Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft

707018.jpg

Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft

During a back-and-forth with some Twitter folks on Thursday, there were virtual eyebrows raised when I was asked if I felt the Patriots would go "all defense" in next month's draft and I answered that wide receiver and offensive line were possible need spots as well.

"Ummmm, wide receiver?" one followed asked dubiously.

Well, yeah. Wide receiver. When you look at the 10 guys on the roster at that position, only two are dead-mortal locks to be on the field for a huge chunk of offensive plays in 2012.
They are Wes Welker, who is soon-to-be 31 and carrying the franchise tag, and Brandon Lloyd, who's 30 and entering the first year of a three-year deal.

The others are as follows:

Donte Stallworth, 31, just signed a one-year deal worth 875,000.

Deion Branch, 33 when the seasons starts, just signed a one-year deal.

Chad Ochocinco, 34, two years left on three-year deal, 1 million salary this year.

Julian Edelman, 25, one-year left on four-year deal, 615,000 salary, primarily a returner, utility player.

Matthew Slater, 26, newly-signed three-year deal, 5.4 million deal, primarily a special teams player.

Anthony Gonzalez, 27, just signed a one-year deal worth 716,000

Tiquan Underwood, 25, end-of-roster player trying to make the team.

Britt Davis, 25, practice squad player trying to make the team.

Some believe the emergence of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as potent weapons mitigates the Patriots' need for true wideouts. But when you look at the roster, you see only one "outside" receiver that the Patriots have long-term commitment to. That's Lloyd.

The Patriots need talented, developmental depth at the position and that should come in the draft.

Bill Belichick seemed to indicate as much this week at the owner's meetings when he said, "You always try to have competition at every position. Weve always had about that many receivers going to camp -- 10, 11, somewhere in there -- and well see what the roster limit ends up being this year.

"There are some guys that I'm sure will be at that position that arent even on our team right now, that were not even talking about. Its just a process."

The Patriots' record of drafting and developing wideouts is woeful. Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson all went belly-up. Branch and David Givens - selected in the second and seventh rounds in 2002 - are the only wide receivers New England drafted and got major production from in the past decade.

Is it the coaching? Is it the system? Is it bad luck? Is it a position the Patriots don't value and believe can be addressed with smart, veteran players who are mid-tier free agents?

It's probably all of the above to some degree.

But the glut of talented wide receivers in the 2012 draft means that New England will have plenty of chances to target a player they like in the first 100 picks or so.

Just using one draft analysts forecast, there are 12 players who project as being draftable in the third round or before.

At the tail end of the first round and into the second, the Patriots could target a project player like Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, or a production animal like Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers who doesn't have Hill's speed or measurables but caught 115 balls last season.

As we head into March, we'll look deeper at the wideout class and try to figure which one might make the most sense in New England.

Until then, wideout? Yes. Wideout.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

red_sox_bill_lee_052416.jpg

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A former Major League Baseball player is running for governor in Vermont as a member of the Liberty Union party, which bills itself as nonviolent and socialist.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee tells WCAX-TV voters will "need umbrellas" if he's elected, because "it's going to be raining dollars," referring to money trickling down from the wealthy.

Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lee says he's a "pragmatic, conservative, forward thinker." He supports legalizing marijuana, a single-payer health care system and paid family leave.

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find bullpen help?

trustdombrowski524_1280x720_692237891608.jpg

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find bullpen help?

Jared Carrabis joins Sports Tonight to discuss the news that Carson Smith will undergo Tommy John surgery, and whether he has faith that Dombrowski will be able to find bullpen help.

Haggerty: Miller signing more of same head-scratching stuff from Bruins

6snc20524161464129602343_3450k_1280x720_692161603908.jpg

Haggerty: Miller signing more of same head-scratching stuff from Bruins

It’s more than a year into the Cam Neely/Don Sweeney partnership running hockey operations for the Boston Bruins, and it’s still incredibly difficult to decipher what their master plan is for turning around the downtrodden franchise.

The Bruins are badly in need of something special to sell to their fan base, and a four-year contract for Kevan Miller is most definitely not “It.”

