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 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (10:58 AM)
Good morning. We'll get started in a few...
Mike (11:02 AM)
Things are moving along from this perspective. Since we last chatted, I've checked off a few more teams on the "offseason study" list as I'm going through each team's depth chart, power structure, season-ending news conferences to gain a better understanding. I do feel like understanding the 32-team NFL picture adds important context to when we're talking specifically about the Patriots. ...
Mike (11:03 AM)
... Obviously, I watched the combine closely. I think it's an important part of the process, but only from the standpoint if something doesn't match up with what a team saw on the game tape. So, for example, if the Patriots had their eyes on a tight end like Jace Amaro and felt he played fast based on game-tape but it wasn't confirmed in testing drills, that might raise some flags to double check in the scouting process.
Mike (11:04 AM)
Also, the medical is the biggest part, as Bill Belichick noted.
Mike (11:06 AM)
Expecting some roster movement from the Patriots in the coming week or so, as part of managing the cap. Always a surprise or two, so I have my seat belt fastened for that one. Also looking forward to moderating a panel at Friday's Sloan MIT Sports Analytics conference with Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The panel is on how organizations build alignment from the front office to the field, and is rooted in the team-building concept. It's one of my favorite things to discuss/study, so that should be educational and fun. What's on your mind today?
How are the talks going with Talib and Edleman
Mike (11:08 AM)
Chris, I think we'll get some more clarity on that by the start of free agency March 11, similar to what unfolded with Wes Welker last year. Teams and agents are just trying to get an accurate feel for the market, or as Broncos coach John Fox said at the combine, "price tags." Everyone loves to shop, Fox said, but it changes a bit once you know the price tag. The Patriots want Talib, and Talib wants to be here if the deal is right. I believe that's a strong foundation for getting a deal done, coupled with the dynamics of the market (several top CBs hitting UFA). On Edelman, my sense is that there is still more intel to be gained on what his market might be and the Patriots will be more inclined to let that dictate where things lead.
Keep an eye on the Lombardi connection with TJ Ward and Alex Mack. Also I think Louis Delmas may be worth a look. I don't think he would be a big money signing and he would be that "thumper" safety ala Mr Harrison.
Mike (11:11 AM)
Rick, Ward and Mack are two of the best players in free agency. They won't come cheap. If they end up here, that's what I would call a pretty signficant splash. Mack, to me, is one of the safest/best plays on the market. His signing would be easy to endorse, especially considering where Tom Brady is at this point of his career and the idea of being strong against up-the-middle pressure. Just not sure the price will be in the Patriots' range.
Mike, Do you think the Eagles re-signing Riley Copper will have any impact on the Pat's re-signing Edleman?
Mike (11:11 AM)
Brian, I blogged about that a bit this morning. Here is the link...
Mike (11:12 AM)
Alex (Derry, NH)
Mike, let's hear it, what will the Pats do with their first round pick?
Mike (11:14 AM)
Alex, I don't think they even know. Here's how I'd boil it down right now: 1) I think we can pretty safely eliminate QB and WR based on the present roster and overall picture. Everything else would be in play; 2) Ideally, if the right players fall, it's someone on the line of scrimmage. Improving pass rush would be ideal.
Frank (Massachusetts )
Mike, do you believe the Pats will franchise either talib or edelman? I've been hearing reports that they might not even use the tag at all
Mike (11:16 AM)
My educated guess would be no tag, Frank, unless it was similar to 2010 with Vince Wilfork where they were close to a deal and just needed a little more time to push it across the goal-line. The reason I'd say no tag is that those figures are pretty high. When you consider paying Talib $11m on a one-year tag deal, my feeling is that the $11m figure is what they'd be looking at in bonuses/guarantees as part of a long-term deal.
Mike (11:16 AM)
So why would they do it for one year? Just trying to use some common sense here when analyzing that situation.
