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The WR Conundrum

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  1. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    WR is obviously a position of great uncertainty and lack of depth for 2013, and one that is very charged right now in terms of people's opinions, especially regarding Wes Welker. The intent of this thread isn't to debate Welker's value or abilities, but to discuss some possible implications of the WR position from both a cap and a long term roster perspective, and how these might affect the possible short term direction of the team.

    1. The cap situation.

    I think it's important to consider the WR and TE positions as interrelated, since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are likely to be 2 of Brady's top targets for the foreseeable future. Last year the Pats chose to sign Brandon Lloyd as a FA, and used the franchise tag on Wes Welker. Following their inability to come to a long term deal with Welker, the team subsequently signed Rob Gronkowski (July) and Aaron Hernandez (August) to lucrative long term deals, with both players ironically being hurt during the season, and Welker stepping up to take over some of their load as the focal point of the offense.

    The 2012 NFL salary cap was $120.6M. The Pats spent $17.415M of that (14.4%) on those 4 players:

    - $9.515 M Welker
    - $2 M Lloyd
    - $2.61 M Gronk
    - $3.29 M Hernandez

    New England Patriots Salary Cap 2012

    The salary cap is projected to stay fairly flat for the next several years. It's estimated at $121M for 2013. While new TV revenues kick in for 2014, many predict that the cap will stay flat through 2014 and 2015, and perhaps longer. Robert Kraft has generally been very conservative regarding the cap - he was one of the most conservative owners regarding the rules for the uncapped year in 2010, and regarding predictions for the 2013 cap. My guess is that he will remain conservative regarding his planning for the salary cap and team spending, and will take a fairly tight line.

    Because of the commitments to Lloyd, Hernandez and Gronk, the team already has substantial financial resources tied up in the TE/WR position for the foreseeable future:

    - 2013: Gronk $2.7M, Hernandez $4.07M, Lloyd $4.5M = $11.27M
    - 2014: Gronk $3.8M, Hernandez $4.2M, Lloyd $5.5M = $14.5M
    - 2015: Gronk $8.6M, Hernandez $5.8M = $14.4M
    - 2016: Gronk $6.6M, Hernandez $8.5M = $15.1M

    New England Patriots Salary Cap 2013
    New England Patriots Salary Cap 2014
    New England Patriots Salary Cap 2016
    New England Patriots Salary Cap 2016

    Lloyd's deal would actually increase his cap hit by cutting or trading him this year, and would still accrue $2.5M in dead money if he were cut in 2014, so he may be here for 2 more years. So unless the cap goes up significantly, or unless some significantly restructuring of those deals can be done, the Pats don't have a lot of money to spend on the WR/TE position without chewing up an inordinate amount of their cap space.

    My personal guess is that this means that it's unlikely that Welker or anyone else gets signed to a lucrative long term deal, so I wouldn't hold out much hope for Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace. Maybe they could squeeze someone like Brian Hartline in, but even that might be tricky.

    Mo has argued that the Pats made a mistake by not paying Welker and by handing out big deals to Gronk and Hernandez too early. Given their injury history, it's possible that he's right. But regardless, those deals are done.

    My guess is that the Pats need to come up with an economic long term approach to the WR position given their cap situation and the prospect of a flat cap.

    2. The offensive bottleneck issue.

    In 2009 the Pats' offense targeted Wes Welker (162) and Randy Moss (138) on 300/592 pass attempts, or 50.7% of all passing plays, and 28.3 (300/1058) of all offensive plays from scrimmage. BB noted on "A football life" that the offense had "nothing" besides Welker and Moss, and was all too easily shut down.

    In 2012 the Pats' offense targeted Wes Welker (174) and Brandon Lloyd (130) on 304/641 pass attempts, or 47.4% of all passing plays, and 26% (304/1164) of all offensive plays from scrimmage. Not that tremendously different. Add in Gronk or Hernandez as a 3rd option - since the Pats generally didn't have both of them in most games - and the number increased to 72.8% of all passing attempts. Obviously, injuries made a big difference, and perhaps if we'd had both Gronk and Hernandez at the same time things would have been different. But the Pats' passing offense didn't spread the ball around very much. In the AFCCG Brady targeted Welker (12), Lloyd (14) and Hernandez (14) on 40/54 pass attempts (74%), and 40/82 of all offensive plays from scrimmage (48.7%).

