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Ask PFW: Free agency frustration

Posted Mar 27, 2013

Fans are still questioning many of the Patriots moves (or lack thereof) in free agency, as you'll see in this week's PFW mailbag.

Could someone at PFW please explain exactly what it is that the Patriots are doing and what their plan is? After losing at home in the AFC Championship, with $25 million in cap space and a few obvious holes to fill, I thought for sure this was the offseason that the Pats make a splash. Instead it seems like a belly flop. It's hard to believe but the team is actually worse now than it was when it lost 28-13 to the Ravens. The wide receiver position, instead of being made stronger, has been decimated. On defense the only new player brought in is an older safety who is deficient in pass coverage, the exact area the team needs to improve. With a dwindly market they still have not signed a big, deep threat receiver and reports are that Darrius Hayward-Bey appears to be going to the Colts. As for pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil went to the SB Champs and the Pats are still searching to pick up other teams left overs. Why would the Pats be interested in John Abraham over Osi Umeniyora when the Falcons cut Abraham to pursue Umeniyora? Not only is Umeniyora younger, he is obviously the better player. In the secondary the Texans signed Ed Reed for 3 years at $15 million while the Pats give Kyle Arrington 4 years and $16 million. They way salaries have panned out, the Pats could have brought back Welker, brought in Ed Reed, signed Umeniyora and retained Talib and still have been under the cap. Do you think the team is better now than it was at the end of last season? What do you think the front offices plans are? Gary Goldstein

Gary, the Partiots are doing what they almost always do this time of year: signing the best talent they can find at the prices they deem reasonable. Obviously, Wes Welker – for example – was the best talent they could find at wide receiver, but they couldn’t get him at a price the team wanted, so he’s now a Denver Bronco. The moves they’ve made are consistent with ones they’ve made in nearly every offseason since Bill Belichick arrived, with the exception of 2007. So, these moves should come as no surprise to you, if you’ve paid any attention to how this franchise does business over the years.

Abraham, meanwhile (who, as of this posting, still is unsigned), is a tremendously productive player, and has been consistently over his career. Splitting hairs between him and Umenyiora is a silly exercise. Erik Scalavino

With all the talk about salary cap space and reasonable free agent contracts this off season. I am disappointed that the Patriots have only resigned their own free agents, while replacing Welker with a significantly less accomplished receiver. Your thoughts on the offseason thus far? Brett Larson

They haven’t “only re-signed their own free agents,” Brett. Wide receiver Donald Jones, running back/returner Leon Washington, and safety Adrian Wilson were all with other teams last season. You alluded to Danny Amendola as well, and you’re right, he’s not nearly as productive a player as Welker, but the team at least addressed the position with players they feel can help them. Give them some credit for that. Erik Scalavino

Do you think Darius Heyward-Bey could be a good fit for the patiots? He has had some trouble catching but he has blazing speed and at 6 foot 2 he could be the deep threat the patriots need. Rory Harwood

The Patriots still have work to do at wide receiver, no question. I’d take a gamble on Heyward-Bey, if only because the roster at that spot is still so thin. I’d prefer, however, to take a potential star player in the draft, preferably in the first round with the 29th pick that New England owns. Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, longtime Patriots fan from Italy here. Love your work and reading Ask PFW every week. First of all, for me the only problem with all the Welker affair is that he has signed with the Broncos, greatly strengthening our biggest rivals in the AFC, but our offense will be fine, if not better with Amendola (healthy concerns apart). Now my question: at this point, do we have the cap space to sign a pass rusher (Freeney?), a CB (Grimes?), and a WR (Heyward-Bey?). Or at least 2 of these 3? And what's the situation with Dennard? We will have him next year? Stefano Olivieri

First, thanks for the long-distance support, amico mio! Yes, the Patriots still have significant room to maneuver underneath the salary cap, so, it’s not inconceivable to think they could add several more free agents, including the ones you mentioned. Alfonzo Dennard’s case goes to the sentencing phase on April 11, so, we won’t know till then what his punishment will be after being convicted last month of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. He faces a maximum of six years behind bars and $11,000 in fines. Erik Scalavino

I liked Dan Connolly as a versitile back up, but as a starter he is a statistical and visible weak link on a solid O-line. Do you think that replacing him with Cannon is the solution? Ted Kurod

I don’t have quite the problem with Connolly that you have. I agree that he’s probably better suited as an emergency backup, but I don’t think his performance as a starter has been dismal. I’m far less optimistic about Cannon, who has played poorly at tackle in the opportunities I’ve seen him be given. Perhaps a move to guard would be better for Cannon, but I’ll wait and see how he performs there, if it happens, before booting Connolly out of that spot. Erik Scalavino

Is there anyone on the active roster we could trade for mid round picks? Ryan Mallett maybe for a second, or a third and fourth? Jermaine Cunningham for a third or fourth? I'm just a little concerned with no picks in rounds 4-5. Also, if we get an extra third rounder, I think we definitely will sign Emmanuel Sanders. Eugene Froggy

A mid-round pick might be the best you could hope to get in a trade for either of the players you mentioned. I, though, am not concerned at all about the lack of Patriots picks in the middle of the draft. In fact, I’m encouraged by it, because I’m hoping they’ll be more inclined to keep the picks they do have in the first three rounds. Of course, if history is our guide, BB will trade down with those picks to acquire more mid-round selections, so, you’ll probably get your wish eventually. Erik Scalavino

Long-time long-distance follower in Oregon here, first time I've written: My question is simple... In my opinion, Manti Te’o is in the mold of Tedy Bruschi. If he's available when the Pats get the pick in maybe the second round, as he seems to be projecting these days, would you agree he'd be the kind of pick you'd kick yourself later if you didn't take advantage of it? Thanks. Wolf Hodgkinson

They’re two different kinds of players. Bruschi was a playmaking defensive end in college, who made a seamless transition to linebacker in the NFL and flourished there. Te’o, from what I’ve seen, was a really good college football player, but I’m not convinced he can have the kind of impact that Bruschi wound up having at this level. So, no, would be my answer to your question. Erik Scalavino

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