Ellen (Longmeadow, MA)
Hi Mike: When you look at the recent playoff losses, several trends emerge - pass rush, coverage, WR separation, etc. However, the biggest problem is that teams have been able to move Brady off his spot in the pocket. The interior rush has been ferocious. Its time to invest a high pick on a center. Thoughts?
Mike (11:19 AM)
Ellen, this sort of ties in to the previous question/thought about Alex Mack, the Browns' free-agent center. He'd upgrade that spot with one signature on a significant long-term deal. But it would come at a hefty price. So then the question becomes, are there any top-flight centers in the draft like we saw with Mack (2010) or Nick Mangold (2006). I don't see it this year.
Mike, I read an article talking about the salary cap being around 132 million this season which would give the Pats around 9.5 million in space even before expected cuts like Sopoaga, Wilson and maybe the possibility of relief regarding the Hernandez situation. Could you see the Pats courting a bigger name in free agency with the cap space they'd have after a hopeful resign of Talib? Along the lines of maybe a Jeremey Maclin or Jared Allen?
Mike (11:21 AM)
Seth, nothing would surprise me. It seems every year, Bill Belichick does something that catches us off guard, and I'd expect something similar this year, whether it's the release of a player or a free-agent signing. The market for Jared Allen will be interesting to monitor. I like the idea of him or Viking teammate Everson Griffen to boost that pass rush. We talk about it a lot -- when you're in a sub defense 67 percent of the time, a third DE can almost be starter-like in the same value category as a fifth DB.
Jacob Oklahoma [via mobile]
What are the chances we get some sort of salary relief for Aaron Hernandez? What are the chances of the Patriots resign Talib and Edelman. Also what are the chances of bringing in a free agent wide receiver and who would that be?
Mike (11:23 AM)
Jacob, my understanding on that is that nothing is imminent on any salary-cap relief. The reason is that the Patriots are scheduled to pay Hernandez the final $3.25m of his signing bonus is March, so it hasn't even happened yet. Once that deadline passes, and there is no payment, then the process starts of grievance hearings etc. Thus, my understanding is that any relief would be coming further down the road.
Ray (Baton Rouge, LA)
I think we're under-rating what Julian Edelman brings to the Pats - interior and exterior WR, punt returner, emergency kick returner, special teams, one-time DB and probably their 3rd string game day emergency QB.
Mike (11:25 AM)
Ray, Edelman is a very good player who deserves everything coming to him. I think the question becomes "Do you feel like it's worth paying him 2 years, $10 million (my projected market for him) when you have other needs and other possibilities to fill a similar role (Amendola, Boyce, Moe etc.)?" These are the tough decisions that are often made in free agency. Let's see how his market develops and how the Patriots approach it; I'm just projecting that they are interested in his return but concerned the market will reach a point they aren't comfortable matching.
Olivia maine [via mobile]
Will pats bring in number 1 receiver?
Mike (11:27 AM)
Olivia, I don't think we'll see a big free-agent signing at the position. Ideally, your passing game has 5-plus solid options and what I'd focus on with New England is the development of last year's rookie class -- Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins. In Green Bay, Randall Cobb wasn't viewed as a top-of-the-depth-chart in his first year. He became one in year two. In saying that, if you're the Patriots, you can't bank on that happening and still have to protect yourself with insurance.
My guess is Talib stays and Edelman leaves. But what about Blount?
Mike (11:28 AM)
I think Blount is back. That RB market is generally pretty soft (e.g. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead in recent years). Would be mildly surprised if the Patriots aren't the top bidder there (while also understanding that it only takes once team to alter the picture).
Mike, I don't even want to think about post BB era. Do you think he's still as hungry as 10-15 years ago and will coach for many years to come?
Mike (11:29 AM)
Seems as focused and driven as ever to me, Misha. Another 5 years seems reasonable, if not more.
Matt (Pasadena, CA)
Hi Mike, like most Pats fans I love what Blount contributed at the end of the year, but with him and Ridley, that's two runners who can't catch the ball or play STs. What do you think about pursuing a veteran like Jones-Drew instead of Blount? He has more versatility, more talent, and might still have another 1-2 years of productivity left; I imagine his market will be similar or slightly lower than what Steven Jackson got last year.
