Monday, February 18, 2008

The Long Awaited Patriots Wrap Up Post

After the debacle that was the Superbowl, I promised to put together a position by position post of issues facing the Patriots in the offseason. The truth is that the pain of the loss still lingers, so it has taken a while for me to get everything down I wanted to, but here it is. I am going to break it down by position, and offer some thoughts on each:

Tom Brady
Matt Cassel
Matt Guttierez

There is no issue at the QB position. The Pats of the best QB in the game. The only thing to keep an eye out for is a new contract for Tom. He deserves to be paid as the best in the league and right now he is not.

Running Backs
Laurence Maroney
Sammy Morris
Kevin Faulk
Heath Evans
Kyle Eckel

Injuries plagued this group for much of the season. Maroney missed much of the beginning of the season, and Morris filled in well until he got his chest broken and went on IR. However, Maroney showed what he can do, and why the Pats picked him in the playoffs when he tore it up. Kevin Faulk is a game changer and continues to be underrated throughout the league. Trust me, without him, the Pats would not have even made it to the Superbowl.
Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel are fullbacks by definition, and unfortunately one of them will not be around next year. Eckel showed why he was coveted by both the Pats and the Dolphins when he came out of Navy a few years ago, but my guess is that he will be a training camp cut, and then kept on an emergency list if he does not get picked up. Its a shame, he plays well between the tackles, and performed well on special teams.

Wide Receivers
Randy Moss
Dante Stolworth
Wes Welker
Jabar Gaffney
Troy Brown
Kelly Washington
Chad Jackson

This is a deep and very talented group, but we can be sure of a couple of things, First Troy Brown will eventually retire. I wouldn't be surprised if he took some other position with the team, but his playing days are over. The team has already informed Kelly Washington they will not be picking up his 4 million dollar roster bonus, but would like to have him return on a new deal. This would probably be a good deal. He was a special teams gunner and can still catch some balls if people get injured. Gaffney is a free agent, and will get some serious looks from teams throughout the league. I expect him to be back with the Pats next year, and be a starter next to Moss. Wes Welker is an animal and is locked up for a few years. I love his mustache. Chad "my knee hurts" Jackson has to step up. He was a high pick and I think that the team will give him one more year to get it all together, but not much more than that. Stallworth is a goner. He was signed to a multi year deal, but he is due a sizable amount of money in the second and third years of the deal. He had a good, but not great year, so I expect to see him in another uniform next year. Randy Moss will be back. It is just a question if he will be franchised, or sign a long term deal. The day before the superbowl he was on the radio saying he wants to end his career in New England and "Mr.Kraft won't have to break the bank" to keep him. He did say that anyone else interested in his services would have to pay far more than the Patriots will to keep him.

Offensive Line
Matt Light
Logan Mankins
Dan Koppen
Stephen Neal
Nick Kaczur
Billy Yates
Ryan O'Callahan
Russ Hochstien

The o-line had three probowlers this year. All are locked up on multi-year deals, and look to be in great shape. Look for the team to add some depth through the draft, as they have always loved mid draft offensive linemen.

Tight Ends
Ben Watson
Kyle Brady
David Thomas
Stephen Spach

This is a solid group that suffered from injury problems all year. Second year player Thomas spent then entire season on IR, and neither Kyle Brady or Ben Watson could stay healthy for the whole year. Spach was a mid season aquisition, and will most likely not make the team. This may be another place the team looks to fortify through the draft or free agency.

Defensive Line
Richard Seymour
Jarvis Green
Mike Wright
LeKevin Smith
Vince Wilfork
Ty Warren

This group is solid, and it is a travesty that Ty Warren did not make the pro bowl. Wright is a restricted free agent and expect the team to place a mid level tender on him, meaning that anyone who wants to sign him will have to give up a second round pick. I expect him to be back. Jarvis Green is a starter on just about any other team, and gives this group so much flexibility, in terms of shifting Seymour inside for a couple of plays to mix it up. Wilfork had a great season and still has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal. I wouldn't be surprised to hear talks of an extension, as he is going to have a long and great career. No worries here.

