Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Plan to Fix the Pats

As bad as the Ravens game looked (and it was so, so bad), I actually don’t think the Pats are really that far from being a serious contender for a championship and not just the playoff fodder they resembled for most of this season. It’s a situation, for example, where the defensive backs looked shaky at times, but a lot of that was due to the complete lack of a pass rush, which left them exposed for too long. Fix the pass rush and bam! We’ve now fixed the pass rush and defensive backs look better.

I’ve broken down a number of the players who would seem to be the potential source of some changes:

Players to Let go, or include as trade chips if people want them:

Adalius Thomas:

He’s not a terrible player. He really isn’t. But he’s making too damn much money and has started to become a malcontent. The Pats aren’t using him effectively, so he’s basically wasted. This will save some serious dollars and give them some useful flexibility. In short, he has to go.

Matt Light:

Matt, we’ve had a good run. But the struggles against good pass rushers has become too much to withstand (ugh, that first Suggs strip sack was 110% Light getting beat. Again.) and we have a good, young replacement in Vollmer who already appears better. If Light is willing to take a pay cut, we can keep him as a sub/rotation guy. But $4.5 million for a middle of the road tackle isn’t going to work. He's only signed through 2010 anyways, and there's no cap hit if we cut him.

Ben Watson:

Just let him go. He drops too many passes and isn’t much of a blocker. We can replace him without much issue.

Derek Burgess:

It just didn’t work, and there’s not much more to add than that. There’s $2 mil off the books.

Fred Taylor:

I've got nothing against this guy, but at this point in his career he's a guy who's injured all the time and about a middle of the road guy when he's healthy. And he makes almost $3 mil, when you factor in his bonus cap charge. This isn't going to fly. Gotta renegotiate this or just cut him loose.

Guys to Re-Sign:


They need to bring him back, one way or another. He’s a huge part of the run defense, and extremely tough to replace. He’ll want some serious money, and they need to give it to him. By the time the Pats can track down someone to replace him, Brady’s at the very end of his career. We need to make this happen.

Guys To Try To Re-sign, But Don’t Break The Bank To Do It:

Leigh Bodden:

We should be able to get him back with a decent contract. He had a pretty good year, and I like the trio of Bodden, Springs, and Butler moving forward. Maybe $5 mil per year should do it. If he wants more than that, let him go--he's not a $7 mil per year Pro Bowl guy. Overall, we aren't spending that much money on the defensive backfield, so we can pay him a little.

Logan Mankins:

Like Bodden, I’d like to keep him but if he’s demanding $7 mil per year, he can pack his bags. Contenders don’t pay that kind of money for interior linemen. The Vikings are paying Hutchinson that kind of money, but they’re winning because of Favre and Peterson. Keep him for $5 mil or let him walk. Interesting situation on him: if 2010 is an uncapped year, he won't have accrued the 6 years of tenure required to become a free agent and he's stuck in New England. If it's a capped year, he'll likely get the old rule, whichonly would have required 4 years, and he'll probably bounce. Let somebody like Tampa or Seattle throw $45 mil at him if they want.

Steven Neal:

They can keep him, but don’t go more than $2-3 mil per year. He’s an injury prone over-achiever who is good, but not that good.

The Big Trade:

To Pats: RB Steven Jackson

To Rams: Julian Edelman, Laurence Maroney, 2009 2nd Round Pick (#57)

OK, this is a big trade here. Jackson is a monster tail back in the prime of his career. He’s making some serious money, but if we cut costs by dropping Thomas and Maroney, that helps a lot. Same thing for Light, if we need to keep clearing space. As for Edelman, he’s somewhat redundant for the Pats when Welker comes back, and as much as everyone would love to keep him, you have to give something to get something. Maroney wasn’t a bad runner, he just wasn’t the best fit and the Pats can gamble on a big timer like Jackson for 3 years. Also, the Pats have 3 SecondRounders, so they can afford to lose one without suffering too badly. They might need to throw in another low pick, and if so, do it.

For the Rams, it makes sense as well. Jackson’s going to be done by the time they get close enough to contend for anything, and they’ll basically just win 2 games either with him or without him. They get a talented young receiver who can clearly play on a winning team, as we’ve seen the last few weeks. They have nothing for receivers and he would be a cheap, reliable starter next year. Maroney can step in as a primary ball carrier for 2010 and they can decide what to do with him at that point. And the 2nd round pick is a good one in a deep draft.


We flat out need pass rushers who can come off the edge in the 3-4. We’ve been getting killed by the absence of a game changer at this position and trying to fill it in with guys like Tully Banta-Cain has a limited upside. The other big elements are a developmental DE to occasionally fill in for Warren and to replace Seymour’s position, a young Tight End, and a big receiver to develop.

Keep in mind also that there are a handful of young guys who we didn't see much of this season due to injury, namely WR Brandon Tate and LB Tyrone McKenzie. Both of them looked like solid prospects before they got banged up. OLB Shawn Crable looked like he had some potential, but he's always hurt and hasn't made any impact in his time with the team. He might get cut anyways if he can't get it figured out soon.

Free Agents to Target:

With the free agents, I don't see much point in picking out the big name guys and saying "We need Peppers! We need Brandon Marshall!" since those are pretty unlikely scenarios. The guys listed below are the types of players they'll likely target, since re-signing their own guys is a higher priority.

Deion Branch:

There’s no way Seattle keeps him around, based on his performance, price, and the team outlook. They’ll cut him this offseason and we need to grab him for an affordable price to play the 3rd Receiver role.

Bo Scaife:

I like this guy and the situation. Tennessee has a good young TE in Jared Cook, and Scaife seems like a guy who could be a decent short yardage TE and blocker.

Bertrand Berry:
Here's a guy who has done well as a situational pass rusher in the 3-4. He's an older guy, so a 2-year deal would probably work just fine.

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