The latest chapter in the sagging saga of the Black and Gold is the aforementioned four-year, $10 million contract extension for Kevan Miller signed on Tuesday with little clear reason for the urgency to get something done with the soon-to-be 29-year-old defenseman. There’s no doubt the Bruins will say Miller could have pulled that kind of contract offer had he gone to the open market, and Sweeney should have let him walk –and let another team overpay for him -- had that happened.

One also can’t blame the hard-working, no-nonsense Miller for being pumped about the contract that fell into his lap.

“It’s the team I started with, whether it was in Providence and then back to Boston, the organization I started with. I couldn’t be happier with how things have gone,” said Miller. “That was one of the big key factors of me making my decision is I really love the city. I love the fans. Like I said in my statement, we have the best fans in the league and they’re great to play for. The whole experience so far has just been great. I’m looking forward to four more years of that for sure.”

The immediate negatives are there for Miller after signing the deal: he’s been injury-prone throughout his NHL career, he really hasn’t proven he can be consistently effective against the other team’s best players and he does very little to solve Boston’s puck-moving problems.

There’s a lot of redundancy with Adam McQuaid on a number of different fronts when it comes to Miller and an alarming lack of proven puck-moving defenseman in general beyond Krug at the top of the B’s priority list.

If the undrafted former UVM standout can hold it together as a top-4 defenseman then the Bruins will have decent value for a limited player in Miller, but he could just as quickly, and perhaps even more quickly, develop into another overpaid member of the B’s if he settles into the bottom-pairing role that seems to be his NHL future.

The deal leaves the Bruins with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Miller and Adam McQuaid as the four defensemen signed through the next two seasons, and features a pair of bottom-pairing D-men in Miller and McQuaid taking up a combined $5.25 million in salary cap space over the next three seasons. That means the Bruins have to move somebody from their aforementioned quarter of signed blueliners, and the Miller contract already has the Bruins backed into a corner before Don Sweeney and Co. even line up their other moves.

That’s the exact same problem that cropped up at the draft in Florida last summer when Sweeney executed a flurry of eyebrow-raising moves to ship Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic out, and then failed to execute when trying to move up for Noah Hanifin as Hamilton’s replacement. It would be an epic Black and Gold trainwreck if Sweeney makes the same mistake two years in a row in failing to land the big move, but it would be of Boston’s own doing.

It’s Roster-Building 101 in the NHL that a team takes care of their big ticket items first during the season, and then moves on to the complimentary and secondary pieces that backfill the roster. Sweeney is doing just the opposite here after tying up $2.5 million per year on Miller, and doing so before he’s even secured a top pairing defenseman or top line right wing on their summer shopping list.

It’s the same kind of thing departed GM Peter Chiarelli did for years in Boston after winning the Stanley Cup, and the very issue that Cam Neely, Charlie Jacobs and Jeremy Jacobs threw their old GM under the bus for during last month’s end-of-season press conference. The multi-year contracts for Jimmy Hayes, McQuaid and Miller over the last two seasons are overly generous deals with too much term for limited players easily replaced by young, cheap players on entry level deals.

There's really no difference between them, and the contracts of Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg that were previously cited so consistently as cap-busting deals. 

It also leaves the Bruins in a tough position with restricted free agent Torey Krug, who they’re going to have to now pay double what they gave to Miller ($5 million per season) if they hope to actually re-sign last year’s No. 2 defenseman. The bigger problem: retaining all these back end players after the B's finished 19th in the league in defense last season is asking, or more accurately begging, for more of the same problems that pushed Boston out of the playoff picture two years running.

It’s too bad the Miller contract has drawn a firestorm of Bruins criticism this week: the rugged blueiner is a good, tough competitor that’s developed into a responsible young leader on the team, and he can make opponents pay a physical price when healthy.

Miller has also been an impressive plus-55 over his three NHL seasons in Boston while at least becoming respectable in the offensive zone, and posted a career-best five goals and 18 points with the B’s last season.

This example of contractual largesse to a low-ceiling player in Miller, however, is exactly the kind of thing that landed the Bruins in cap jail in the first place, and also the very thing Neely and Jacobs claimed they were getting away from after firing Chiarelli a little over a year ago.

It sure feels like it’s the same old gaffes over and over again rather than some fancy new Black and Gold plan to reinvigorate things on Causeway Street, doesn’t it?