The 2011 New England Patriots

Alright, enough already.  I’m getting very tired of all the whining and complaining coming from New Englanders about their beloved Patriots mysteriously losing to the Jets.  I understand that it hurts, but guess what?  All of this mourning will not change the result of the game, so let’s accept the loss and start looking ahead.  The three most integral parts of the NFL off-season for teams consist of the free agency period, resigning players that are currently on a team’s roster, and the NFL draft.  If anything, Sunday’s loss to the Jets (sorry to bring it up again) has showed just about every Patriot fan that there are holes on that team that need addressing.  Let’s take a look…

Resigning…

Here’s a list of Patriots that are free agents upon the completion of this season:

-RB Kevin Faulk

-RB Sammy Morris

-RB Fred Taylor

-K Shayne Graham

-OT Matt Light

-OG Logan Mankins

-OL Quinn Ojinnaka

-S Brandon McGowan

-S Jarrad Page

-LB Tracy White

-DL Gerard Warren

-CB Kyle Arrington (restricted)

-S Josh Barrett (restricted)

-RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (restricted)

Realistically, the only two unrestricted free agents that will definitely be back in a Patriots uniform next season are Matt Light and Logan Mankins.  Light is a lifetime Patriot.  He was drafted in the second round by the Patriots in 2001 out of Purdue.  He has quietly developed into one of the better left tackles in the NFL (although at times he is overmatched by speed rushers), and I just can’t see Light wanting to go elsewhere either.  As for Mankins, I understand that we all still have a sour taste in our mouth from his holdout earlier this season, but whatever you want to say about that decision doesn’t really matter because he is one of, if not the best guard in the NFL.  Mankins may not be happy about it, but if he still is unwilling to accept whatever long-term deal the Patriots offer, he is undoubtedly getting the Franchise Tag slapped on him.  Bill Belichick is not letting Mankins go to free agency without getting something for him, which means either he will be playing for the Pats or he will be traded probably for more damn draft picks.

As for the other free agents, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three running backs get let go.  Morris and Taylor are on just about the end of their respective ropes.  Morris no longer gets any work as a running back and Taylor can’t stay healthy.  Faulk presents a different situation because he plays such a huge role in their locker room, but the emergence of Danny Woodhead has made Faulk expendable.  I’m putting my money on Kevin Faulk retiring and becoming a coach in New England next season.  Ojinnaka was dealt for a fifth round pick this past off-season (the trade doesn’t make sense to me either), so he may be resigned just so they don’t look stupid…doubt it though.  Other guys like McGowan and White may get deals to fill out the depth chart, but neither plays a crucial role on the team.

As for the restricted guys, I doubt any of them receive a long-term deal because the Patriots simply don’t do that with restricted free agents…coupled with the ongoing labor dispute it isn’t looking like their pay-day has arrived just yet.

Free Agents…

There are some intriguing free agents available out there to tantalize Pats fans, but ever since the Adalius Thomas experiment failed miserably, it seems to me that those who run the show in Foxboro are more likely to resign their own guys and trade for players they greatly desire than to overpay for players on the open market.  With that being said, it’s always fun to dream…

With the pending departures of Morris, Taylor, and Faulk ahead, the Pats could be looking to pick up a running back from the free agent pool.  Although the big names like DeAngelo Williams and Ahmad Bradshaw are out there, it is more likely that the Pats pull their usual “reclamation project” card and go after a Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams/Pierre Thomas type guy.  I’d welcome all three, but I have a weird feeling Ricky Williams might be headed to Gillette soon.

The big name on the free agent market will be Vincent Jackson, but I can’t see the Pats dealing out that much cash for a wideout with the way their offense is currently constituted.  Although, I wouldn’t mike bringing in a guy like T.J. Houshmandzadeh for cheap money to see what he can bring to the table.  As for the Chad Ochocinco rumors, I can’t see Ocho taking a lesser role in terms of receptions, so it wouldn’t likely work for him in Foxboro.

