Patriots: 7 Offseason Hot Topics

NFL Insider Adam Caplan spent a few minutes to answer questions for the readers of Patriots Insider. Some of the topics include the Patriots free agents, the linebacker unit, 2009 rookie contributions and some very crucial free agency issues. All this and more...

NFL Insider Adam Caplan spent a few minutes to ask a six-pack of questions for the readers of Patriots Insider. Some of the topics include the Patritos free agents, the linebacker unit, 2009 rookie contributions and more...

1) The Patriots have some key offensive players set to become free agents this spring including names like ( Kevin Faulk ), ( Logan Mankins ), and ( Ben Watson ) among the list. Do you expect the team to retain any/all of them and who out of the group is least likely to return?

Adam Caplan: Faulk is very important to all facets of their offense (running and passing games) plus special teams. So I would expect them to do what they can to re-sign him.

They control what happens with Mankins because he’s set to become a restricted free agent based on the lack of a new CBA. He should yield a first-round tender, so it’s doubtful any other team would give up that much to get him.

As for Watson, tight end isn’t a key element to their passing game, so I have my doubts whether they will make a push to re-sign Watson, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Have to think that he could yield a decent deal elsewhere since the tight end position looks to be light for free agency.

2) New England traded with the Raiders for ( Derrick Burgess ) last season. Belichick said some good things about Burgess, but he's still set to be a free agent. Do you think the Patriots have a chance to re-sign him, or will he test the market?

Caplan: He flashed at times, and since they have a poor pass rush, I’d expect them to make at least a small push to re-sign him. However, Burgess is probably more comfortable in a 4-3 scheme.

3)( Ron Brace ) didn't see much playing time as a rookie. Actually the former 2nd rounder saw less action than sixth-round pick DL( Myron Pryor ). Is there much truth to the rumor Brace was hurt last year which is why he didn't see much action, or was it a performance issue?

Caplan: Brace may have had some minor injuries, but I don’t think he was ready to contribute last season. The Patriots have a pretty good rotation on the defensive line, so Brace will have to earn his playing time. He’s talented, no question, but he needs to practice at a higher level.

4) Statistically speaking, ( Tully Banta-Cain ) was the better of the Patriots DE/OLBs in 2009. As a free agent to be, should New England make a push to re-sign him, or are there better prospects available?

Caplan: Banta-Cain has always been a favorite of the coaching staff. He knows their scheme well and has been very dependable in a rotational role. A source said he actually changed agents recently.

They still need an upgrade or two at outside linebacker, but I could see them making a run to re-sign him for a modest deal.

Players who make sense based on scheme would be Chike Okeafor, Shawne Merriman, Chris Gocong, Matt Roth, and Mike Vrabel.

Okeafor and Vrabel are unrestricted and the others are restricted.

Randy Moss has recorded three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in Foxboro, but doesn't believe the Patriots want him back in 2011.

"He turns 34 in February, but should have at least two good seasons left in him,"
-- Adam Caplan.

Moss signed as a free agent iin 2007.

5) Where do you think Julius Peppers will land? There are ongoing reports New England could make a run at him, but it seems that would take a lot of $ to sign him, and would have an impact on the guys they retain.

Caplan: Probably with a team that runs a 4-3 scheme such as the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Washington Redskins.

It’s hard to gauge how much it would take to sign him because of the uncertainty surrounding free agency and the CBA. But based on the recent deals for Dwight Freeney and Terrell Suggs, Peppers could yield from $10-$13 million per season.

Without a salary cap to deal with it, teams can spend whatever they want. However, teams will be very careful now. They can make up what they lost in the last deal with more selective spending.

Peppers could play in a 3-4 because of his movement skills, but asking him to do that at 30, which he hasn’t done much of, is risky.

6) ( Randy Moss ) said recently that he didn't expect to get a new deal from the Patriots. At 33/34 Moss do you think like he'd still be worth good money to re-sign?

Caplan: He enters 2010 on the final year of his latest contract. He turns 34 in February, but should have at least two good seasons left in him. Unless the Patriots make a big move in free agency at receiver this year, I don’t see any way they don’t look to bring him back in 2011.

They are very light at receiver. I know they do like Brandon Tate quite a bit, but he was a non-factor last season.

Extra Point:
All indications point to the impending departure of LB ( Adalius Thomas ) from the Patriots. What are you hearing, and is there any reason to think he'll still be around in 2010?

Caplan: I can’t see them paying him $4.9 million this season based on his lack of production. And based on his age (turns 33 in August), it will likely be hard to trade him. Also keep in mind with no cap, his $8.8 million left in bonus proration will go away.

For PI's take on these (and many other) topics be sure to visit the Insider Lounge

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