Friday Bag: What will Patriots do with all the cap space they'll have in 2017?

Friday Bag: What will Patriots do with all the cap space they'll have in 2017?

FOXBORO -- Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, have at this week's Bag while you put a dent in your couch and pick away at whatever's leftover from yesterday's feast.

TC: Tremendous question, Chris. The team will certainly make efforts to retain, in my opinion, Dont'a Hightower, Malcolm Butler, Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Marcus Cannon, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. We’ll see on Barkevious Mingo and Chris Long. Jabaal Sheard and Alan Branch don’t figure to be high-priority guys at this juncture. The best corner on the market is Trumaine Johnson of the Rams and Browns wideout Terrelle Pryor is also up after the year. So are Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones. Just pointing that out . . .

TC: As in a not-very-good player, Mike? He’s a sixth-round rookie that’s played seven games. He’s going to get picked on in coverage because he’s short, but he can improve there and likely will. I’d have him watch every single snap that Zach Thomas took in Miami and see if he can’t model his game after that similarly-sized player. The game’s changed since Thomas -- a fifth-rounder from Texas Tech in 1996 -- was great, but that would be a high-ceiling comparison. Who knows what he’ll become but the 6-foot-2 Guyton and 6-foot-3 Alexander were much different types of linebackers.

TC: It’s a mix. I don’t think the defense as a whole has been playing its best. I think most people would be in agreement. The offensive styles of the teams they’ve faced have led to them playing a style that isn’t suited to make them look good. They’ve not made a lot of impact plays as a group – sacks, picks, forced fumbles – but their red-zone defense when the field compresses has continued to be something they can point to as evidence they’re achieving their ultimate aims in preventing points. Within the scheme, there are plays to be made, though, and guys haven’t done it. So that’s on players. There are communication and technique misses and then – in the cases of Sheard and Collins – there are cases of players that clearly weren’t able to do what the coaching staff wanted them to do for whatever reasons. That’s got to be on both sides.

TC: I don’t know if they’re the best or not, but there’s probably no team in the league they wouldn’t be favored against this weekend on a neutral field. They lost one game since Brady’s been back, and they were on the goal line against a very good team when the thing ended. There was the late Edelman fumble and some awful defense played on two of the Baldwin touchdowns. Fixable issues. They’ll be better than they’ve been.

TC: I would say 6:15 a.m.

TC: The Jets were not going to be denied when it came to re-signing Revis. The Patriots weren’t a true stalking horse since they pushed away from the table once they realized the landscape, but they were – along with several other teams – after Revis’ services. The Jets offer blew everyone else away and it came early. But they knew it had to be big and it was.

TC: Absolutely. Matt Patricia is a really smart guy, well-respected by other coaches and – among the players I speak with – very well-liked. Prior to SB49, Matt Chatham said, "Matt Patricia has every bit as much to do with the Patriots defensive success as anyone in Foxboro. What plays teams run with their players, how well they’re prepared to execute those plays, and when specifically to call them . . . that’s what it’s all about. Your puppet won’t work without a great puppeteer." The defense is still trying to figure out a number of things – including personnel – at a later-than-normal juncture of the season. Guys haven’t played at the level they expected. If he’s responsible for the successes, he’s responsible for the failures as well. That’s the way it’s worked for several decades.

PP: Tom must be bored on his Friday. The guy clearly can't get enough Here's what we know on Branch. He's appealing, and until that appeal is heard -- and until that appeal has been denied -- he will be eligible to play. Appeals are typically heard on the fourth Tuesday following issuance of the notice of discipline, per the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. However, hearings can be rescheduled if both sides are in agreement that a change in date is for the better. Branch might push for an earlier hearing to ensure that his playoff eligibility is not endangered. We're working on figuring out exactly where things stand with this particular situation at the moment. 

