Friday, March 07, 2008


There are a lot of things that can cause stigma in professional sports - failure to make the big play; cheating; steroid use; lying when caught; gaining a reputation as a bad clubhouse guy; being a thug off the field; being relegated to the bench. These are some of the most common reasons. Often the stigma exists most strongly with the fans, sometimes with coaches, and occasionally with general managers.

Teams gain it for bad personnel decisions, bad coaching decisions, and, often, bad decisions from ownership.

Players like Pacman Jones have painted themselves into a corner with both fans and GM's, likely having to deal with all sorts of specially designed restrictions built into his contract, should he ever get signed again to an NFL deal. Randy Moss will have his Raider years dog him well after retirement, when Hall of Fame voters are asked to look at the body of his work.

The Patriots will have Spygate follow them, primarily with the fans of the game, just as Mike Shanahan, unless he wins another Super Bowl, will be questioned for his inability to get his team back to the big game without John Elway.

To touch a little further on the Spygate stigma - it certainly doesn't seem to have hurt the team within the free agent market, or the team's ability to re-sign its own. Sure, both Randall Gay and Asante Samuel jumped ship, but Samuel was expected to leave (his decision had nothing to do with winning, as much as he might publicly claim otherwise...who out there really believes that the Eagles are closer than the Patriots to getting back to the big game?). But this is what has happened with free agents since the final whistle blew on the Giants' championship season...

  • Linebacker TJ Slaughter was signed on February 12
  • Wideout Kelley Washington was resigned Feb 29
  • Long snapper Lonnie Paxton was resigned Feb 29
  • Tedy Bruschi was resigned on Feb 29
  • Wide receiver Sam Aiken was signed on March 3
  • Randy Moss was resigned on March 3
  • Corner Jason Webster was signed on March 4
  • Jabar Gaffney was resigned on March 5
  • Safety Tank Williams and corner Lewis Sanders were signed March 6
After all of that, it appears as though Carolina Panthers linebacker Adam Seward expects to receive a contract offer from the Pats.

Of the above, of the five free agents signed away from other teams, almost all have started at one point or another. The others are career special teamers or back ups, including Seward. Seward is the most interesting case.

Sure, Slaughter has been a starter in the league, and adds good depth to an aging linebacking corps with hold-over starters are Bruschi, Adalius Thomas, and Mike Vrabel. But Seward is intriguing.

Seward is a career back up and special teamer coming off his first NFL contract. He never managed to crack the starting line-up in Carolina due to injuries, and a deep linebacking corps on the Panthers.

Seven years ago this March 16 the Patriots signed a linebacker with the stigma of being a career back-up, unable to break into the starting line-up of a Steelers team rife with all-pros at the linebacker position. Mike Vrabel went on to become a defensive linchpin of a team that went to four Super Bowls and won three.

I'm not saying that Seward is the next Mike Vrabel, but it should be interesting to see, if signed, whether or not the 26-year old former teammate of former Patriot Ryan Claridge gets a shot at the starting inside spot next to Bruschi, a shot at shaking the stigmas of special teamer, injury prone, and back up.

There's a lot of speculation that the Patriots will address linebacker in the draft, possibly with their seventh pick, despite the fact that Bill Belichick and his brain trust have not addressed the position with an early rounder since Belichick's Cleveland days. If Seward is signed, that will make two linebackers, three DB's and a wide-out added to the team.

Should the young linebacker sign and pan out, this will be compared to the Vrabel signing. If he is signed, the team overlooks a stud in the early rounds with the intention of giving Seward the job and he doesn't pan out...well, let's just say I can see the "Seward's Folly" headlines right now.


Chris Stone said...

Seward sounds good... his injury is worrisome though.

Kevin Smith said...

He does look good, but I've noticed that certain linebackers that have looked good elsewhere just don't work in the Patriots' system. Monty Beisel was the hot commodity LB on the market when the Pats signed him, and Chad Brown had been a (I believe the number is four-time) pro-bowler for other teams before joining the Pats.

As such, I always approach LB signings with a grain of salt.