A few leftover pieces of mail from Tuesday's Patriots mailbag:
Mike (Canton, Ohio): The Patriots used good judgement on Aqib Talib in regards to the franchise tag. He is very talented, however Robert Kraft's observation regarding availability is a factor. Eleven million is a bit much. I agree with you, Mike, to sperad out the guaranteed money over a couple of years is about right. Seven to eight million is about the most the Patriots should go and make it three years or four if that helps with the cap. What is your judgement?
Mike, I think the four-year, $32 million deal with $16 million in bonuses/guarantees that was signed by Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes is a good place to start. It sets the market. If I was negotiating for the Patriots, I'd have a hard time with a pure $16 million guarantee for Talib because of the injury factor. I still want to see the structure of Grimes' deal, as I'm assuming he got about $6 million as an up-front signing bonus, plus about $2 million in 2014 base salary (which is technically guaranteed because you know he'll be on the roster). So I want to know how the other $8 million "guaranteed" is paid out -- I'm guessing $4 million guaranteed base salary in 2015 and $4 million guaranteed base salary in 2016. That's a real strong deal, if so. From a Patriots perspective, I think they'd prefer the guaranteed base salaries in 2015 and 2016 to be option bonuses, or per-game bonuses, which protect them in the event of injury. I'd probably walk away if that wasn't a possibility.
Patrick (Keene, NH): Hi Mike, I think I'm a lone wolf here but I liked Steve Gregory. While not an All-Pro, he was a smart tough player. It seems the Pats gave up fewer long pass plays with him. That coupled with bad luck/drafting at strong safety I'm concerned. Agree? Any chase he gets re-signed?
I liked what Gregory brought to the team as well, Patrick. I believe he'd still be here if not for a rising salary cap charge, which we see with other players across the NFL on a weekly basis as well (e.g. Jason Avant, Eagles). At the same time, I wouldn't file it in a "concern" category at this point. Duron Harmon is next in the pipeline and he did some good things in 2013, and there is also free agency and the draft to possibly address the position. I think the door is open on a Gregory return depending on what pieces fall into place, and the injury picture.
Adam (Denver, Colo.): Mike, I appreciate your regard for Danny Amendola ... he seems like the smart, hard working athlete that the Patriots covet. But for those on the outside, it looks like he was awarded the contract that Edelman has finally earned after years in the system. If the Pats are indeed shopping Amendola, I for one hope they are successful and cut their losses. I think Edelman represents better value in terms of versatility and playing multiple positions, as well as rapport with Brady.
Adam, I'd start by saying that Julian Edelman has earned whatever is coming to him. He had a terrific 2013 season. If the Patriots knew then what they know now, it seems safe to say they would have given Edelman the contract they gave to Amendola at this time last year. But they didn't and there are financial ramifications to try to "correct" that. The biggest question with Edelman was could he stay healthy? Edelman recently admitted as much, which led to him signing a minimum-level, prove-it type one-year deal last year. Amendola had a similar knock, but the Patriots obviously had enough comfort to go forward with it anyway. Based on what we saw from Amendola in spring camps, preseason and the regular-season opener before the groin injury, I understand why. I still think he can be a high-impact player when healthy. He just has to do what Edelman did -- stay healthy.
David (Bourne, Mass.): I respect your opinion, but come on, there is no way the Patriots bring back Vince Wilfork at his current rate -- $11 million cap hit for a nose guard. That being said, what do you think the market is for Justin Tuck? And will the Patriots have any interest?
David, I think the $11.5 million cap hit for Wilfork is more easily absorbed with the cap increase. I also think Wilfork is more than a two-down nose tackle, assuming he comes back from injury with no issues. Furthermore, I think the Patriots have to account for more than just the on-field presence; with a young team, do you really want to subtract one of your captains who is a mentor to a lot of those young players? Risky business, which reminds me of the 2009 season when the locker room was somewhat fractured because of a lack of strong leadership in various corners. On Tuck, I'm not sure what the market might be. (Maybe one-year, $3 million?) But with the idea of adding a pass-rusher, I could see them taking a look.