PP: We've received a lot of great feedback on Episode 77 of Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo. He was incredibly candid in discussing what it's like to play for Bill Belichick, how captains factor into the coach-to-player lines of communication, and how the new generation of athletes are too concerned about what's happening on Twitter. All good stuff. Give it a listen if you haven't already. That's right up there with my favorites of all time. (We have some very good ones that actually never made it to air -- or the ether or whatever -- right before the 2015 draft when we were still figuring out if we could podcast without putting people to sleep. Tom predicted the Geneo Grissom pick, as he did on multiple different platforms for us, on one of those lost pods. Believe it was the first time we heard that name uttered in this region.) My favorite might be from this summer, Episode 59, when Tom and Terrance Knighton had a great conversation about how Knighton perceives his role in the national discussion on race. Knighton may not have been the player he was in Denver or Washington, but he was always insightful, and he seemed to provide a good measure of leadership for some of the younger players along that defensive line. From a media perspective, had he stuck around, he would have been a great source of big-picture insight on the week-to-week temperature of the locker room in my opinion.

PP: It's been an interesting season for Long, who looked like the team's most productive pass-rusher early on but has since seen his sack total stuck at one. He has however continued to be an effective player. He's seen more snaps than any front-seven player on the team, and he leads the defense in total quarterback pressures (sacks, hits and hurries) with 36, according to Pro Football Focus. "He’s given us a lot of good snaps,' Belichick said Friday." He plays hard, plays with good technique, is a smart, aware player. He’s given us plays in the passing game. He’s given us plays in the running game. Like every player, there are things he can work on." Not necessarily ebullient praise, but given how often Long's been used, it's safe to say he's one of their most trusted defenders.

PP: You're not the only one who was confused, Dan. Mayo was among those who felt like the Patriots should have been more aggressive at the end of the first half last week. That was due in part to the conditions.It was a monsoon at that point. Belichick explained that he didn't want to give the ball back to San Fran, and a quick three-and-out with some clock-stoppages thanks to incomplete passes may have put Belichick's defense in a tough spot. In general, you'll see them get more aggressive than they were that day. They still believe in that end-of-the-first-half-start-of-the-second-half momentum swing.

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Patriots advance to AFC title game vs. Jaguars


BEST OF BST PODCAST: Patriots advance to AFC title game vs. Jaguars

0:41 - Tom Curran and Albert Breer discuss some of the big takeaways from the Patriots win over the Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

4:49 - Jalen Ramsey told the fans in Jacksonville that the Jaguars would be going to the Super Bowl. Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith talk about if they have a problem with what Ramsey said and if the Patriots would be using his quote as bulletin board material.

9:25 - Curran, Breer, and Giles discuss Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels likely not returning with the Patriots as Patricia seems to be headed towards the Lions while McDaniels goes to the Colts.

14:06 - Michael Hurley joins BST to preview the Jaguars/Patriots matchup and discuss the Patriots schedule and road to the Super Bowl. 

Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident


Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident

FOXBORO -- Patriots players didn't seem all that bothered by Jalen Ramsey's proclamation that the Jaguars would win the AFC title game and head to Minnesota for the Super Bowl. 

"I ain't got too much to say, but y'all make sure you bring that same energy out here next week and the week after," Ramsey said in Jacksonville following his team's win in Pittsburgh. "We're going to the Super Bowl and we're going to win that (expletive). We're going to win that (expletive)."

Asked about those comments on Monday, Patriots captain Matthew Slater showed no hint of disapproval. 

"Man, that guy’s really good," Slater said. "And he should be confident, because he’s very, very good. The good Lord made that guy, and he said, ‘Let there be corner.’ And there he is. I’d be confident if I were him, as well."

Ramsey was named a First-Team All-Pro for his work on the outside opposite Second-Team All-Pro corner AJ Bouye. They make up arguably the best cornerback duo in football, and Ramsey has already established himself as one of the best at his position despite being just 23 years old and in his second pro season.

"Hey, man, Jalen Ramsey’s a good player," Patriots captain Duron Harmon said. "He talks a lot of trash. That’s part of his game, and you can’t take that away from him. He’s confident. He should be confident in his team. He has a really good football team. The top two AFC teams are left, and he’s a part of one of them.

"His approach to the game is different than ours, but we can’t knock him for it. We know they’re going to come ready to play, and we’ve just got to match their type of physicality and also just their emotion and their readiness to get ready to play."

Ramsey's best work as a trash-talker came eariler this season after he shut down Bengals wideout AJ Green. What he said about the AFC Championship was certainly a step (or several) below that in terms of its intensity, and judging by their reaction Monday, it seems to be a mere blip on the Patriots' radar.