    3. The options for 2013 and beyond

    Lloyd, Gronk and Hernandez are all here for 2013, and probably 2014. So are the RBs. The question is the rest of the WR position and how to best fill out the offense, from both a cap and an offensive scheme perspective. The options would seem to include:

    - Re-sign or re-tag Welker, and possibly Edelman, and add either a FA WR or a rookie. With $11M already tied up in 3 receivers and a flat cap, this is going to probably cost upwards of $20M in cap hit for 2013 and beyond, which would seem prohibitive.

    - Let Welker walk and sign a big name FA like Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace. Same problem.

    - Re-sign Julian Edelman and sign a mid-range FA like Brian Hartline and draft 1 or more rookies. Maybe a feasible way to go, but still pretty expensive, as Edelman and Hartline would probably cost $7-8M to sign together.

    - Trade for someone like Percy Harvin or Jeremy Maclin. I think this is a bit of a fantasy, assuming that we could pry them loose, since both are in the last year of their deal, and would want a big contract. Even if we could get them cheap it would only be for one year.

    - Draft a rookie WR in the 1st round and hope we get lucky. I personally don't hold a lot of hope in a rookie WR stepping in and making an immediate impact. It's hit or miss, and relatively few rookie WRs have hit right out of the gates, even ones who have gone on to be very good. Note that BB has never drafted a WR in the 1st round with the Pats, not that that necessarily precludes him from doing so.

    - Copy the RB approach and adopt a "WRBC" approach. I personally like this. The Pats were successful early on spreading the ball around to a group of WRs none of whom was individually elite. Drafting 2 or even 3 rookies with different skill sets - maybe in combination with a low cost FA signing - might provide low cost depth for 3-4 years the way the Pats have been successful at the RB position with Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead and Bolden. Spread the ball around, don't target anyone as much as Welker has been targeted. Use the TEs and RBs as the focal points of the offense (assuming the TEs can stay on the field). Realistically, the Pats aren't going to replace Welker's productivity with one guy. This is cost effective, and the 2013 draft is very deep at the WR position. One problem with this approach is that the Pats don't have many draft picks this year. Another problem is that they haven't had a very successful track record with rookie WRs.

    - Converting RBs to WRs. The Pats have a glut of RBs with movement and receiving skills (Vereen, Woodhead - if re-signed- and Demps) and a paucity of WRs. Why not move one of the RBs to WR, or make him a hybrid RB/WR in the Dexter McCluster mold? I personally wonder if the Pats may have been doing this with Demps when they chose to put him on OR for 2012, after seeing what he could do in the preseason. They may have decided that he had more value developing his skills and being used as a low-cost receiving option in 2013 than being used as just a return man in 2012. Just a guess.

    Just some thoughts to kick around. I'm sure there will be a diversity of views on how the Pats ought to proceed.
  2. patsfaninpa

    patsfaninpa Rookie

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    An offensive-minded team that's a Super Bowl contender can't go into the season with Brandon Lloyd as their only proven wr. Period. Jeff Demps?? Lord, no. If they can't sign Welker, there are 3 options.

    1. Sign a veteran free agent.
    2. Trade for a veteran wr.
    3. Move up and draft a wr who can help immediately. Can't wait and hope something works out.

    Same goes with CB. Can't run with what we have if Tallib leaves. I sure as hell don't want to draft another cb. So, trade for UFA is the option there if can't keep Talib. There's enough cap space to take care of those positions. When they are settled, we can look at guards, safetie,etc.
  3. Claremonster

    Claremonster Banned

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    Woodhead or Vereen could be used in this way imo. Interesting idea here.

    It does seem like they used Vereen like this vs the Texans playoff game.
  4. Claremonster

    Claremonster Banned

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    Need to draft a safety (high pick) at least. You could move DMC back to corner if needed.
  5. BradyBranch39

    BradyBranch39 Rookie

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    Hopefully his injury history keeps him cheap, because I'm still of the opinion that we MUST re-sign Edelman.
  6. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    That's consistently been your view, so I would expect that, and I expect many will share it. I don't know if BB will. He never has seen a need to draft WRs that high, or to sign high priced FA WRs in the past. The Pats won 3 SBs without a big name WRs. They have a talented stable of RBs and the best TEs in the game. It's not clear that they need to do it the way you suggest, or that BB will see it that way, and certainly not clear that they can afford to do so. Certainly none of your options is guaranteed to be successful.
  7. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Personally, I like the idea of re-signing Edelman, re-signing Woodhead, moving one of Vereen/Woodhead/Demps to WR, and adding a couple of rookies. It keeps the position cost low. There's good WR depth in this draft, and there will be some excellent talent available day 3, if the Pats can figure out a way to maneuver.
  8. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    One thing that people are overlooking when they go off about how the team is cap strapped is the makeup of the 53, in that there are very few who need big money this year. The reality is that the team has the money, right now, to do everything it needs and much of what it would want, particularly if it does a restructure with Mankins. All the low end salary players can be dealt with easily since the numbers there are largely interchangeable, there's enough money for the draftees, and there's still money for the 'emergency' fund. Outside of, possibly, the Edelman situation, the only area where money is an issue is the area of the high end free agents (both their own and those from other teams).

