Coming off a Patriots high

More than one week after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in dramatic fashion, submissions to our weekly mailbag included a mix of looking back and looking ahead.

Some aren't ready to move on from the Super Bowl and that's understandable based on the thrilling ending. Others are ready to shift into team-building mode and some of the challenges ahead.

So here we go:

Q. Hi Mike, still euphoric with the Super Bowl win. Next worry, though, is cap casualties. What is your view as to where things stand now? -- Eagle Eye (San Miguel, Cozumel)

A. My general feeling is that this offseason will be more about retention than signing players from other teams, in part because the Patriots have several critical players with contracts expiring, a group including cornerback Darrelle Revis, safety Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, among others. There isn't a surplus of salary-cap space to work with at this point, and as you've pointed out there is going to be a process of tweaking the cap. My sense is that the team and linebacker Jerod Mayo could probably come to some type of compromise. I'd stress it's just a sense and not based on any inside information. Then I wonder if we could be back to a similar situation with Vince Wilfork as we were last offseason. There's a decision to be made there, too. When we talk about the salary cap and space, and look at things from a management perspective, those are two situations that could be viewed as spots to address.

Q. Yes the Malcolm Butler interception was incredible, but he also had a pretty strong overall performance in that game. I may be a little overzealous, but this kid might be the real deal. Thoughts on his playing time increasing significantly next year? Extension? If we can re-sign Revis, it looks like we will be stacked with talent at CB next year (Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan, Butler, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, etc). -- Josh T. (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

A. Josh, we'll learn a lot about Butler from the perspective of how he handles success. Does it go to his head? Or does it propel him to greater heights? He is saying all the right things, such as, "I don't want to be known as a great player for one play, so I've got more to prove." One thing I've learned covering Bill Belichick's teams is that one year doesn't usually carry over to the next. You have to prove it all over again. I have been impressed with Butler's approach this year and, if forced to pick, I would make an educated guess that this propels him to a larger role.

Q. I've seen lots of talk about new contracts but Butler's name hasn't come up. In my opinion you reward a guy who delivers a Super Bowl. What do you think, Mike? -- Gary U. (Sharon, Massachusetts)

A. Gary, Butler is signed through the 2016 season. His base salary is $510,000 for 2015 and $600,000 for 2016, both very modest figures. I don't see the team redoing his deal at this point. As great as the play was, the team almost always looks at the totality of a player's work rather than one play.

Q. Mike, it was nice reading the quick hits and hearing how cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer invited Malcolm Butler up for a workout. It was only a few seasons ago that fans were calling for Boyer's head. Great to see these guys finally getting the recognition that they deserve! -- Adam (Broomfield, Colorado)

A. Adam, I felt like Boyer had been an unfair target in some media circles based in part on his coaching background. We also heard a lot about the storyline of the Patriots struggling to develop young corners. A play like Butler made in the Super Bowl, in addition to Boyer's role in inviting him up for a tryout and then Butler making that play, sort of smashes that line of thinking.

Q. Can you explain the Marcus Cannon re-signing and why they felt they had to pay him that much? -- GT (Boston)

A. GT, it is my belief that they view Cannon as a starting-caliber tackle. They erred at the start of the season in thinking he could be effective at left guard, but he was very good at tackle in 2013 and they believe that's more reflective of his ability than what we saw at times in 2014. Also, with Nate Solder entering the final year of his contract in 2015, and hopes for an extension possibly hindered by him having the same agent as Wes Welker, I think the Patriots are protecting themselves a bit by extending Cannon through the 2016 season.

Q. Thank you for speaking up on the Jerry Rice comments. Common sense should dictate to any player, past or present, that trying to tear down the on-field accomplishments of any player, especially one as accomplished as Tom Brady, is just dumb. That goes for the media as well. Live by example and don't point fingers is a wise philosophy. -- Paul (Lexington, Massachusetts)

A. Paul, I'm not perfect either and that was sort of the point of the piece. If you're going to come out that strongly, make sure your own house is in order. Rice was probably sticking up for Joe Montana, but he could have done that without tearing down the Patriots from this viewpoint. It didn't reflect well on him.

Q. Mike, do you see any of the Patriots, Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady, taking any legal action in the wake of what happened with the whole charade of underinflated balls? There is no doubt in my mind their collective reputations have taken a massive hit in the public perception, and based on what we know it seems totally unwarranted. As a journalist I would be interested to hear your opinion on what will transpire regarding individual media access to the Patriots next season. I know Troy Aikman works for Fox but I cannot envision him (among others) being welcome on Patriots premises next season. -- Neil P. (North Branch, Michigan)

A. Neil, let's see what happens with the Wells report and then we'll have a better idea on what might unfold from there. I don't sense legal action as an avenue that would be taken, but stranger things have happened. I would say there has probably been some irreparable harm when it comes to certain relationships, specifically from a player-media member standpoint. Tom Brady took some hard hits and while he's as classy as they come, I'd be surprised if he doesn't hold some of those who were hardest on him accountable.

