NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
Have you ever gone out to eat with what seems like an insatiable appetite? The type of appetite that makes you walk into a restaurant with an agenda to shut down the entire kitchen, and when the server asks, “Would you like to start with an appetizer?” your only response is laughter. But then after cleaning off a plate of wings or nachos, that insatiable hunger turns into birthing pains constricting you inside a booth? By the time your main course arrives you’ve already tapped out, and a doggy bag is requested as you prepare to walk to the parking lot defeated.
NFL Free agency is a lot like this for most organizations. Fans want teams to sign every coveted free agent available, patience is definitely not a virtue to them. If dollar signs don’t start raining when the clock strikes 4:00p.m. on March 10th, mutinies are formed, allegiances are questioned. Fans don’t care who might become available down the line, and even though the draft is only a couple months away, it might as well be a decade down the line in their minds – results need to happen now.
The appetizers are in bold, while entrees are in fine print.
Losing Darrell Revis is a hard pill to swallow. The debate will rage on for months as to whether or not New England did enough to retain his rights. Regardless of your opinion, he’s no longer on the roster, it’s time to move on. Losing such a key contributor to last year’s super bowl team has caused fans to clamor for big time, splashy acquisitions. The thing is, no one single player will transform the Patriots defense like Revis did. If they’re going to compensate for his loss, it will be by adding strategic pieces to clog the hole left by his absence. This won’t necessarily come by adding to the secondary – replicating the type of coverage New England was able to deploy with Revis and Brandon Browner, who just signed with the Saints, will be nearly impossible to do. But that doesn’t mean their defense can’t be just as imposing.
The signing of Jabaal Sheard is the first indication of that. Bolstering the pass rush outside and generating multiple rush combinations with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich is where they will be most disruptive. Adding a versatile big man in the middle – maybe Nick Fairley, Red Bryant or Randy Starks – will complement the outside rush, keeping offensive lines on their heels. As the off season progresses, more and more options will become available. (UPDATE: Per Adam Schefter, Nick Fairely has signed with the St. Louis Rams)
After the initial frenzy earlier in the week, many players not expected to become available have either been released or put on the trade block. Evan Mathis, one of the league’s best guards and locker room leaders, is currently being shopped by Philadelphia, and New England is rumored to have interest. The Saints are having a fire sale, and a young stud like Kenny Stills or veteran like Marques Colston are now in play. Fans wanted the Patriots to pounce on Andre Johnson when he was released. But if you’re asking me, I’d rather trade for the younger, faster Stills on a team friendlier contract than an aging Johnson who would’ve cost you significantly more. After the draft teams will have addressed most of their needs, and even more veteran talent will be on the open market. (UPDATE: Per Matt Miller, Stills has been traded to Dolphins)
It’s frustrating to be a Patriots’ fan this time of year. The fact we lost a Hall of Famer in Darrelle Revis compounds that feeling. Every off season the Patriots faithful thirst for that one big move out of the gate, and it almost never happens. There’s a reason though why franchises like New England and Pittsburgh have been successful for so long – they don’t flinch at adversity. If option ‘A’ doesn’t pan out, they have a cabinet with contingency plans ‘B’-‘Z’ ready.
After week one of free agency, a lot teams have prematurely filled their stomachs with massive contracts. And while the Patriots wait for their main course, many of those same teams will be occupying the restroom a year from now, purging those contracts. I still don’t think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have left the stall yet…