Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at noon ET!
Mike (10:58 AM)
Good morning and welcome to our weekly chat. We'll get started in a few...
Mike (11:04 AM)
Quiet week around the Patriots. Coaches are off. Some of the players have popped up around the Super Bowl (Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman) but overall not a lot of action. I've tried to use the time to get familiar with other teams around the NFL, studying depth charts, reviewing season-ending news conferences, projecting needs, getting an initial feel for free agents. Still a long way to go. Also trying to catch up on some emails (not going too well, so apologies to those who have reached out and I haven't responded to).
Mike (11:04 AM)
What's on your mind today?
Mike, what are they going to do with Vince Wilfork? It's pretty clear they can't pay him an $8m salary, and they seem very reluctant to restructure contracts in order to push cap hits into the future.
Mike (11:08 AM)
Peter, this is going to be very interesting to me to watch unfold. Let's start with the facts: He has one year left on his contract and his base salary is $7.5 million with a cap charge around $11.5m (second highest on team). It makes sense to think the team will approach him about re-working the contract. A restructure is challenging because there aren't any years beyond 2014 to spread out the charges. So do they extend the deal? Would Wilfork be amendable to a reduction (and is it even fair to ask for that?)?
Mike (11:09 AM)
I obviously don't have the answers to those questions right now and I'm not sure the team/Wilfork's side does either. But those are some of the dynamics in play.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
Mike, you talked about Decker coming to New England as a possibility during FA. Any further thoughts on that? Besides Denver and Minnesota (his home state), who else might be interested in him?
Mike (11:10 AM)
Craig, I think Decker will be out of their financial range when all is said and done. Emmanuel Sanders seems like a more reasonable target given all the factors in play, and what we already know (they pursued him in 2013).
I am not expecting the Pats to make a splash from the FA pool... I just don't see it. What I want to see is added depth from FAs and draft young players in positions of need like TE and S and DE.
Mike (11:13 AM)
Eric, the salary cap situation is a bit tight, in part because of $7.5 million on the books for Aaron Hernandez. If they truly get aggressive with a player from another team, which is always possible if they want to manuever some things around, the target I'd have is Browns center Alex Mack. Not saying I'm any football expert here, but when reviewing the AFC Championship Game, was alarmed at how the breakdowns at the heart of the line of scrimmage almost made the entire rushing offense collapse. I know it's dangerous to read too much into one performance, but if I can upgrade with a Pro Bowl caliber center like Mack, I'm at least considering it. I also like that I have a coach on staff (Brian Daboll) who can give me great insight into him from his time with the Browns.
Nick (Greenville, SC )
Mike, What are your instincts telling you on the Pats interest in Incognito? The idea of a Mankins/Incognito Guard combo just seems like a nasty 1-2 punch for our interior line which suffered in our playoff loss.
Mike (11:14 AM)
Nick, I think we can safely say that one is "dead on arrival." No chance.
Clarence (Sioux City)
Does Dobson take the next step towards being the reliable, "big" receiver the Pats desperately need? Do they continue to rely on Gronk? Or do they go WR in a deep draft?
Mike (11:15 AM)
Clarence, that year 1 to year 2 jump is significant for a lot of players at WR. Randall Cobb in Green Bay is one who comes to mind. I was extremely impressed with Bengals WR Marvin Jones along those lines. No reason to think Dobson can't take another step.
Regarding Alex Mack don't you think he'd be a likely tag candidate for the Browns?! The tag for a center can't be much and he's well worth it. What do you think about Geoff Schwartz?
Mike (11:16 AM)
Those OL are all tagged the same number, Shaun. Makes it unlikely on a tag.
Hey Mike, if the Pats are to retain Talib and Blount, what type of contracts are they going to have to offer them?
Mike (11:18 AM)
Good one, Will. On Talib, the cornerback market was a bit soft last year. Sean Smith's three-year deal (worth approximately $18 million with about $11 million in bonuses/guarantees) with the Chiefs is probably the low end. Just spitballing here but maybe 3 years/21m/14 guarantees
Hey Mike! I was surprised with a birthday gift of getting to go to one of the Patriots away games next year. Any insight you can provide on some of the destinations?