Q. Mike, I just read your leftovers from Jonathan Kraft and it hit on one of the things bothering me about the whole deflated footballs issue. It seems to me that since the NFL has not disciplined anyone or even commented on all the leaks coming out of its offices, that those leaks served their purpose of generating attention on the game. Regardless of what they say or do now, it is too late to change the perception that they allowed the controversy to explode simply to generate revenue for the league. And worse still, for all the talk of the integrity of the league, there was no concern of how the handling of the controversy had compromised the Patriots' preparation for the Super Bowl. Again, these things are clear and undeniable. In fact, I would say it is why the other teams throw these accusations at the Patriots as an attempt to gain a competitive advantage -- all fair in love and war, no? -- George A. (Westminster, Massachusetts)

A. George, I'm of the thinking that the damage has already been done. It's sort of like a correction in a newspaper. Sure, it's nice, but most everyone remembers the original headline more. One of the things I am curious about with the Wells report and potential league discipline is if Colts owner Jim Irsay is held accountable for fanning the flames with what I felt was piling on publicly.

Q. What would you anticipate the Jets' penalty for tampering with Darrelle Revis? You think the Pats and Jets could flip spots in a round? -- Woody (New York City)

A. Woody, I would think it's something minor, if anything. Maybe a swap in the seventh round, or taking away a seventh-round pick. But I'm not sure the NFL will even feel that's tampering.

Q. If we lose Shane Vereen, is Tyler Gaffney ready to step up and assume Vereen's role? And also, where do you see the Patriots going to, positionwise, in the draft? -- Rocco B. (San Francisco)

A. Rocco, I'd think James White would be the more likely candidate to step in should Vereen not be back. But much like Gaffney, there is still an element of the unknown there. But it's my belief that part of the reason he was drafted was as Vereen-based insurance. On the draft, I don't think they will specifically lock in a position as much as look at all of them. As we saw with Malcolm Butler, the draft is about all the positions, from Rounds 1-7 to even undrafted free agency because you never know when you need that depth and development.

Q. Mike, what are your thoughts on Chandler Jones? After the 2012 draft and throughout his first season all hype and attention was focused on him, and Dont'a Hightower seemed to ride in the second bus. After the season they just had, Hightower seems to be playing at a higher level. I know injuries have played a part, but I'm not sure Jones is the edge-rushing threat we all expected. -- Gene (London, Ontario)

A. Gene, while the production was lower than what I anticipated -- in part because of injury -- I still think Jones is an A-list end-of-the-line player in the team's system. That position is so much more than just peeling your ears back and rushing blindly to the quarterback. There is a certain discipline it takes, especially in a Super Bowl game plan such as the one the Patriots employed against Russell Wilson. He also drops into coverage at times, shows the ability to set the edge in the running game, and has the ability to win when reducing inside in sub situations. A three-down player like Jones is a valuable commodity.

Q. Why wasn't Kam Chancellor fined for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Julian Edelman? All they want to talk about is whether or not he had a concussion and not the hit. -- Scott Y. (Cincinnati)

A. Scott, the league ruled it wasn't helmet-to-helmet, as Chancellor was leading with his right shoulder. It sort of reminded me of Browner's hit from the Dec. 7 Chargers game.

Q. Mike, any word on what Bryan Stork's injury was? Possible MCL tear? Something serious enough that if we had missed the playoffs, he'd already have had surgery? Just trying to figure out if there's the possibility of offseason surgery and a potential recovery period. Thanks! -- Leigh (New York)

A. Leigh, my understanding is that the injury was to his MCL and while every injury is different, that often can heal without the need for surgery.

Q. I noticed in the piece "Breaking down new Patriots contracts" that Eric Martin signed the most generous deal, just a bit bigger than Jake Bequette. Martin is a bit of an unknown. Any ideas about what the team might see in him? -- John T. (Lunenburg, Massachusetts)

A. John, that probably is tied more to experience. Of those players who signed contracts, Martin has the most NFL experience, having appeared in 29 games with the Browns.

Q. Hi Mike, there's something I've always wondered at this time of the NFL year, and I was hoping you might have insight. We are in the restricted period of time between the end of the season and when teams are allowed to negotiate with their own free-agent players. Why is there no such period for coaches? It seems like assistant coaches on successful teams are put in a very difficult spot, where they have to either turn down interviews/opportunities (like Josh McDaniels did), try to interview while not shortchanging their current employer (like Dan Quinn did, perhaps unsuccessfully), or watch the jobs they might be up for get filled by candidates who may be less qualified but who are fully available. Do you know why the only changes they've made in my lifetime have been to open the "bye week" interviewing window? -- Matt S. (Abington, Massachusetts)

A. Matt, there are a few layers to this. First, think about what just unfolded with the Falcons. They had interviewed Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and liked him to the point that they were willing to wait for him until after the Super Bowl. So that was an example of the current process working well. Also, think about when all the vacancies happen: at the end of the season. I'm not sure it's possible to have coaches being interviewed by owners from other teams before those teams have a vacancy.