March Madness: Florida Gulf Coast University

The Madness of March: By now you are all probably aware of who and where Florida Gulf Coast University is. However, before all of this madness began, they sounded like a made up college straight out of a Disney movie in which a team of lovable losers is lead by a hardball coach and go from zeros to heroes.

But Florida Gulf Coast University isn’t a fairytale, just ask Georgetown or San Diego State and they will tell you they are as real as can be.

The Eagles story began at the end of their regular season. Finishing at 24-10 overall and in second place behind Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference at 13-5 , FGCU fought their way through their conference tournament and surprisingly won to punch their ticket to this year’s big dance.

Then FGCU drew second seeded Georgetown as a 15 seed. Georgetown had spent the regular season atop the Big East with Louisville finishing in second place with a 14-4 conference mark going 25-7 overall. The Hoyas appeared poised to end their streak of early tournament exits and make a run in this year’s big dance behind the play of forward Otto Porter Jr. and Co. Unfortunately for Georgetown, the Eagles had a date with destiny.

Dunk City: March 22nd, 2013: The Eagles went neck and neck with the Hoyas in the first half of their first round battle with Georgetown. Impressively, FGCU hung with the tournament seasoned Big East bruisers, in what was the teams first ever tournament appearance. The Eagles would lead by two at the half by a score of 24-22.

The second half began and the unimaginable happened, The Eagles slowly but surely went on a 21-2 second half scoring run to stun Georgetown, bust brackets across the country and show the world what Dunk City was all about.

The signature moment of this first-round shocker came late in the game when FGCU point guard Brett Comer threw up an alley-oop from the corner and found forward Chase Fieler who sent the crowd into a frenzy with a one-handed jam for the finish. (As Shown Below)

FGCU became only the seventh 15 seed in the history of the tournament to beat a number two seed. Not to mention the Eagles didn’t just defeat Georgetown, they won by an impressive 10 point margin over the Hoyas. FGCU guards Sherwood Brown (24 pts) and Bernard Thompson (23 pts) led the Eagles in scoring and helped pace them to a 78-68 victory.

It would be more of the same on March 24th when Dunk City took on San Diego State in the tournaments second round of games. The Aztecs led by a point at the half (35-34). However, the Eagles were not to be denied and came roaring into the second half, led once more by Thompson (23pts) and Brown (17pts), to finish with another 10 point victory 81-71. (Highlights of FGCU’s history making tourney play can be seen below)

FGCU beating the Aztecs and advancing to the Sweet 16 marks the first time in tournament history that a 15 seed has ever made it that far.

Fun Facts About FGCU:

Here are some notes on the Eagles from their athletic website fgcuathletics.com.

The Players for FGCU are older than the college itself, as the university was established in 1997 (only 16-years-old).

FGCU started their athletics program in 2002-2003.

FGCU entered Division I in 2007-2008.

FGCU became post-season eligible in 2011-2012.

FGCU is located in Fort Myers, FL (also home to the Red Sox during Spring Training)

Head coach Andy Enfield became the bench boss in 2011.

Before taking the job in Fort Myers Enfield began his coaching career as a shooting coach for then head coach Mike Dunleavy and the Milwaukee Bucks from 1994-1996.

Enfield went on from the Bucks to Boston where he was an assistant coach under then head coach Rick Pitino for the Celtics from 1998-2000 where he worked with then rookie Paul Pierce on his shooting.

Finally, before taking the job with FGCU, Enfield was an assistant coach for Florida State University from 2006-2011. Enfield helped lead the Seminoles to a pair of sweet 16 finishes in the big dance during his time in Tallahassee.

Final Thoughts: Fort Myers-Slamma-Jamma, Dunk City, FGCU, the Eagles, whatever you want to call them, have shocked the nation and made their mark in college basketball.

When they play the third seeded Florida Gators this Friday, they won’t be wearing a ball gown or be running up and down the court in glass slippers, they will be in uniform just like UF and will play 40 minutes of high octane, in your face, no fear in their eyes basketball, just like everybody else.

If/When the Eagles defeat Florida this Friday to continue their tournament journey, don’t call it an UPSET…call it for what it will be…a WIN. Florida Gulf Coast University is no longer Cinderella…they’re Competition.

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Red Sox Spring Training 2013 Update

With the 2013 regular season opener less than two weeks away, I thought I’d give fans an update of all the action coming out of Fort Myers, FL. The Boston Red Sox are 13-10 in Grapefruit League play this Spring and are in fourth place overall. Here’s a rundown of who has shined this Spring and what to watch for as we enter the 2013 season:

Pitch Perfect: Well, not exactly, however, the Boston Red Sox anticipated starting rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey have been all the buzz this Spring according to ESPNBoston.com.

This year’s rotation has posted a combined 1.99 ERA in Spring Training action (including three shutout innings by Lackey in an exhibition matchup with World Baseball Classic team Puerto Rico). When you consider the combined rotation ERA was an appalling 5.19 a season ago, that’s a significant improvement thus far.