    If the numbers that have been tossed around are correct, they have the money to sign one of the "big 3", or an outside FA, to a full-sized contract with a full-sized first year cap hit, or near to it. Alternately, they can play accounting games and backload those deals to fit 2 or more of those big names under the cap.
  9. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target PatsFans.com Supporter

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    OK, I'm probably not rational on this subject, since WW is just about my favourite current Pats player.

    The issue is Brady. For whatever reason, he's someone who can't operate unless he feels on the same page as his receivers, that he and they are seeing and reacting to things in the same way. If a receiver doesn't have that, he may as well not be on the field (Ochocinco).

    It's not a matter of plug-and-play talent level. I don't know how much of a drop-off in objective talent level it was from Branch and Givens to Caldwell and Gaffney in 2006 but I do know that it was a disaster from the point of view of the relationship between quarterback and receiver.

    OK, it's obvious Brady has confidence in Gronk and perhaps his confidence in Lloyd, Hernandez and Edelman is growing but no one comes close to Welker. If he goes I think that the Patriots are in big trouble.
  10. resdubwhite

    resdubwhite Rookie

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    Jeremy Ebert. He's the new Edelman
  11. I.M. Fletcher

    I.M. Fletcher Rookie

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    When you look at Welkers usage being at its highest point, the thought of losing all of those passes leads to the mindset that there can be no one outside that can take over that responsibility. In reality, we lost about the equivalent to 85 targets between Hernandez and Gronk being injured and slowed, and another 30 or so to Edelman once he went down. 175 passes is a lot of passes to make up for when you look at the WR position and see no name that you can really tap into and expect great things from. I think for me, I am not so concerned about where the ball will go, but thinking about how good this offense could have been had it been able to stay on the field together.

    I think this is a summer that they will simply have to get very lucky like they did three drafts previous, finding 2 young players that can step in and together help fill the void of a hall of fame player. Expecting to draft a Julio Jones or AJ Green doesnt have to be the goal, but finding someone the level of an Emmanuel Sanders would provide a great spark at a position that will need some help. The talent on the team right now is void of true receivers, but with the backs and tightends we have, we dont need all pros flanking on the outside for this team to be successful offensively. Ideally, we find a body or two in the draft that create a dynamic option to this team, but I am not sure if that is wholly necessary to bring this team back to the finish line.
  12. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    I think that the injuries to the 2 TE's possible had a lot to do with the lack of sufficiently spreading the ball around enough, much like you said.

    I'm not familiar with the actual percentages of targets from 2011, but it appears that the ball should be continued to spread around nicely moving forward, especially with the resurgence of the running game this season.

    Another thing to note is that they went back to making RB screens and flat passes a point of focus again this year, as Woodhead had 40 receptions himself. That was surely a necessity, as the 2011 season had gotten away from that.

    Like you mentioned, Welker is obviously the biggest focus here so it's hard to try and make any projections until we know more about that.

    I'd be happy with a WR pick in rounds 1-3, with an affordable upgrade to the WR3 spot via free agency. Edelman can move down to the WR4 as far as I'm concerned, but that may not be true until we find out about #83's situation a bit more.
  13. patsfaninpa

    patsfaninpa Rookie

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    Two things.

    1. The game has become more passing friendly than ever. Not my preference. But, as someone likes to say; "It is what it is."

    2. Troy Brown, Deion Branch and David Givens were all better than Brandon Lloyd is now.
  14. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #2 isn't at all clear. And the Pats never had options like Gronk and Hernandez, or a RB group like they have now.
  15. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    He couldn't be the new Edelman when the Patriots needed a new Edelman. . . .
  16. Ive_Killed_People

    Ive_Killed_People Rookie

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    Brandon LLoyd 2012 Stats 77 Recs 911 Yds 4 tds


    The following stats are the average of the best 5 years of each receiver you mentioned.