Tedy Bruschi
Junior Seau
Adalius Thomas
Mike Vrabel
Roosevelt Colvin
Pierre Woods
Eric Alexander
Oscar Lua

I think that the average age of this group is 63. There are some huge question marks here for the Pats. Will Tedy and Junior be back? Will Colvin rework his deal? Will Thomas be more of a playmaker with a season under his belt? Who is Oscar Lua? Let me answer some of those for you. Bruschi will be back, and I suspect so will Junior. Both are hungry for a ring and I would imagine have a bad taste in their mouths from last year. Still they are getting old, and the team must start planning for the future. Thats where Thomas comes in, they see him as a major force at inside linebacker, but he only showed flashes of brilliance in about half a season there. It's a complex system in Foxboro, so I think that he will have a great year two with the team. Our outside linebackers are solid, but Colvin is coming up on the last years of his deal, and I doubt that the team will pay him such a high amount or suffer a large cap hit for him. They will try and rework a deal, and I hope the Colvin goes for it. Oscar Lua was the seventh round pick out of USC last year. He had a great camp and made some great plays in the preaseason. He injured his foot I think and spent the whole season on IR.
The Pats are clearly concerned with this postion, and I was hoping that James Lauranitus was going to come out of OSU. He would have been available at #7, but he opted to return for his senior year and ruin my dreams. There are no linebackers in the draft that warrant such a high pick, so the team will have to turn to free agency for help. They already signed TJ Slaughter, who didnt even play in the league last year, so dont worry that you dont know who he is. Zach Thomas is coming up from Miami for a visit. Provided his concussions are all gone, he could be a great addition, but he is getting old too and has played his whole career in a 4-3. It is going to be interesting to watch how they fortify this position this year. Especially if Bruschi or Seau call it a career.

Asante Samuel
Ellis Hobbs
Randall Gay
Chad Scott
no one else worth mentioning

Asante Samuel is gone. He is going to get 10-12 million a year and 25 million up front to go play someone else. I feel bad for all of you who bought his jersey for your superbowl parties but it will be obsolete in about a month. He has "get paid" tattooed on his arm, there is nothing more to say. It's a shame because he is a great player, and we will miss him dearly. Hobbs is on my shit list and will remain there until he is replaced by either Julio Lugo or JD Drew, or both. He is a decent corner, but barely cuts it as a starter. If we have to depend on him to replace Samuel, the season is over before it begins. He is a great return man and has a good eye for the ball, but he gets out played on a semi-regular basis, and let's face it Plaxico Burress took him to school in the Superbowl. Randall Gay is made out of glass and is a free agent. See you later Randall. Chad Scott will most likely not be back.
So what do the Patriots do? Well thank jebus that we own the seventh overall pick. There are a couple of guys in the draft that should be there, and will be serviceable. Free agency will also help us out. There is a guy out there, not sure if anyone has heard of him, but his name is Ty Law, and he has been cut by the Chiefs. I would love to see him return at the veteran minimum and finish it up where it started. Sure he is getting older and has lost a stop, but he can still be a great cover corner and a great short term solution for the team. It is all going to come down to money though.

Rodney Harrison
James Sanders
Eugene Wilson
Brandon Meriweather.
Rodney has announced that he will play next year. Sanders literally stole the starting role from Wilson, so expect Wilson to not even get an offer from the Patriots. Meriweather managed to go the whole season without stomping on someone while they laid on the ground, and in the meantime grew into a decent player. I am excited about what he can do next year as he gets ready to take over for Harrison the following season.

Special Teams
Stephen Gostkowski
Lonnie Paxton
Some Punter

No worries here, the Pats will find someone to punt the ball every now and again. Everyone else was great and is locked up.

Well, there you have it. The Patriots have some grave concerns on defense. Linebackers and Cornerbacks are their biggest needs, and unfortunately there is not much out there for help. Bill will find something though, he always does. Offensively, everything looks great, and the team should be reader to go 1402 next season. Thats right, I am already predicting next season 14-2.

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