Scout’s Take: 15 Thoughts on the NFL Draft and Free Agency

Trevor Scott is one of many solid free agent signings by the Patriots

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

This week’s fifteen thoughts breakdown the New England Patriots activity to this point in the free agent market. I also look at what the Patriots still need to do and the effect the signings will have on the NFL Draft.

Here are my 15 Thoughts on the Patriots free agent signings and more:

1. It’s really tough to argue with the philosophy the Patriots seem to be using in free agency this year. While they haven’t made the big splash that some fans would like to see, they have decided to attack the middle level of free agents and add depth throughout the roster.

While doing so the team has gotten better and deeper. One thing that killed the Patriots last season was lack of depth. Whether it was in the secondary where guys like Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Phillip Adams and Antwaun Molden were forced into duty when injuries struck or at the wide receiver position. The Patriots were unable to find a legitimate #3 WR all season once the Chad Ochocinco experiment failed. The team was forced to scramble at times and improvise just to fill holes during the season.

That won’t be the case next season as the Patriots have been aggressive at targeting certain areas and certain players to fill a specific need. Along with providing much needed depth to the roster, the Patriots are also creating competition at a number of positions. By signing a group of veterans that the coaches trust and can rely on, the Patriots will be a more complete team. The players will battle for spots during training camp. The best players will play and the ones who can’t will be gone. Competition can only make a team better and the lack of competition at some positions hurt the team last year.

2. The first move to discuss is the “biggest” and most accomplished player signed by the Patriots thus far, WR Brandon Lloyd.

It had been rumored since Josh McDaniels signed on to become offensive coordinator that Brandon Lloyd was likely to be playing for the Patriots next season. It took longer than expected for it to come to fruition, but Lloyd finally agreed to terms to become part of the Patriots organization over the weekend. The fit couldn’t be any better for Lloyd or the team. Lloyd already knows the playbook, has excelled in the system and fills arguable the biggest offensive need.  

Lloyd is known for his acrobatic catches, elite hands and ability to run clean routes. He is exactly what the Patriots offense has lacked the last three years. His presence alone will take the pressure off of Wes Welker and the two tight ends. It will truly be “pick your poison” with the Patriots offense and an improvement on what can be considered their only real weakness on the offensive side of the ball.

It can’t be overlooked at how much of a discount the Patriots got Lloyd for. Picking up Lloyd for 3 years and 12 million dollars is an absolute steal. Five days after Pierre Garcon signed for over eight million dollars per year, Bil Belichick was able to secure a more productive WR for a fraction of the cost. Credit also has to be given to Lloyd. He stayed true to his word and didn’t hold out for every penny. He took a reasonable deal, that is a discount by free agent standards, but it is likely to be the best business decision he ever makes.

3. The first unrestricted free agent signing from another team by the Patriots was former Cincinnati Bengals DL Jonathan Fanene. It was rumored heavily last Tuesday that the Patriots were set to go after Seattle Seahawks DT Red Bryant. When Bryant resigned with Seattle for seven million dollars per year, the Patriots turned their attention to Fanene.

Jonathan is a solid, versatile and under rated defensive lineman who will fit Bill Belichick’s multiple look scheme. It got lost in the shuffle last year but the Patriots lost both of their interior pass rushers a week into last season, with Myron Pryor and Mike Wright going on IR. It was another position which the Patriots were unable to fill adequately during the season and had to get creative to get a rush up the middle.

Fanene will likely replace Mike Wright who was cut prior to free agency. Unfortunately for Wright, his concussion issues make it unlikely he will play football again. Fanene is a solid interior pass rusher, totaling 6.5 sacks last season despite playing situationally. Fanene has the ability to play end in the 3-4 and kick inside to rush the passer. It should take some of the pass rush responsibility off of Vince Wilfork and allow him to move back to his true NT responsibilities. Fanene has been the only DL signed to date, however this is an area I expect to target heavily in the draft and the second-third tier of free agency.