Mike (11:31 AM)
Matt, I thought Blount's kickoff returns were valuable, so I wouldn't put him in the category of a non-special-teams guy. I'd stick with Blount, who already has a year's head start in the system and is 27 years old.
John Mcclane (NY)
Mike, what moves would you make to give the Pats the best chance of a Superbowl again?
Mike (11:33 AM)
John, thanks for giving me the chance to play GM. I enjoy it. I'd start with Talib as my top free agent priority. And if I came out of the draft/free agency with some reinforcements at the line of scrimmage on both sides, as well as a more dynamic outlook at TE, those are the main pieces I'd focus on. ...
Mike (11:34 AM)
... But as we know, John, sometimes those opportunities don't always present themselves. So I wouldn't want to jam a player into a spot just for the sake of filling a perceived need. Then I'm probably back in the same spot the next year. In the end, just have to keep feeding good players into the pipeline, similar to last year with Jamie Collins. Not sure many of us saw that one coming.
Okoye Harris (true New England fan) [via mobile]
Mike what do you think the 2014/2015 team Defense can do better then last years &. What can bill or Mr.Karft do in the draft & Free agency to help us get another ring
Mike (11:37 AM)
Okoye, as part of this offseason study I'm conducting, I'd say the common thread that links many of the NFL's teams (at least in the AFC so far) is the desire to get better in their four-man pass rush. When you can rush with four, it makes the game that much easier (e.g. Seahawks in the Super Bowl). That's where I would start. It's why free agents like Jared Allen and Everson Griffen catch my eye, especially knowing that former Vikings defensive line coach Brendan Daly is now on the Patriots staff. When you sign a free agent, there's always a little element of the unknown in how that player will fit, how he works behind the scenes, how he approaches his craft. I like the idea that Daly could have great insight on Allen/Griffen in that regard. Just spitballing ideas/concepts/players that I think could help the Patriots.
justin (New Jersey) [via mobile]
Did any TE impress you from the combine. I was looking at Leonard from Tenn St. And lyerla from Oregon especially, i saw athleticism that can be a match up nightmare how Hernandez was. What do you think of them? With their off the field issues, would the Pats take a bite at them in the later rounds? Presumably if Ebron is off the board.
Mike (11:40 AM)
Justin, on the tight ends, what impressed me the most at the combine was the physical makeup/body type of Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. When we think of the tight end position, it's basically two things to me: 1) Is he a real tight end who is a factor in the blocking and pass-catching games; 2) Or is he more of a bigger wide receiver. To me, Niklas, at this point, looks like the top "real" tight end in this class.
It is what it is (Boston.)
Mike:I think you really should set expections with the fans... They will win the east...Win a playoff game or so, but winning a sb...Nope...Not going to happen...TOo many holes to fix to beat the big boys with not enough picks/money...People just need to enjoy the ride knowing it wont happen... It is what it is... Cheer/drink/supprt...Bc the window is closed..Sorry..They will never win a sb again... 08-14 was too many misses and picking the wrong players for a passing league..Shame bc Bill could have hit a grand slam instead he his a triple
Mike (11:45 AM)
I don't see it that way. This is also part of the reason I've been so deeply into this offseason study, because I think it really helps with NFL context, and what I hear from most teams is this: "Our goal is to get into the tournament and then anything is possible." I don't think anyone sits there and says, "We have a Super Bowl team right now." That's not the way it works because things change so fast in this league. Once you're in the tournament, you have a chance. And like you said, I believe the Patriots will be in it again this season. So much goes into building a team and making a championship run. I'd encourage you to look at things the way teams do ... it might help you enjoy it more and also have a better grasp/understanding of what goes in to putting it all together and how everyone makes mistakes. The Patriots are essentially the model many teams are hoping to follow, with 13 straight winning seasons and an annual Super Bowl contender. Are they perfect? Far from it. But when stacked up against the competition, they come away from it looking quite good.
