Exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in mailbag form:
This is a topic I revisited earlier in the week, and one reason it's timely to highlight is because the Patriots enter Phase 3 of their offseason program on Monday. Phase 3 has previously been identified by Tom Brady as a good time to build a foundation with his pass-catchers, as it's the only time in the offseason program when the offense can go against the defense. In 2015, I remember it as the time that running back Dion Lewis first flashed and made an initial impression on Brady.
In speaking to former Patriots players Matt Chatham and Rob Ninkovich, they shared the viewpoint that Brady's absence up to this point isn't a big deal, but added that their perspective would change a bit if Brady didn't show for the OTA part of the program (which starts Monday).
That's important context to answer the question about whether Brady's decision to forgo the first five weeks of voluntary workouts might have been different had Jimmy Garoppolo still been with the team. Brady could show up Monday, and it changes the discussion a bit.
Regardless, I take Brady at his word that his overall approach wouldn't have changed. He said the decision was with his family in mind, and Garoppolo's presence wouldn't have changed that.
@MikeReiss does the dorsett contract tweak help the pats when it comes to a new gronkowski deal?— 🍀 (@B_Murph1021) May 16, 2018
With receiver Phillip Dorsett having a $450,000 roster bonus due on the fifth day of training camp reduced to $150,000 (he can earn back some of the money in incentives and per-game roster bonuses), it shouldn't have a trickle-down effect on any efforts between the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski to sweeten his contract. More than that, the move protects Dorsett as he could have been released before that roster bonus was due, and reflects how he is fighting for a spot. By accepting a reduction, he gives himself a chance to compete for a roster spot without having finances play a major role in the outcome of who wins those jobs. After Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan, there is a logjam of receivers looking to break through: Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister and Chris Lacy
@MikeReiss could you see the Patriots taking a look at Vaccaro, Boston, or Reid? I feel like a solid 4th safety is somewhat important.— Alonso (@AlonsoNFL) May 14, 2018
Alonso, if Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston or Eric Reid remain on the market for an extended period of time, it would be consistent with the Patriots' approach to take a look at them and consider them from an emergency-list perspective. At this point, it seems fair to say they'll stick with what they have and see how it looks in the teaching-based organized team activity setting -- specifically as it relates to a couple of young players who spent last year on the practice squad, David Jones and Damarius Travis. They might be sleepers for that No. 4 spot, and there also might be some crossover with the cornerbacks, as someone like Jason McCourty could play some safety-type responsibilities depending on the package. The pure safety depth chart has Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner, Jones, Travis and A.J. Moore. There's always the chance for an addition, and Vaccaro, in particular, was a player I thought would be a good target for them if he were healthy.