    Troy Brown 73 Recs 822.4 Yds 4.6 tds

    Deion Branch 57.6 Recs 786.8 Yds 4.4 tds

    David Givens 33.2 Recs 463.6 Yds 2.4 tds



    So yeah good call :rolleyes:
  17. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    GENERAL PROPOSITIONS

    We CANNOT, and will not, go into this year with Lloyd as our top receiver and no number to, except for converts from QB and RB. This is just not going to happen.

    We are not likely to be pinning our season on rookie receivers.
    ================================

    A) The cap situation is nowhere near as much of an issue as is being suggested. The OP issue is how much are we willing to allocate to the receivers. There are at least three possible restructures (Mayo, Mankins, Wilfork and Brady) which would add to the cap money now available.

    B) We should re-sign Edelman. We need an experienced, capable punt returner, who can also double as a #4 receiver. We really need TWO receivers in addition to Edelman. Edelman basically replaces Branch. We need Edelman, a vet and a youngster.

    C) Dreams about converting a RB to our #2 receiver in their first year as a receiver are just that, a dream. How long has it taken to convert Edelman. We need two wide receivers that we can count on. Lloyd doesn't float my boat. A better argument can be made for Hernandez as a receiver. We would still need to bring in a vet.

    D) We can afford Welker for one year only.

    ===========================

    BOTTOM LINE
    We need to add or re-sign THREE receivers to take the place of Welker, Edelman and Branch. My preference is to give high priority to re-signing Edelman and Woodhead before the pre-season begins.
    ======

    A SIDE ISSUE
    For the first time ever we have the opportunity to have a solid running game, with solid backups, and a developmental kid who may or may not work out. Let's be real, this group is NOT as good without Woodhead. If signing Woodhead requires some of you to list Demps as our 5th receiver or as a utility player, fine. We have a very strong group with Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead and Bolden. BTW, I have not seen that Bolden is better that a solid backup, WHICH IS FINE. Yes, we might use the running backs more in the passing game, as we used to do with Faulk. If anyone is capable of that role, I'm sure that
    he will be used more. Obviously, the key issue is the ability to protect Brady.
  18. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    A couple of comments:

    1. I would stay away from statements like CANNOT and WILL NOT. I don't think BB deals in absolutes. It's all relative. He went into the draft 3 years ago with nothing at TE, knowing it was a deep draft, and loaded with draft picks. He apparently explored at least one pre-draft trade. But I don't think that BB will "panic" or make a desperation move.

    2. You say "We CANNOT, and will not, go into this year with Lloyd as our top receiver and no number t[w]o". But in fact, Lloyd in that scenario would be our #3 receiver after Gronk and Hernandez. It's not like he would be our true #1 receiving option. Even without Welker and with injuries this year he would have been at most the #2 option at any time.

    3. You say that we can "afford Welker for one year only". But can we? To get him for one year would mean to re-tag him, which would mean an $11.4M cap hit on top of the $11+M cap hit for Lloyd, Gronk and Hernandez, which would make almost $23M of cap space tied up in 4 receivers. I don't think that's tenable. It would preclude signing Edelman or any other long term option, and would leave us in the same place a year from now. So why go that route?

    The alternative is to re-sign Edelman to a long term deal and move on with Lloyd and Edelman at WR, plus possibly an outside FA, plus the draft.

    4. You say "we are not likely to be pinning our season on rookie receivers". But why would we be, more than any other team that drafts rookie receivers? We would have Gronk, Hernandez, Lloyd, Edelman, Vereen, possibly Woodhead and Demps. That's a lot of options. Possibly a low-cost FA WR. Maybe one of our current guys like Ebert or Holmes steps up, though I'm not counting on it.

    The FO was willing to go into 2006 with nothing at WR, and to go into 2011 with nothing at DB. Neither situation was pretty. But they've shown repeatedly that they won't break the bank or break the team's cap structure, and that they are willing to take a short term hit for what they view as long term success. Why should we expect the WR situation in 2013 to be any different?

    I don't think the team is wedded to any one scenario. But I think the most likely one probably involves re-signing Edelman and Woodhead, maybe using one of the RBs as a WR or a hybrid RB/WR, maybe signing a low cost FA (NOT a big name signee), and adding one or more rookies through the draft, but probably NOT in the 1st round. That's just my guess. I'm sure the team will explore a lot of options, but I doubt they'll break the bank for any one.

  19. borg

    borg On the Roster

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    RB at WR.....yes.....lets solidify NE's #1 rank as slowest receiving corp in the NFL.

    Trivia....Which NFL WR falls to the ground when catching a cold?
  20. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Hard to imagine either Danny Woodhead or Jeff Demps would make us slower at WR.
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