Mike (11:20 AM)
That's awesome Lucky, and it helps that it is a TREMENDOUS road schedule. Here was my light-hearted "road-trip ranker" for 2014: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4758007/ranking-2014-patriots-road-trips
Mike - I'm going to say what nobody else wants to, assets depreciate. Every year since the end of 2011, Gronkowski's value has gone down. How low do you wait for his value to be, before you move on? I'd guess you'd still pull a nice haul in a trade for 87. Why not move on now, while the value is high, you'd get back valuable cap space, draft picks, and potentially even a player. If he can't stay on the field anyway, what value does he even has to this team?
Mike (11:21 AM)
Here's the way I look at Gronkowski: No team is going to make an offer that can't be refused at this point because of the injury situation. So you basically have a two-year snapshot to the point in his contract when a $10 million bonus would have to be picked up to activate the final four years of the deal. Best to wait things out and see what the picture looks like closer to that time.
Mike, depth at de is a big issue, what are your thoughts about getting another de? Do you think we get one from the draft or fa? Do you think the pats have a chance of signing Michael Johnson?
Mike (11:23 AM)
Reese, I don't see them being able to absorb the contract a player like Johnson will likely command. It will likely start in house with Talib/Edelman/Blount and based on what happens with them, then they can see what they have left to spend and if there are any potential hits. Have to look at salary cap situation realistically.
Hey Mike, thanks for a good blog all season. Are you surprised by the Belicheck bashing that's been going on regarding not surrounding Brady with enough weapons this season? Going into 2013 we had Gronk, Hernandez, Amendola and Edelman replacing Welker and our committee of running backs. That seems like an elite group, not a group like we saw in 2006.
Mike (11:27 AM)
Terry, has there been a lot of bashing? I haven't really seen it that way. I think most people who look at it objectively would agree that they committed to the TEs and once they lost both of them, it's tough to recover from something like that. So a big part of the plans were built around those two, which by the way, was being lauded by many in the media when it happened. That's the one thing I have no tolerance for from a media perspective -- revisionist history. It's hard for me to criticize when I was among those praising the early extensions. Now, there's a part of it where the team should be held to a higher degree of accountability than media members because they have more information and resources to make their decisions. But if we're really trying to be fair, I don't think BB should be bashed. It's fair to question the decision-making and discuss it critically, but no need to go into "bash" mode. There are plenty of other teams to do that with, but not this one.
Mike, do you think the Pats will use their franchise tag on anyone this year? If so, who?
Mike (11:29 AM)
Will, I think Talib is the only viable candidate and that's a projected $11m hit. Tough to absorb. If I had to guess a percentage, would say 20 percent likelihood of it happening.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Mike - The pats are still the team to beat but is next year looking like the most competitive the division will be in a long time?
Mike (11:31 AM)
Harry, lot of change in the division -- new OC in Miami with roots in the West Coast system and Chip Kelly's fast-paced attack; new DC in Buffalo with roots in Jeff Fisher's 4-3 attacking style -- but in the end I think the answer to the question will come down to the same thing it was this year: Are E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and Ryan Tannehill QBs you can win with for the long haul? Tough to answer that right now.
On the Nick Caserio front, do you think it was a brilliant move to get intel on a division rival? Do you believe there is any credence to Caserio tiring of being overruled in the draft room?
Mike (11:35 AM)
Chris, he was invited down, it wasn't something he pursued. I just think that's such important context here. As for the idea of getting intel, I think that's a residual benefit from the trip, but not the sole purpose of it. I look at it from the perspective of Caserio owing it to himself and his family to build relationships and potentially give himself added financial security. He could have done so, probably doubling his salary, and I have a lot of respect for him staying. I think that speaks volumes. As for the overruled in the draft-room part, I think Caserio, in his heart of hearts, would probably agree it can be frustrating at times. No situation is perfect but I think he realizes this is still a pretty good one.
Arjuna (Durham, NH)
I've got a feeling the Pats draft a QB this year, relatively high. With Mallett likely on his way out, either via trade or free agency, I think they look for another QB, maybe a potential successor. Thoughts?
Mike (11:36 AM)
Right on, Arjuna. This is the year, with Mallett scheduled to enter free agency after the 2014 season, where it would make sense to carry a third developmental QB if you can find the right one. Go 'Cats!