With the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul towards the end of the 2010 season, Mathias Kiwanuka is no longer a crucial part of the Giants’ defense.  I would love to see the former Boston College great Kiwanuka in a Patriots uniform opposite from Jermaine Cunningham wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks in 2011.  Both Lamar Woodley and Tamba Hali are free agents as well, but I doubt either one of their respective teams lets them hit the open market.  Manny Lawson has underperformed since being a first round pick in 2006 to the 49ers, but his combination of size, speed, and athleticism certainly has me intrigued.

In regards to both Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha, the real question might be which teams in the NFL wouldn’t want these guys on their team?  Both are aging (Bailey 32, Asomugha 29) and both have already received their big pay day, so if it’s winning their after then there are few places better to be than in New England.  Bailey said he’s like to stick around to see if Tebow can bring Denver back to the promise-land, but with Elway at the helm Tebow might be getting shipped out of town.  Imagine a secondary featuring Nnamdi Asomugha, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, and Kyle Arrington with Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung looming over the top…it would be a thing of beauty.

Draft…

Here is a list of all 2011 draft picks that the New England Patriots have (courtesy of www.nepatriotsdraft.com):

1st Round – #17 (OAK – Richard Seymour)
1st Round – #28
2nd Round – #33 (CAR – 2010 3rd Round)
2nd Round – #60
3rd Round – #74 (MIN – Randy Moss)
3rd Round – #92
4th Round
5th Round
6th Round (NO – David Thomas)

Give me a minute to get into my “Better Looking Mel Kiper” zone…alright I’m ready.  In my opinion, the Patriots need to focus on three positions early in the draft, outside linebacker, wide receiver, and defensive line.  Luckily for the Pats, 2011’s draft class is loaded with both 3-4 outside linebacker and 3-4 defensive line prospects.  Here are a few guys to keep your eyes on:

Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa (6’4”, 290 lbs)

Coming into the 2010 season, Clayborn was considered by many to be a lock top 10 pick.  The emergence of guys like Nick Fairley (Scottie, don’t even try to tell me you knew who this guy was before you watched College GameDay the day before the National Championship) and Cameron Jordan has pushed Clayborn down the board a bit.

J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin (6’6”, 295 lbs)

If you watched Wisconsin’s bowl game against TCU you know who J.J. Watt is.  This dude is huge, and he has a great motor to accompany his mammoth body.  With some fine tuning at the point of attack, Watt could be a force as a 3-4 end.

Akeem Ayers, OLB (6’4”, 255lbs)

Ayers is one of the rare guys in college today that played outside linebacker at the collegiate level and is big enough to make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 pro scheme.  Ayers is freakishly athletic and very fast for a guy his size, but he’ll need to put on some size in the weight room to be able to beat offensive tackles on a consistent basis.

Jeremy Beal, DE/OLB Oklahoma (6’3”, 260 lbs)

Beal has ideal size for a 3-4 outside linebacker at 6’3” and reportedly now up near 270.  He has the strength to shed blocks and make plays in both the run and pass game.  His speed isn’t elite, but neither was Willie McGinest’s.  Beal had another good year, and his consistency is encouraging.

Mark Herzlich, OLB Boston College (6’4”, 240 lbs)

Herzlich was considered the best outside linebacker prospect in all of college football before he was diagnosed with cancer before the 2009 season.  Even with a huge roadblock ahead of him, Herzlich refused to give up and now has a chance to play in the NFL just two short years after beating a deadly disease.  I doubt Herzlich goes before the third round, but I would love to see this guy in a Patriots uniform.

Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame (6’3”, 220 lbs)

Floyd is the definition of what the Patriots don’t have at wide receiver, a big physical guy who can win a jump ball against anyone in the league.  His size is great, his speed is in question.  A good 40 time at the combine could vault Floyd to the first round.

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One Response

  1. Michael Floyd already said he is staying in school. Yes, I knew that without watching College Gameday.

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