Sign Randy Moss
I am a big fan of Moss as a player and loved watching him catch bombs from Tom Brady. Unfortunately he is no longer the same guy who could snare any ball no matter how many defenders he had to out jump or outrun. He kept his head down and put the team first for a few years, but eventually his, shall we say "quirkiness," returned and he started becoming an unnecessary distraction. Bill Belichick promptly shipped him out, netting an impressive return of a 2011 third round pick which was used to select quarterback Ryan Mallett. No need to revisit those decisions. The Randy Moss of 2007 would be welcome on the Patriots 2011 roster, but that man no longer exists.
Sign LaMarr Woodley
Woodley has already signed his franchise tender, so assuming such a thing exists in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement he would cost the Patriots two first round picks, plus a huge contract. He has the skills to be a star in the Patriots system, but is simply not worth the price. Taking him away from Pittsburgh would hurt a conference rival and be an excellent addition. New England has the Saints 2012 first round pick as well as their own, so the team would still be in decent shape even without the two first rounders. However, Woodley would likely command a salary in the area of $10m per season. That tidy sum combined with the two picks is too much for an outside linebacker not named DeMarcus Ware. In addition, Woodley showed little hesitation before accepting the franchise tag which shows he wants to be on the Steelers and would probably stay if Pittsburgh matched New England’s contract offer.
Trade Brandon Meriweather
While Meriweather is a two time Pro-Bowler, the market for his services will not be anywhere near what a player of that distinction would usually command. The Patriots would receive a 2nd round pick at the very best, and probably not even that. He currently has more value to New England, especially given the lack of time to prepare for the season. Any team trading for him would have to be sure they could re-sign Meriweather since his contract expires after the season. Without an extension he would essentially be a one-year rental and he would have to learn a new system on another team, diminishing his impact. Depending on the new CBA, the team could control his rights as a restricted free-agent but that is not guaranteed. There will be interest in Meriweather after the 2011 season but not before.
Cut Ty Warren
Ty Warren is one of the easiest players to root for in the NFL. He set a great example for kids with his decision last summer to return to school and finish his degree at Texas A&M. He also sets an example of how to be a professional and a teammate both on and off the field. Some concerns have been raised that he may not be able to return to form after a hip injury derailed his entire 2010 season. With the large crop of young defensive line talent the Patriots have, one might think Warren is no longer as valuable to the team and could be cast aside in a cost-cutting move. That is not going to happen. Warren is one of the best in the league at playing the run-stuffing 3-4 defensive end role, and is perfect for New England's read-and-react philosophy. It would take a catastrophic drop in production due to injury or age for the team to part with Warren before his relatively team-friendly contract expires after the 2013 season. He should reclaim his place next to Vince Wilfork and again form a solid interior wall, forcing running backs to take the long way around where they can be tackled by the speedy players like Jerod Mayo, Pat Chung and Gary Guyton.
Sign Logan Mankins long-term
This is perhaps the riskiest prediction of the five. Mankins is the best offensive lineman on the team. His toughness and attitude are essential components in the success of the o-line over the past seasons. New England would be wise to lock him up long-term if possible. His relationship with the ownership seems to have improved since last season’s war of words, so there is hope an agreement can be reached. Yet, from a financial perspective there is simply no reason for the Patriots to shell out big money for the guard at this time. They have the leverage: Mankins will be missing massive game checks (close to $600,000 per week) if he sits out regular season games, so there is little doubt he will play this year under the franchise tag so he can test the free agency waters in 2012. By waiting until next year, the Patriots get to see if there is any sign of him slowing down or if he gets injured in 2011 before deciding to take the plunge. Plus, there has not yet been an opportunity for other teams to bid for him. It is unlikely, but Mankins could be overestimating the market for his skills, and the Patriots might be able re-sign him for cheaper than anticipated once the bar has been set.