Jacob (New Orleans) [via mobile]
Hey Mike, I was wondering your take on the reported "loss of trust" between Brady and Amendola. Any truth to this? Could he realistically be cut? I don't think so.
Mike (11:38 AM)
I'd be surprised if Amendola is cut. He's a good player who needs to be healthy, which is the same knock on Julian Edelman last year. I didn't see any reports on "loss of trust". My take on Amendola is that he probably could have been placed on season-ending IR with that groin injury but decided to play through it. I'm anxious to see what he can do when healthy (which has been the knock on him up to this point regardless).
Hey Mike...thanks as always for doing all these chats/live game blogs...I wanted to kind of challenege you on the Marvin Jones comparison for 2nd year jumps...Dont get me wrong he was a pretty good receiver this year, but he also lines up across from AJ Green...None of the receivers on the Pats roster are as even close to as good as Green, so if say Dobson or KT make the jump to Marvin Jones level next year, do you think that will be good enough to take the Pats passing game to the next level?
Mike (11:41 AM)
Quality challenge, kais1man. The Green factor could help Jones in terms of what coverage/attention he sees, but I'm actually going deeper than that in the analysis. I watched about four Bengals games this year and the plays he was making on the ball were often ridiculous. The separation was there, as was the confidence and sure hands. You're right about Green's presence and that is part of the context when looking at Jones' production. But I saw phsyical traits, from my amateur scouting perspective, that looked impressive to me regardless of who else was lined up on the field.
Dave (Newton, MA)
Do you think the Pats will ever sack a QB in an AFC Championship game again? I mean, it's been a while, right?
Mike (11:42 AM)
Dave, they absolutely could have gotten more pressure on Peyton Manning at times. It's also important to note how they devoted some of their resources to chipping backs and TEs with their ends in this year's AFC title game, sacrificing some of the initial rush. The best way to get to Manning is up the middle anyway and that's where I thought it hurt them the most this year.
With Amendola's history of injuries before the Pats signed him (missing 20 out of 32 games) and now his injury this season, I think this is one of most puzzling FA signings of BB's coaching tenure, don't you think?
Mike (11:44 AM)
Jeff, at the time, you could have made the case that some of Amendola's injuries were a result of bad luck/timing. Welker had a torn ACL; his just happened at the end of the 2009 season. Can always look back and question, but I'll hold myself accountable here: At the time of the signing, it reminded me of the Patriots' trade for Welker in 2007 -- locking up a high-upside player in his prime years at a reasonable rate.
Hi Mike, do you think the Fitzgerald story is coming out now as a result of the "bashing" taking place that Brady did not have enough weapons? Its an interesting story, and although its possible they inquired, I just dont see it as being even close to happening (no way Belichick trades multiple picks and takes on his cap charge). Maybe I'm wrong, just seems weird the story being broken now and not in the season or training camp (that being said, him being on the team would be great.....just probably no chance). Thanks
Mike (11:45 AM)
Honestly, Jared, I have no idea about why/how it came out. Dream scenario with Fitzgerald. Would rate it at 0.1 percent chance of happening, but fun to think about.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think the Patriots take a long look at Jace Amaro or Xavier Grimble at the TE position? Grimble could be a steal in the 3rd of 4th round. Your thoughts?
Mike (11:46 AM)
Tony, you're a little further ahead of me on the draft stuff at this point. But as you might have read, I was told by a scout that this is a good TE draft. So that's a case where perceived Patriots need matches up with supply.
Mike, do they need an upgrade from Wendell, or is he a good player who had one bad game? Also, since he's a FA and Connelly and Mankins are 30+, is G/C the biggest area of need?
Mike (11:47 AM)
Peter, I like Wendell and I think he's a player you can win with. My point is that if you can upgrade to Mack at a salary you deem works, that's something to seriously consider.
Quincy (Dade County) [via mobile]
Yo Mike, what's up with your love fest with Wes Welker, seems he can't do wrong in your mind? Calling out Bill last year, not being able to pull in a catchable pass in the Super Bowl and a unwillingness to budge on a more than respectable contract offer given based off where the Pats project him to provide for the future not the past!
Mike (11:49 AM)
Quincy, I do like Wes Welker. I try to be as fair as possible and call it like I see it. Like others, I'm not perfect either.