Edye (Long Island)
Who is now TBs QB guru?
Mike (11:46 AM)
Tom House, a former pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Steven (Scotland (UK))
Hi Mike, I think the passing attack needs the rookie receivers from last year to really step up, can you give a rough prediction on how you feel the trio of Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins will fare this year from a catches/yards perspective?
Mike (11:49 AM)
Steven, I haven't thought much about catches and yards, but if Dobson had 37 last year, I think 70-plus is a reasonable expectation. Boyce and Thompkins should have an uptick too. How much? So difficult to even answer that right now. But I would stress that these second-year guys have to develop. If they don't, it's a major disappointment. I believe that's how you best build a team -- draft, develop/cultivate, and attempt to keep as much of that core together.
Gary (Falls Church, VA)
Obviously, Steven is not familiar with your prognosticating abilities.
Mike (11:50 AM)
Gary, might you be referring to my 61-catch Greg Salas prediction? LOL. Or was it the one at the start of training camp last year that Kenbrell Thompkins would surprise and make the team? Hey, my crystal ball isn't always cloudy.
Mike, update us on Adrian Wilson. If he isn't ready where do we go in terms of that strong safety position? Ward will be too expensive, so what will be our options in free agency for mid-tier safeties that could be a fit? Also, DT Armstead, ready to go for camp?
Mike (11:51 AM)
Ryan, I'd be surprised if Wilson is on the team in 2014 because I didn't think he was going to make it before his injury in 2013 preseason. One player I'm keeping an eye on is Miami's Chris Clemons, a UFA at the safety spot. As far as I know, Armstead should be ready.
Dennis (West Palm Beach/Palm Beach Gardens Honda Classic)
Mike, appears the draft has some deep threat WR's in this years draft and it would be nice to see the Patriots move up and draft a top 10 WR and provide Brady a true weapon. Your thoughts?
Mike (11:52 AM)
Dennis, I'm not in the camp that believes a WR is a top priority. I'd layer the depth chart with insurance type options, but I'm more of the belief that the answers should be in-house.
Wouldn't it be a smart move to at least bring in one veteran WR in case the injury bug does indeed strike again?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Dave, I think that's a likelihood. I thought Austin Collie did a nice job for them in 2013. Wouldn't think there would be much hesitation bringing him back in 2014.
Why is it that Bill B is considered a defensive genius when he's failed year after year with his schemes when they needed him most? Don't give me the "injury line" either because every team has them.
Mike (11:56 AM)
Les, has he really failed? I'd agree with anyone who says the defense can be better, and it's a disappointment that it hasn't been. But if you want to see "failed", I can show you a bunch of other teams who fall into that category. Look at the Raiders' defense at the end of last season; wasn't competitive. The Patriots were in every game this past season. Every game. The defense was instrumental in winning some of those games, especially early in the year. Give me another team that can say that. Need some perspective here, I believe.
Mike (11:56 AM)
Let's take a few more...
Mike, I agree that Dobson is a good in-house option at receiver with a good ceiling to be an impact starter. Amendola has shown that he can be good when healthy. However, Thompkins did not seem to sustain improvement throughout the season, and Boyce showed limited flash - he's just as likely to be a Bequette or Tavon Wilson at this point than an impact starter. I don't see where your 3rd WR is for 3-wide sets at this point. Who do you think that guy is, and is he a decent player or an impact player?
Mike (11:58 AM)
Let's break it down, Pete. If Edelman is back, I think you're looking at Dobson-Edelman-Amendola and feeling pretty good about that if you're Bill Belichick. Then you have Thompkins and Boyce as the next in line. If Edelman departs in free agency, it comes back to the development of Thompkins/Boyce and if they can take the next step. I'd think they also sign a veteran into the mix (e.g. Emmanuel Sanders) as well.
dave dave (norwood)
D'Qwell jackson makes sense right? Even thought we have Jamie Collins, how sick would the addition of Jackson be?
