Adam Caplan covers the NFL as the senior NFL reporter for Scout.com. With over 15 years experience as an industry expert, Caplan can be heard on various radio shows as well as weekly as a host on Sirius NFL Radio.
Caplan joined Patriots Insider to answer fan questions from the Patriots Insider message boards. Here is our latest Q&A with Adam. (note some questions were posed last week)
1) What is your opinion of the Patriots front 3 or Wilfork, Seyour and Warren? Are they the best in the league as some have touted them to be, top three, top five or are they overrated?
Adam Caplan: I think they are still very solid. Keep in mind all three had injuries to deal with this season so their overall effectiveness might not have been what we're usually accustomed to seeing.
2) Adam we all know that there will be serious discussions regarding the CBA. In what could be an upcoming uncapped year in a couple of season is it possible that NFL teams can try to gain an advantage by renegotiating contracts so that all of the "salary cap" hit or a major portion of the hit occurs during the "uncapped year" so that they will have major run under the salary cap to sign more players or set themselves up greatly as regards a salary cap?
AC: Probably a better question for next month.
3) Do you see or have you heard any reason that the NFL would do away with the salary cap?
AC: I've posed that question to people in the league and the belief is that they still want a salary cap to be in place for the future.
4) Adam, do you think the Patriots are satisfied with the performance of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels? Will he take one of the coaching jobs available if offered?
AC: Yes, the team is more than satisfied with the offense and more specifically, McDaniels. While McDaniels may have his detractors, there's no denying that he did a great job in developing Matt Cassel. During the last four to five games, they were running the offense exactly the way they did with Brady-mostly out of the shotgun.
As for him accepting a job if offered, he didn't believe he was ready last season, but I could see him taking a job in the right situation. That would be with a strong defensive coordinator and solid front office so all he has to do is run the offense.
5) Will the Patriots allow Matt Cassel to leave at the end of the year or will they try to resign him?
AC: There have been reports that the team will use their franchise tag on Cassel because Brady may not be ready for next season. We'll find out for sure in about four weeks or so when the tags are due.
Brady has a cap number of just over $14.6 million in 2009 ($5 million in base salary, $3 million roster bonus, $6.6 million in bonus proration) and the franchise number for quarterbacks is supposed to be over $14 million so they could be tying up over $28 million in cap space for just two players.
6) Adam what type of free agent will Cassel be, UFA or RFA. And could the Patriots just tender him an offer to receive draft choices like a 1 and 3 if he signs elsewhere?
AC: UFA since he has now four accredited seasons of play.
7) Adam, looking at the Patriots as they are right now, what are the biggest 3 needs the Patriots need to take care of in the offseason?
- Cornerback - They really lack a solid cover cornerback.
- Pass rusher - That will likely come from the outside linebacker spot which is where teams that play the 3-4 usually get their pressure. They have to help put the secondary by getting more pressure on the quarterback.
- Running Back - I think it's clear that Laurence Maroney isn't the answer at the position. They have to find a way to sustain the running game by getting a back they can count on.
8) Adam, this is a coaching question. Do you think the Patriots will shake up their coaching staff in the offseason. Specifically offensive and defensive coordinators. If Weiss or Crennel were to get fires do you think they would come back to the Patriots?
AC: I doubt either would come back. Crennel, I'm told, may be offered a job with the Browns since he's still owed around $9 million.
Weis will remain with Notre Dame for at least one more season.
9) Will Rodney Harrison be back in 2009?
AC: He hasn't said yet, but head coach Bill Belichick loves him so if Harrison wants to play again, he'll be welcomed back. However, he's unsigned for 2009.
10) What's the status of Tom Brady's injury and rehab? There are contradictory reports saying he's on schedule to return and others saying he might be done for the year.
AC: See other answers above. Nothing really concrete here.
11) Did Eric Mangini deserve to be fired in New York? What are his chances of getting another job?
AC: Cleveland seems to be very interested and Mangini did a nice job with the Jets. However, some players complained privately with the way he treated them in front of the other players in team meetings. If Mangini does wind up getting the Cleveland job, he likely won't be given final say on personnel decisions unless they hire a young GM who isn't ready for that large or a role.
12) What exactly did Dom Capers do for the Patriots this year? Will he stick around for next season in the same capacity?
AC: Basically helped out defensive coordinator Dean Pees in a variety of ways. Capers was more of a zone blitz pressure defensive coach when he was with the Panthers. If they can get more talented pass rushers, you might see Capers take on more of a role in 2009.
13) Will the NFL consider changes to the playoff system to avoid having a team like New England miss the postseason with an 11 win record, but allow others like San Diego host a home game with an 8-8 record?
AC: The league seems to want it the way it is. They think the competitive balance works in the end. Sure the Patriots probably should have gotten in with the record they had, but if you examine who they beat this season, some would argue they didn't deserve to get in.
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