price for the All-Pro cornerback, and once again, whether the Patriots would be willing to pay it.

Even though Sherman is still under contract with the Seahawks in 2018, he seems more likely to be with the Patriots next season for some reason.

Do you think SB 52 was Belichicks poorest coaching performance in his career? Benching Butler, giving up over 500 yards and 41 points on defense, etc.
— @JMATTERS9
It really might be.

The decision to continue benching Malcolm Butler in the second half while the defense struggled still makes absolutely no sense, and it’s clearly something Patriots fans aren’t going to forget anytime soon.

Dion Lewis leaves, who’s getting the rock next season?
— @Tyler122994
Does Rex Burkhead return? What about Mike Gillislee? There are a lot of question marks at running back next season.

If yes and yes, then James White will be the third-down back, Burkhead will be the do-everything back, and I suspect Gillislee will be the short-yardage back. Burkhead could usurp goal-line role, however.

The Patriots could even throw a rookie into the mix either through the draft or undrafted free agency.

I asked this before, but who are the best patriots players under 25?
— @BVagmi
Some of the Patriots’ best players are under 25: wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive end Trey Flowers and guard Shaq Mason.

Of that group, Flowers probably is the best player, but it’s really close between the four.

You think Hightower still plays on the outside next year? And if so do the Patriots draft or sign a FA mlb ?
— @BrettPats
No, I don’t. I think Hightower will play middle linebacker next season. I think a lot of the injuries suffered to the Patriots’ pass rushers necessitated Hightower playing in more of an edge role before getting hurt in 2017.

The Patriots should be able to add pieces on the edge, where they’ll also have Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Eric Lee, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Keionta Davis and Geneo Grissom returning.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Do you think the Patriots will draft a QB this year?
— @Chief_James_
I do. I think they need to.

Who will go further in the playoffs? Celtics or Bruins?
— @DarrylJohnston
Is Gordon Hayward coming back? If so, then the Celtics. If not, I don’t know. Let’s say the Bruins.

If Belichick told you to suit up for the Pats, how would you respond? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
“Nice goof, coach.”

What hair product do you use to stay on top of the NESN game? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
Suavecito pomade.

As an out of state fan, why is there such strife/conflict between different Boston/N.E. media? Just curious for insight. #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
Competition breeds contempt. I like a solid 95 percent of my colleagues, though. The majority of Patriots beat reporters are a tight-knit group.

At least the Patriots won the Super Bowl somewhere in Africa right?
— @threestangtyry
I actually own a Patriots Super Bowl LII champs shirt. Don’t ask me where I got it.

@DougKyed Just for the record: will the Patriots trade for Larry Fitzgerald? #MailDoug
— @vladujic
No.

CB or DE which is the greater need?
— @PatrickS1591
Cornerback.

What is the top priority in the draft and in free agency?
— @rlbyrne29
Draft: quarterback.

Free agency: Nate Solder.

Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

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