Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Buying the groceries

As I suspected, the Patriots aren't making a big splash, but they are going about signing a number of solid, proven veterans that should help in the short-run, and could potentially help in the long-run.

They have managed to, with four simple signings (and one re-signing), replace Lonnie Paxton who followed Josh McDaniels to Denver, upgrade from Lamont Jordan at running back, keep needed depth along the offensive line while retaining their largest fullback, and significantly upgraded their defensive backfield.

Discounting the Nathan Hodel signing since it's swapping one long-snapper for another, let's take a quick look at each signing and some of the other transactions the Patriots have had to bolster the team, or retain personnel -

Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor is probably the biggest signing of the bunch. Taylor, while slightly older, represents an upgrade over the talented but erratic Lamont Jordan. Jordan was a solid part of the running back rotation last season, just as Taylor is likely to be this season. Taylor is more apt to be able to pick up the slack as a starter than Jordan, given the fact that Taylor is coming off a career low in attempts (based on playing in at least 10 games) which still would have qualified as Jordan's third highest number of attempts in a season.

While Taylor at 32 is on the downside of his career, he likely still has enough juice left to be a part time impact player.

Russ Hochstein was re-signed and in so doing the team retained one of their most versatile offensive linemen, and with Heath Evans moving on to the Saints, Hochstein moves to the top of the depth chart as the team's blocking back.

On March 5 the Pats traded for Eagles receiver Greg Lewis, a burner who is likely to be the third receiver. Lewis has shown flashes, and has apparent upside, but has yet to show the sort of consistency that Jabar Gaffney gave the third receiver position. If it works out, Lewis gives Tom Brady a speedster who will likely draw single coverage while defenses double up on Wes Welker underneath and Randy Moss on the other side. If Lewis fails to have a breakout season in this offense, it's unlikely that he will ever blossom.

I like the Shawn Springs signing, but was surprised that it was a three year contract. Given his history of injury, I expected a one-year incentive laden contract, maybe with an option. That said, Springs represents an upgrade over what the Patriots had in their backfield last season. Springs also is the sort of veteran presence that Bill Belichick likes to bring in as a player-coach to bring the youngsters along. As an aside, given Buffalo's recent move, Springs was instrumental in holding Terrell Owens to five receptions for 38 yards in the Redskins second meeting with the Cowboys last season.

The signing I like best, however, is the 27-year old Leigh Bodden. Bodden, cut by the Detroit Lions after only one season, previously played for Romeo Crennel's Browns. In Crennel's defense, Bodden excelled - in three seasons under the former Patriots coordinator, and in defenses that were in the bottom half of the rankings, the 6' 1" corner racked up 11 interceptions, 45 tackles, and 177 tackles.

I still say that the Pats sign Jason Taylor before training camp and he comes in to play as a 'tweener D-end/linebacker in order to bolster the pass rush because, like Springs, he's the sort of veteran player that Belichick loves to bring in at a discount.

Other quick thoughts -

Am I the only person out there that thinks Jay Cutler is an idiot - the man demands the Broncos trade him, then gets pissy when they actually try to do so. Am I the only one missing something here? I mean, sure, he threw for 4,526 yards last season, but he also racked up seven interceptions to six touchdowns in the final six games of the season when Denver went 2-4 after starting 6-4. That final stretch included a one touchdown, two interception performance against the Chargers in the final game of the season, the game that would have sealed up the Western Conference and a trip to the playoffs.

Any, and I mean, did anyone out there see the Dominican getting bounced from the World Baseball Classic by the Netherlands of all teams? Anyone? I mean, damn. That was a helluva performance.


Dave said...

Jay Cutler is Ryan Leaf with slightly-more talent. He simply isn't that mature. If you can't handle trade talk, then why are you in the NFL?

And the DR going out was a shock. I guess they missed A-Rod?

Hey, thanks for the mention of Elle. I really appreciate it.

Kevin Smith said...

No thanks necessary - Some things are just more important than sports.

Chris Stone said...

Yes Cutler is an idiot. I think if McDaniels had been thinking quicker, Cassel might have ended up in Denver. I'm glad he didn't! I wonder if this is one of the reasons the Cassel deal happened so quickly. McDaniels would have a quarterback he knew and could continue to develop, vs a drama queen. Its better for the Pats Cassel is in Kansas City.

I was surprised at the length of Springs contract. but, contracts seldom seem to go totally the way they are written. I like the Bolden signing.

Kevin Smith said...

I think as much as anything else, the Pats wanted to get the deal done to free up cap space for the moves they wanted to make - and Cutler is already viewed as a whiner in Denver, this isn't going to help him - particularly given the way that he melted down during the stretch run last season.