4. A few days ago ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss broke the story that Logan Mankins underwent ACL surgery after the Super Bowl. It turns out Mankins played throughout the playoffs with his ACL torn to some degree. Mankins’ status for training camp is unknown. However, the Patriots added some insurance in case he is unable to go by signing former Oakland and Seattle OG Robert Gallery.

Gallery has long been a favorite of head coach Bill Belichick, dating back to Gallery’s days at Iowa. Gallery will provide the team with a very capable and reliable back up and someone who can step in if Mankins is unable to go at the beginning of the year. Gallery has had his struggles in prior years, and a lot can be attributed to injuries, so he is not the caliber of OL that some may be expecting.

He is certainly a solid depth player for this team. As of right now, no one is expecting Gallery to be the starter and as a swing OT/OG he will suffice. The move also provides some depth in case Marcus Cannon struggles to develop or if Nate Solder takes a step back.

This signing is another example of the Patriots bringing in experienced, proven veterans to provide depth and security throughout the roster.

5. The safety position was consistently the worst position on the roster in 2011. No matter who the Patriots put out on the field it seemed like they were beaten routinely by opposing QBs.

The CBs took most of the heat last season but, the lack of an NFL caliber safety (outside of Chung) really left a big hole in a young defense. The Patriots made their first move towards improving the position by signing former Charger FS Steve Gregory.

Gregory, who is entering his 7th season in the NFL out of Syracuse, will be in the mix for the starting safety job opposite Patrick Chung. Gregory is more of a coverage safety, which is what the Patriots lacked last year. He has the ability to cover the slot and even played CB in nickel situations last year. While Gregory isn’t a big name he is a player who has gotten better each year in the league. He has increased his number of starts each each of the past five seasons, becoming a full time player by the end of last season.

The Patriots gave Gregory a three year deal, with money comparable to other starting safeties in the league, so Gregory will be given a shot to earn the full time job it appears.  Even if he isn’t the starter come opening day he will provide the Patriots with a capable player who is entering his prime. The Patriots also went after former first round pick LaRon Landry, who ultimately signed with the Jets.

The Patriots had legitimate interest in Landry, but I was told by someone I trust that Landry’s medicals were way worse than the Patriots expected and let Landry go in a different direction. I would expect the Patriots to make at least one more safety signing in the FA market and possibly even draft a safety in the first two rounds.

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Tags: 15 Thoughts, Brandon Lloyd, Scout's Take, Steve Gregory, Trevor Scott

17 Responses to “Scout’s Take: 15 Thoughts on the NFL Draft and Free Agency”

  1. Ken W says:

    George Iloka and a 1 DE out of these (Fletcher Cox, Devon Still, or Jared Crick)

  2. Muggs says:

    mark my words, 2 of the first 4 picks will me made on the shea mcclelin de/olb and arkansas wr greg childs

  3. Bruschi54 says:

    Great article, really agree on the Scott & Fanene signings helping the D big time. Also the first information I have read about the possible reason for not making a stronger push to land Landry. Solid off-season to this point, hoping they land Luis Castillo & Yeremiah Bell in the next week. If that happens I think they would be in a good position to package some picks and move up to 15-18 and grab Cox in round 1.

  4. Jeff says:

    Talking to my buddies in San Diego…they feel the S.Gregory signing was addition by subtraction for SD. Sure hope he is not contending for a starter role on this team or we will be seeing more of the same from the past 2 seasons.

    My thoughts on the DL…I think if one of the top DT’s fall in the first the Pats need to jump on it. Vince needs help and he is surrounded by very average players accross the DL.

    • Jim R says:

      I guess that would all depend on what he is asked to do. Maybe the Bolts were not putting him in good positions? it will be interesting to see how they use him.

  5. Mark says:

    A somewhat germaine topic/question. If the Saints who now have no 1st or 2nd round picks this year want to trade for a first or second round this year, would the league let them? Could the PATS trade pick 31 to Saint for their 2014 1st rounder, a 2013 3rd rounder and say a fourth this year? Or would the league want them to feel the full force of the punishment by limiting their trade options this year.

    • Jim R says:

      Great Question. That would be a great FU Godell moment.

