6. Out of all the second tier signings the Patriots made, the one I am most intrigued by is the signing of former Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez entered the league as a first round pick in 2007 and looked like he was on his way to being one of the better WR in the NFL. He had two productive seasons in a row to start his career and then injuries hit. Since 2008, Gonzalez has barely seen the football field, totaling only 5 catches over the past three seasons.
This is a typical Patriots signing, a one year deal at minimum money. The risk in minimal and the reward could possibly be big. If Gonzalez is able to shake the injury bug, which is a big question mark, he could be an asset to the team. If healthy, Gonzalez will provide the Patriots with a speedy receiver who can play outside the numbers and also provide security for Wes Welker.
The Patriots lacked WRs who could get themselves open last season. With Gonzalez’s speed (assuming he didn’t lose it all) it would provide another WR to stretch the seams and open up the underneath routes. If like many people assume he can’t stay healthy, he will be cut in training camp and the Patriots will move in another direction.
7. The Patriots brought back WR Donte Stallworth this week, reuniting him with 2007 teammate Tom Brady. While people have considered the Stallworth signing similar to the Gonzalez one, a no risk depth move, I look at it a little differently. Stallworth, in my opinion, will be part of this team next season, which you can’t say about Gonzalez at this time.
The Patriots have really struggled to find reliable depth at the WR position since the days of Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney. Last year the Patriots #3-#6 WRs consisted of a special teams captain (Matthew Slater), a former college QB who doubled as a CB (Edelman), a former pro bowler who couldn’t tell his right from his left (Ochocinco) and a player who was so good he was cut the night before the Super Bowl (Tiquan Underwood). None of those players made any impact what-so-ever on offense and certainly didn’t make opposing defensive coordinators game plan for them.
Stallworth is a grizzled veteran who has had success in this offense in the past. Like with Lloyd, there will be no learning curve. Stallworth won’t be asked to be more than a #4-#5 WR. What he will bring is someone who can be relied on in a handful of packages and someone the coaching staff doesn’t have to worry about. Stallworth’s signing creates a competition among Ochocinco, himself and Deion Branch for two WR spots. Based on his experience in the system and rapport with Tom Brady, Stallworth will likely win one of the spots.
8. Last year the Patriots brought in a slew of bargain basement pass rushers and had hoped to hit on at least one of them. As it turned out they landed two 10+ sack guys in Andre Carter and Mark Anderson.
With both players being UFA’s and Anderson already signed elsewhere, the Patriots pulled a page out of the same play book and signed former Raider Trevor Scott. Anderson was very successful rushing the passer out of sub packages last season and Scott will fill a similar role. In typical Patriots form, Scott is a bargain signing looking to strike gold for a very low cost.
Through two seasons in the NFL, Scott had accumulated 12.0 sacks, and was considered one of the best up and coming pass rushers in the league. Midway through the 2010 season Scott tore his ACL, which ended his season. Scott returned last season, but was less than a year removed from surgery and wasn’t 100%. He saw his playing time and impact decrease dramatically and his value on the free agent market diminish.
As they did with Mark Anderson, the Patriots saw the potential value Scott could provide. Being almost two years removed from ACL surgery he should be fully recovered. If 100%, Scott could provide a similar impact for a fraction of the cost. Only 27 years old, Scott is just entering what should be the prime of his career. If anyone is going to pull the potential out of him and return him to form it’s Bill Belichick. Out of all the low risk signings the Patriots have made, I have a feeling this one is going to provide the most impact.
9. One more veteran signing that the Patriots made this week was bringing in CB Will Allen on a one year deal. Allen is someone the Patriots have seen a lot of, playing for the Dolphins in the AFC East the past five seasons. He should provide veteran depth at a position which is really quite young and inexperienced.
Allen, like many of the Patriots signings, has had to overcome a major injury to get back on the field. During the 2009 season Allen tore his ACL, which not only ended his ’09 season, but also kept him out for the entire 2010 season. Allen was able to come back last year, appearing in 15 games for the Dolphins. Allen played in nickel packages last season and has the ability to cover slot wide receivers. While they haven’t done so yet, I expect the Patriots to bring in a handful of veteran CB and see who sticks.
The slot corner back position seems to be getting a lot of attention this off-season and it should be. I would give Allen the worst shot out of all the players the Patriots signed to stick, just because I expect some high draft picks to come in and push him off the roster.
10. Josh McDaniels has been seen at a number of pro days this off season. He was present at Oklahoma’s pro day and San Diego State’s among others. I was also told by LSU CB Ron Brooks that McDaniels worked him out personally last week.
It would appear McDaniels has also had his say in some personnel moves, like the signing of Brandon Lloyd and the just announced signing of FB/LB Spencer Larsen. It would appear that Bill Belichick has given Josh McDaniels a bigger role within the organization and a say in personnel decisions. This goes to show how much Belichick trusts McDaniels and not only his ability to run the offense, but also trusts his eye when it comes to scouting.
I personally think it’s a good thing if McDaniels is playing a bigger role in scouting. It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes and another opinion when making personnel and draft decisions. This doesn’t in anyway suggest that McDaniels will actually have authority over who is picked, but it does go to show that with an expanding role Belichick could be grooming him for his potential replacement down the road.