The Haphazard Blog

Patriots Free Agency

by on March 6, 2010 2:53 PM, under Football, Patriots, Sports

NFL free agency is only one day in, so I won’t be jumping to any conclusions on how the 2010 Patriots will fair at this point. But I do want to talk about the Patriots some.

Looking back to the 2009 season, they had quite a few problems. Throughout the whole season, they were unable to find a third receiver in an offense that has the 3 WR offense as its base offense. They traded for Greg Lewis and they cut him. They acquired Joey Galloway and cut him. Julian Edelman emerged as a surprise, but I don’t see him as an outside receiver. Brandon Tate was there for 2 games before injury ended his already short season. Wes Welker had a horrible injury and realistically, the earliest he could be returning is Week 7. Randy Moss revealed he was dealing with multiple injuries and it is wishful thinking that was the sole reason for his below average (for him) season. Saying they need to address WR is an understatement.

At running back they went with the by committee approach they have employed since Laurence Maroney was supposed to replace Corey Dillon. With aging backs, there were a lot of games lost to injury (16 games for 4 RBs, 25%). ┬áStatistically, they seem fine, but they failed on more critical short run plays than I’d like to ┬áremember.

On defense, the Patriots had a hard time making the plays to close out a game. I’ve already detailed how uncharacteristic the team was in a previous post, so I’ll avoid rehashing that. They need to transform the pass rush. Bill Belichick says that it’s a combination of the secondary and pass rush, but I think this is just hos way of avoiding throwing anyone under a bus. The problem has been the linebackers for years. These guys are so important to the defensive scheme. Their heyday was when they had a rotation on the outside of Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin and Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer on the inside. They are all gone and the only complete guy they have now is Jerod Mayo on the inside. Adailus Thomas has been a disappointment. Tully Banta-Cain does not hold up well against the run. Gary Guyton is showing a lot of promise. They are in desperate need of two complete outside LBs. It’s a tall order to find guys who can stop the run (set the edge), rush the passer and drop back and cover when they don’t rush the passer.

So now they can start to build a better team. I think all of the news that came out yesterday was carefully (and smartly) orchestrated by the Patriots. They cut Chris Baker (another TE mistake, along with trading for Alex Smith and cutting him) early in the day and then re-signed 3 players. They made the big splash with Vince Wilfork (“highest paid NT in NFL history”) and kept Tully Banta-Cain with a 3yr/$13.5M after letting him walk away for a 3yr/$9M deal in 2007. They also kept Stephen Neal.

Banta-Cain and Neal were both unrestricted free agents. I find it hard to believe that neither checked the market to see who else was interested at that point when the Patriots had more than enough time to complete a deal. With former Patriots coaches and executives spread all over, surely someone would make a run at them. I believe all the deals were done before free agency started and they delayed signing them to end up with positive press. There were also rumors flying around that the Patriots had made an offer to Julius Peppers (it’s pretty obvious that Peppers didn’t think it was serious if they did) and they were chasing Anquan Boldin (it wasn’t a serious chase when they wanted him to play out his contract after all he has wanted the last two years is a new one and a big raise).

So the Patriots got exactly what they wanted. Not many people talking about their failure at tight end or the fact that they didn’t bring in any new players on day one. Instead the focus is on them re-sigining their players, particularly Vince Wilfork and rumors that they tried to get big name guys. The reality is that they haven’t made the team any different from last year. They still have a lot to do. I’m hopeful that maybe they can find some key veterans like they did in 2003 (Rodney Harrison, Tyrone Poole, Rosevelt Colvin) after the initial frenzy ends.

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