    • DJ says:

      Interesting. I don’t remember the Pats getting any restrictions on what they could do when they forfeited their 1st rounder.

      I’ll bet the Saints can do whatever they want with what they’ve got (left), including trading into the 1st round. Why not? They’d still be punished, in that in order to get a 1st round pick in 2012, they’d have to give up lots of future resources.

      In your scenario, though, shouldn’t we demand their 2013 1st rounder — which is likely to be pretty high, given all their problems for the 2012 season (replacement head coach, presumably player suspensions to come, etc.)? I’d covet the Saints 2013 1st round pick right now.

  6. Dan says:

    I agree with the D-line thought process…it would seem that someone of quality will fall to them and they will scoop him up….Worthy, Reyes or maybe someone with a higher grade just slipping down, like Brockers or Cox.
    I’m making a big mistake, this much I admit, but I’m fixated on Randle as that future WR. I realize the likelyhood of BB taking a WR that high also…not so good, but I’m stepping out on a limb with this guy.

  7. Dan says:

    I’m really hoping that with McDaniel’s expanded personel authority on offense it means BB is neck deep in getting this defense right.
    But, their entire game plan is obvious at this point: fill every hole possible and bring in all kinds of competition and see where the chips fall…don’t leave yourself short etc…
    This should allow them to be more flexible come the draft…target key players or just let other teams buy them out of slots and gain more picks seeing their needs, and depth, are ok.
    Again, with the multiple picks and holes filled they can sit back and let the draft come to them…not needing to over-reach for need or a player; drafting and negotiating from a very strong position.
    BRILLIANT!
    (I think we Pats fans are so used to these multiple picks, and a strong team, that we forget the perspective most teams have during the draft. They have their two picks, some have less, and they HAVE to make it count; and they don’t usually have the great QB to start with, nor the system etc…We’re spoiled, but it’s so fun to watch unfold)

  8. Dan says:

    There are a lot of complaints coming on Lloyd, via bloggers and radio (shouldn’t be too surprised there…); but, I agree, this is a huge need being filled and by a dynamic veteran player.
    I’m thinking he catches 50-60 balls, but with a nice average, as Brady moves the ball around as usual…probably more so this year.
    As you, and everybody, has stated, the contract is a gift.

  9. Dan says:

    I’m guessing (literally, this is a guess) that the Pats will target, or just select if there, either Baron or Harrison Smith to play FS, even though both played strong in college.
    I like them both, and maybe whoever is left at the top of the 2nd will initiate a move up so they grab their guy.
    I’m extremely happy they brought in Gregory, but I feel it was the best they could do; and a bit wishful thinking that this average, at best, player will be the answer. I see him getting his shot, and playing special teams, and possibly starting the season; but eventually being replaced by one of these two from the draft.

    • Bill says:

      Maybe Markelle Martin or Jamel Fleming. Pass happy big 12 players, big hitters. Martin ia fast and big hitter. Fleming is big CB over 200 lbs. But Smith does look impressive, and shined at combine. You really have to pay up for Barron. Probably #27. I take the best at 46 still available from list above.

  10. Jim R says:

    with 6 picks in the first 4 rounds. I think they will end up with
    2-corner (convert 1 to safety)
    1-wr
    1-OL
    2-DL(interior and Hybrd)

    • DJ says:

      Yeah that’s logical. It’s what I’d try to do. But doesn’t our experience with the NEP draft strategy suggest that, if we know anything, it’s that this isn’t going to happen?

  11. td says:

    BB knows what he’s doing; he’s adding good football players that will compete for starting slots/backup roles at as many positions as possible. That will allow him the flexibility to be active and take the best players available in the draft.

    Going the route that Buffalo or Tampa Bay has gone has 2 effects in my book; (1) limits flexibility later in the year and/or subsequent years because of cap hits, (2) adds risk if one of the marque players gets injured and there is a big drop off to the next guy in line.

  12. HakeemtheMachine says:

    On your first point that is the best way to attack FA.If u have and can develop talent FA U dont need to overpay for players other teams believe they can live without



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