I'm sure you've had it with the Welker talk, but I'm still bothered by that play. I know rub plays are run often by most if not all teams, but I have never seen one that looked that much like a designed play to target a top corner. Thomas was so focused on lining up Talib even when the "rub" took his man out of the play and the game entirely he completely muffed the catch, like it was a secondary concern. Even if Welker didn't mean to injure Talib, he was looking for contact and got it, and should have gotten a penalty. I'd love to see a warning/ejection system in football for dangerous plays. That's a dangerous play and no team should run it like that. Andrew
Mike (11:50 AM)
Andrew, as I wrote at halftime of the game itself, I thought the play should have been penalized. I don't think it was malicious intent, however. To me, it was two competitive football players holding their ground.
bo (new york)
Don't you think BB jumping on Welker was to score good faith with Talib before free agency?
Mike (11:51 AM)
I know some have said that, Bo, but I really think BB believes what he said about Welker. I think it was more about that than anything with Talib.
Sounds like there will be a mutual split this offseason from the Pats and Spikes. Do you think he will garner much interest in FA? Does reports of him being placed on IR for non football reasons hurt his chances of a big pay day?
Mike (11:52 AM)
I do see Spikes garnering interest in free agency because he's a good player who brings a hard-hitting edge and energy to any defense. I do think his time here has run its course. Wouldn't expect a big payday for Spikes. More modest.
Sounds like Isaac Sopoaga may be a cap casualty, what are the chances he comes back with a healthy wilfork, kelly and possibly armstead?
Mike (11:52 AM)
At the minimum, perhaps. But I'd call that one a disappointment. I thought he'd help more.
How much do you think Edleman can command in the FA market and does it make financial sense to keep him around for a reliable target for TB12?
Mike (11:53 AM)
My thought is that an Amendola type deal -- 5 years, $28-30 million with $10 million in bonuses/guarantees -- would be a reasonable target for him. I think the Patriots can do it if they want, but my guess would be they back away if it comes to that.
Venkat (San Francisco)
Regarding the AFC Championship game, were you a bit disappointed that the pats dared the broncos to run with a light front but they still kept passing ? Maybe this strategy visits revisiting. We all know its belichick's scheme but why is it that our defense never that pressure defense ?
Mike (11:54 AM)
Overall, I was just surprised at the performance, Venkat. I expected more from them. I thought defensively, they did enough to keep it within striking distance (2 of 6 in red zone for Broncos), but needed one or two more stops. It was less about scheme to me and more about winning 1 on 1 battles.
Tony (San Francisco)
Hi Mike, have been mentioning many times, we need to get some veteran receivers to help out Brady. I know we are consistently good but that that didn't get us anywhere for the last ten years, I would really like to be the Giants, where they are terrible 8 out of the 10 years and won a couple more superbowls in between. I know BB want to say everyone should be treated the same, but in reality TB is a once in lifetime QB, except for 2007, we are wasting our time to just be good every year but not great for a couple, really frustrating...
Mike (11:59 AM)
Tony, this is a common outlook I've heard from some fans. I think the intent was to put weapons around TB12, starting with Gronkowski and Hernandez. Once that fell apart, it hurts them obviously. Also, look at the teams with all those weapons. How did they get them? Denver is a good example -- D. Thomas (1st round), Decker (3rd round), Welker (free agency). J. Thomas (4th round). It takes some time to cultivate those assets into what they are today.
Jack Reilly (Lexington)
Can you remember the last time one of BB's reaches in the draft has paid off? The latest two, t wilson and d harmon don't inspire the trust i have been accustomed to giving BB and the pats
Mike (11:59 AM)
Jack, I thought Harmon was pretty good this year. Tavon Wilson -- no defending that. Nate Ebner came to mind -- core special teamer in 6th round that no one saw coming.
Casey S (Outta Town)
Mike what's your ideal offseason? Worst case scenario? And finally your most likely?
Mike (12:00 PM)
Casey, I'd start with Talib. When you have a shutdown-type player in your employ, believe it should be a top priority to retain. Losing him would be a tough blow. I'll fill out the answer to the rest of the question as I become more informed deeper into the offseason.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Let's take a few more...
