Exploring some New England Patriots hot topics in the form of a mailbag:
Hi Mike -- Great piece. I read yesterday that the market for Burkhead could be competitive. Do you see both he and Lewis in other uniforms next year? And if so, will BB target a RB in the draft or will he scour free agency to find their replacements?— Brian Goodwin (@brian22goodwin) March 2, 2018
Thanks, Brian. I would say it's too early to know if both players are going to be elsewhere. While there might be a projection that there could be a strong free-agent market for both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, there is a difference between talking about it on March 3 and teams acting on it come March 12. What most teams are doing now is trying to gain credible information on where the market could be heading, and gauging a team's true intentions/genuine interest in a player can sometimes be difficult. As for the draft, this is considered a strong class at running back. If Lewis and Burkhead eventually do sign elsewhere, the idea that the Patriots would turn to the draft (in which I believe they like Alvin Kamara in 2017) makes the most sense to me.
@MikeReiss Is there any possibility that the Patriots would consider franchise tagging Malcolm Butler and then trading him away (similar to what they did in 2009 with Matt Cassel)?— Philip Sypolt (@ChaoticGameplay) March 1, 2018
Philip, that option is off the table in my opinion, because the Patriots wouldn't want to put themselves in a position of putting the tag on cornerback Malcolm Butler, seeing him sign it immediately, and then not being able to trade him and thus having to keep him at the franchise-tag figure. It would also hurt them on the salary cap.
@MikeReiss What are your thoughts about the Pats potentially singing a free agent QB like Teddy Bridgewater or Mike Glennon instead of drafting one?— Nick Katinas (@nkatinas22) February 28, 2018
Nick, I wouldn't rule anything out at this early stage in the process. Teddy Bridgewater's health would obviously be one thing the Patriots would need to get more comfortable with, and measuring Mike Glennon's upside versus a potential draft pick would likely be the key dynamic in play with that scenario. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock made an interesting point early in the week when saying there are about 11-12 quarterbacks drafted on average, and there are 10 who could go within the first four rounds this year, which highlights a higher volume than the norm.
Mike has the been a DC named yet?— ...Mark Woods (@MarkWOO74306335) March 2, 2018
Mark, the 2018 Patriots' coaching staff, including defensive coordinator, has not yet been formally announced by the team. Linebackers coach Brian Flores, who interviewed with the Cardinals for their head-coaching job this offseason, is expected to take on expanded responsibilities and leadership of the defensive unit in 2018.
brother reiss its me again. any chance the patriots go after michael bennett?— michael (@michaelis4real) March 2, 2018
Michael, while anything is technically possible, I'd be surprised if the Patriots go in that direction at this time. In 2017, the Patriots were a team that had more veteran players from other clubs compared to draft picks. There is a risk of taking that same approach two years in a row when looking at the yearly challenge of building a team and continuing to replenish young talent. With that in mind, my sense is 2018 will be more about youth/draft picks than free-agent signings such as the 32-year-old Michael Bennett.
McDaniels scared to come to Indy? Don't blame him... https://t.co/xPR7qIzfqT— Andrew Lobeck (@alobeck) February 26, 2018
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the majority of Patriots coaches stayed behind from the NFL combine, so it wasn't just McDaniels. I believe around just two or three coaches on the Patriots' staff attended the combine this year, and none of those coaches were on the offensive side of the ball. So it has nothing to do with anything about being scared or the like; it's about trying to be as efficient as possible in a shorter offseason because of playing in Super Bowl LII.