Hello, and welcome to the third Musket Fire New England Patriots Roundtable of the offseason. Last week we talked about the legacy of the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the fall out of the Super Bowl. But now, we put all our attention to the future, and preparing for the likes of the combine, NFL Free Agency, and eventually the NFL Draft itself just 84 days away. In this edition, we’ll talk about trade and free agency rumours, Vince Wilfork and what our writers plan on doing with the extra free time throughout the week and on Sundays. But first let’s start with this one…
Q. The New England Patriots have a rather tight cap situation right now, but they have a number of players who can be extended, restructured and of course, cut. So who is the most likely player to be cut right now?
Hal: Guard Dan Connolly. Since he was re-signed he has been horrible. Huge cap number as well. I would say defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, but he is a no-brainer.
Cyrus: Dan Connolly. He is paid way too much for what he does on the field, and I think it is time for a shake-up in that area anyway. Definitely the weakest point of the Patriot offense in 2013.
Jed: The most likely cut is Isaac Sopoaga who is due to count about 2 million against the cap. I would be shocked if he wasn’t cut. Another likely cut, in my opinion, is Dan Connolly who’s just not performing at the level his contract demands. I also think the team should part ways with Danny Amendola for all of these reasons.
Matt: Isaac Sopoaga is the elephant in the room, but I’ll ignore him considering he’s a lock, and that’s not as much fun to talk about. I’ll go with Adrian Wilson here. Wilson was a candidate to be cut after the end of the preseason before going on IR for the entire season. Connolly is another name, but it depends if the Patriots feel they absolutely need to cut him.
Q. The Vince Wilfork storyline might be the biggest of the offseason for the Patriots, and this was addressed by our Cyrus Geller last week. So what do you think will happen with Big Vince?
Hal: Restructure and extension. He will lose a lot of money, but he knows the value of staying in New England for his legacy. He is not going to carry the big ($11.5m) cap number into next season.
Cyrus: I don’t think Vince will end up getting cut, but I do think he will have to restructure his deal, to free up some cap space for the Pats. He is valuable to the team, but not $11.5 million valuable.
Jed: Vince isn’t going anywhere. When healthy, which has nearly been his entire career, he is the heart and soul of the defense. And, it just so happens, that one of the Patriots greatest needs is at defensive tackle. I don’t see the team parting ways with one of the best tackles in the game and a team captain.
Matt: I think it has to be a restructuring of his deal. Big Vince means so much to this team, so as temping as almost $8M in space is, he needs to come back. Of course, if this achilles injury bests him, and he’s unable to make a comeback, then I think cutting him has to be the option.
Q. The receiver class this year is deep both in the draft, and in free agency. Who’s your favorite potential Patriots players from both the draft and from free agency?
Hal: Eric Decker would be a great fit with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins to give the Patriots a great outside passing game. That said, Dobson and Thompkins will be it. If Edelman leaves, there is still Amendola and the Patriots are most likely to make a run at Emmanuel Sanders from Pittsburgh now that he is an unrestricted free agent
Cyrus: I like what I saw from Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt. He isn’t as explosive as one would hope, but he put up huge numbers. In free agency, it has to be Emmanuel Sanders. He is a versatile guy, and has the ability to take the top off of the defense. I am hoping that New England goes in Sanders’ direction this offseason.
Jed: While he’s not a wide receiver, I like the Patriots taking Jace Amaro in the draft or another top tight end. There’s much more talent at the tight end position in the draft than at wide receiver. In free agency, I’d like to see the Patriots go after Kenny Britt. If he can stay healthy he could be the veteran presence the team needs on the outside opposite Aaron Dobson. While he has a bad reputation around the league as a locker room cancer, so did Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Aqib Talib before they came to the Patriots.
Matt: Kelvin Benjamin is a personal favourite of mine. He’s huge at almost 6’5, with explosive big play ability, and the physicality that you love to see with a big receiver. As for in free agency, it has to be the popular answer of Emmanuel Sanders. I have to think that the Patriots make it happen this time around.
Q. Rumors spread like wildfire this time of year, one going around is that even after his contract was restructured, Larry Fitzgerald is on the Patriots radar. How do you handle big time rumors like this, and do you like to entertain these scenarios, as ridiculous as they may be?
Hal: Didn’t think about it for longer than 2 seconds. 31 other teams besides Arizona would take Fitzgerald with his contract restructured now. Arizona made it easier to keep him and easy to trade him by increasing his market.
Cyrus: Obviously it is hard not to drool at the thought of Brady throwing to Fitzgerald, but it would throw their already tight cap out of whack, and totally screw up the rest of the team. The Patriots have been successful for a long time by not spending big, and now is not a time to change that practice.
Jed: I don’t think the rumor is that insane. It’s not ridiculous that the Patriots would have one of the best receivers in the game on their radar.
Matt: I like entertaining rumours, just thinking about how it would change things, but that’s about it. There are plenty of amateur reporters who like to think they have the scoop, but if I don’t hear it from Schefter, Glazer, Rapaport etc., then I won’t believe it.
Q. With football officially done now for a while, what do you plan on filling your sports time with? Olympics, NBA, NHL?
Hal: Olympics hockey. Some NBA but more NCAA come tourney time. MLB baseball is in full gear from now until Halloween with me. Of course, football never ends. I am working on the Patriots draft reviews and re-grading in the Belichick era and more off-season analysis here at MusketFire.com all off-season.
Cyrus: I’m an NBA, and college basketball kind of guy. My Longhorns have been doing well thus far, so they might be able to help ease the pain of a long NFL offseason.
Jed: Truck day has come and gone boys! Time to ramp up for baseball season.
Matt: Basketball, basketball, basketball. I know that’s a bit odd coming from a Canadian kid, but basketball is what I am all about right now. From analyzing NBA prospects for the June NBA Draft, of course the NBA season is going on as we enter trade season as well. Basketball has my full attention until NFL Free Agency.