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will win Super Bowl XLVIII?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Chris, I went with a Broncos 24, Seahawks 17 final score. Weather forecast was one reason I ultimately leaned in Denver's direction. Nice break for them.
Marc (Malden, MA)
It's nice that the Pats tried to utilize the TE, but when has an team ever won a Super Bowl based on their TEs? You need WRs on the outside who can separate and get open. Didn't the 2nd Giants Super Bowl show that?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Marc, I don't look at it that way. We could turn that right back around and say, "What did that get the Giants this year?" Their offense was brutal, a turnover machine. When we think back to the Super Bowl championships won by the Patriots in 2001, 2003 and 2004, did they really have that outside WR? To me, you most often need a complete team to win it all and it's hard to put together. I'm not saying an outside WR wouldn't help, but I think it's overstating it to think they add one of those and poof, they're in the Super Bowl. For example, I don't think that would have made much of a difference in this year's AFC title game. Brady had open targets twice down the field and overshot them. The running game struggled because they couldn't control Terrance Knighton. So much goes into it.
Bill Lenkaitis Fan (Charlotte, NC)
You are sitting alone in a restaurant having a casual meal. Tom Brady walks in. He: (a) ignores you; (b) waves; (c) comes over to say hello and politely chat; (d) joins you for a sandwich and talks about stuff.
Mike (12:06 PM)
Tough one BLF. I'm thinking "B".
Mike, explain something to me. I heard Michael Felger, CSNNE personality say that Peyton Manning doesn't measure up to Tom Brady because he can't win the big one. Then in the same breath say Brady hasn't won a big one in the last nine years. Does that make sense to you?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Bill, are you asking me to explain something my good pal Michael Felger said? Come on, man! You can't explain the un-explainable: He knows provocative banter and is very good at it.
Hey Mike, without naming sources can you provide some general insight on where all this speculation is coming from about Amendola's injury and how it was so bad he probably should've been on IR, etc. I feel like I keep hearing these vague statements without anyone (Amendola or the team) standing by them. The cynic in me suspects it's Amendola's agent using the media to write off a disappointing year. Can you convince me otherwise?
Mike (12:10 PM)
Eliott, that was a serious groin injury he sustained in the season-opener, I think that was pretty well documented. So it was something he had to manage all year.
max (my cube)
Mike, do you have any inside scoop on Pepper Johnson leaving? Was it just him being frustrated at not being made the DC (and prospects being slim for the near future)? Or difference in coaching philosophies? Something else?
Mike (12:11 PM)
Max, I think both sides felt it was time and it was more mutual in nature. Splitting after such a long time is often difficult and I thought both sides handled it with class/dignity.
Why are people acting like Denver is in the tropics? It snows and is cold in Dever too...why would the weather favor them?
Mike (12:11 PM)
My view, Jeff: Freezing temperatures and high winds usually not good for the passing game, which makes them go.
(Miami fl) Mike [via mobile]
Mike do you think the window is closing on the pats?
Mike (12:13 PM)
I try to simplify it Mike. I think you need to have a solid QB to win it all, first and foremost, and I see Brady in that category for the next 2-4 years. So that's where I'd start putting the timeframe of any "window" based on the current personnel. I still believe they can be successful after that, but I'm just basing it off the current personnel snapshot.
Bill L. (Fort Collins, CO)
Any chance Kraft petitions to have the SB in New England?
Mike (12:13 PM)
He joked about it, Bill, or at least I think it was a joke. I don't see him pursuing it hard.
Brian (Oxford, CT)
Hi Mike - So what are your plans for Sunday? I'm sure you'll have something Pats-related to write up, tying to the game, but do you get to watch from home? A room full of buddies? ESPN HQ?
Mike (12:16 PM)
Let's end it here, Brian. I'm going to watch at home. I used to go to the game and felt privileged to do so, but later found that if the Patriots weren't in it our readers didn't have too much of an interest in any content coming from it. Add a couple of young kids to the mix and the idea of being away from home for a full week when the team you cover isn't even there ... and this is the right place to be now. As for watching the game, I like to watch it quietly by myself.
Mike (12:18 PM)
We're now almost two weeks removed from the AFC title game and it's impressive to me to see the level of participation and interest in talking Patriots football in this forum. I certainly appreciate it and look forward to continuing it through the offseason.