Mike (12:00 PM)
Dave, that was a surprise to me, seeing Jackson released in Cleveland. Can never have enough good football players, but if I'm Jackson, I'm probably looking at a depth chart of Mayo/Collins/Hightower and wondering where I fit. My sense is that would lead him elsewhere, but let's keeo an eye on it.
Mike, you always bring up Emmanuel Sanders when taking about signing a FA WR. Judging by fans in the Pittsburgh area they dont really want him back. Why do you think the pats should sign him so badly?
Mike (12:02 PM)
Logan, I think Sanders has some good skills -- inside/outside WR with good run-after-the-catch ability. Looks like a good fit for this system. Hands a little questionable.
KJ (Los Angeles)
Hi Mike. I really like Calvin Pryor from Louisville, Anthony Barr from UCLA and Kony Ealy from Mizzou... what do you think the chances are they fall to no. 29/ we trade up for someone of that caliber in the draft?
Mike (12:03 PM)
KJ, Pryor falls into that hard-hitting safety category that some have talked about as a big need for the Patriots. Probably gone before 29. Barr is also probably long gone at that point. Less certain about Ealy, but in a draft with fewer pure 4-3 DEs, he probably doesn't make it to 29 either.
Brad [via mobile]
With all the uncertainty about the TE position, a low risk, high reward option like Dustin Keller is very intriguing. Why do you think his name hasn't been mentioned much and do you honk he's a good fit?
Mike (12:04 PM)
Good thought, Brad. The one counter would be with the Gronk injury situation, is it ideal to take on another player at the position with injury questions. Always liked Keller, though.
Hi Mike,Continuing from Pete's (NH) question I think Thompkins has reached his ceiling. Dobson looks poised to make a leap but that still leaves them short at deep receiver. Any chance Mark Harrison can be that? or do they draft or sign another deep threat in FA.
Mike (12:05 PM)
I wouldn't bank on Harrison at this point. He'll be fun to follow, ND, and has some nice measurables. But still an unknown to me. On Thompkins, I'm not sure how anyone can say he's reached his ceiling. He's never had a full year in an NFL offseason program with a year of experience under his belt. I saw enough there to think he can still grow as a player.
My question is about Colt Lyerla. He's the closest player to Aaron Hernandez both on and off the field. They have similar playing styles and IMO he's the best possible replacement of AH. That being said BB and Kraft said they will change their evaluation process after the AH murder chargers. I think especially Kraft was really effected by the situation and I think that's why he won't go the Lyerla way. On the other hand I really want them to. I mean, what are the odds of Lyerla being charged with murder? From only football perspective, I think Lyerla would be a low round, really high reward pick. What's your opinion on this? Should the past shadow BB's and Kraft's decision?
Mike (12:06 PM)
I think they probably stay away from that one, Memo.
Whit Cheever (San Francisco)
Hey Mike, what are your thoughts on Pats surprising everybody and taking a linebacker in the first round? As we all know BB isn't afraid to roll the dice and has many times in the past (paging Logan Mankins, Nate Soldier, Devon Mccourty) taken players in the first round that were somewhat unexpected. The kid from Ohio State is a beast and I am being told is putting up Jamie Collins type combine numbers. Do you see that as a possibility?Also, the person I think who will be the stud of the tight ends is Sefarian-Jenkins I watched him dominate the Pac 10 his freshman year. I know his numbers were down last year but that is my guy minus is checkered past.My hope is we get a Tight End, D lineman, strong safety, and another Offensive lineman. Give me your thoughts Mike. Thanks!
Mike (12:12 PM)
Let's end on this one. Thanks Whit. I'd be mildly surprised at a linebacker but if someone like Wisconsin's Chris Borland is the best value, I wouldn't completely rule it out. He looks like a good football player and with so much of the game played in sub packages, I could argue that you can never have enough of those guys.
Mike (12:13 PM)
Thanks to everyone for chatting. Moe than 400 questions by the time we finished, and I'll plan on combing through them and seeing if I can address some more in the coming days. Catch up again next week.