 Lester, Buchholz, and Doubront have all shown promise of good things to come in 2013, with solid starts in their recent outings. Lester has pitched 20 innings allowing only six hits and two earned runs with 16 strikeouts. Buchholz has went 13 and 1/3 innings allowing eight hits and one run. While Doubront has pitched 8 and 2/3 innings allowing seven hits and two earned runs with 11 strikeouts.

Newcomer Ryan Dempster has posted solid numbers as well. Dempster has went 12 and 2/3 innings for Boston surrendering nine hits with three earned runs and nine strikeouts. As for Lackey, he is still a work in progress coming back from Tommy John surgery and has only worked 6 and 2/3 innings allowing six earned runs eight hits with only four strikeouts. However, Lackey has a 2.70 ERA in his last two outings for Boston, so there’s a silver lining for him.

A Future at Fenway: Arguably one of Boston’s top player prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. has had a sensational Spring showing. Bradley Jr. has posted a eye popping .436 batting average in just 18 games this Spring with nine total runs, 17 hits, eight base on balls, four RBI and one HR. Should Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino falter in the outfield, or if Jacoby Ellsbury is stricken with injury yet again, Bradley Jr. could receive a call up this season.

Another top Sox prospect, whom we haven’t seen much of due to his participation in this year’s World Baseball Classic, Xander Bogaerts has been impressive with his glove work and faired well in the WBC for team Netherlands.

Bogaerts played in 7 games posting a .263 average with five hits, one run, and one RBI. Bogaerts has went 1 for 2 with one RBI for a .500 average in one game with the Sox in Spring Training. Should he continue to have success in the minors, Bogaerts could be on a fast-track to Fenway by next season.

Designated Dilemma: With the injury to David “Big Papi” Ortiz keeping Boston’s heavy hitter sidelined to start the regular season, the Sox need a solution at Designated Hitter. While it isn’t clear who the Red Sox will choose to fill Ortiz’ shoes until he returns, Mike Napoli would seem to be a logical solution until then.

Napoli has hit well in Fenway Park posting seven HR’s, 17 RBI, and a .710 Slugging Percentage in 19 career games at Boston. Also, Napoli has posted a .348 average with seven RBI, two HR’s, and a .652 Slugging Percentage in nine games in Grapefruit League action this year.

Granted, the Sox didn’t sign Nap to DH, they signed him to play first base and catch on nights when Jarrod Saltalamacchia needs a rest. However, with the Sox addition of Mike Carp from Seattle, Boston could slide a more than capable Carp over to first base and drop Napoli into the DH slot in the lineup, just as a temporary fix for Ortiz.

Here’s how the lineup would look with Napoli at DH and Carp at 1B:

1. OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 3B Will Middlebrooks

4. 2B Dustin Pedroia

5. DH Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. SS Pedro Ciriaco (who will be returning soon from his minor back spasms to replace SS Stephen Drew who hasn’t fully recovered after suffering a concussion)

8. 1B Mike Carp

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who I have batting 9th only to add pop to the bottom of the lineup. Salty is batting .345 with five RBI and one HR this Spring.)

Side Note: This is just a look at one internal option the Red Sox have to make up for the current loss of Ortiz. The Sox could also simply allow David Ross to catch and let Salty DH, which would keep Napoli at 1B and make for a better lineup.

Napoli would stay as the number five hitter, Salty would move up to the number six spot with Gomes moving down to seventh, Ciriaco would move to eighth, and Ross would take Salty’s place batting ninth. Regardless of what the Sox choose to do, the DH position needs to be dealt with and soon.

Final Thoughts: The Boston Red Sox are off to a solid start this Spring and look poised to turn things around in 2013. Of course, only time will tell what fate the baseball gods have in store for Beantown this year. How do you think the Sox have looked in Spring Training? Who would you have DH for Boston? Leave a comment below.

Donte Stallworth Accident

Patriot Receiver Donte Stallworth was involved in a hot air balloon accident over the weekend. Stallworth’s balloon caught on fire after hitting some power lines and then plunged towards the mug-shot-38552951ground. Donte is now in stable condition and says that he “feels lucky to be alive” His agent has already said that he will be able to resume his NFL career. Stallworth has been suspended for one season prior to sustaining any injuries from this accident for a DUI Manslaughter. He spent 30 days in jail for that.

Stallworth has jumped around from the Saints, Pats, Eagles, Browns, Ravens, and Redskins, but is still regarded as a solid player. Stallworth caught 8 TD Passes in his rookie season but has been limited since leaving the Saints in 2005 after he had 945 yards and 5 TDs in his final season there. Stallworth had 1 reception for 63 yards for the Patriots this season. He scored on the play that came against the blowout of the Texans in early December.

March Madness 2013

It’s that time of year once again college hoops fans. That’s right get ready to breakout the pens, print off brackets, start up office tournaments/pools and be prepared to go absolutely mad!!!

March Madness is upon us with Selection Sunday (this Sunday March 17th) only a few days away. So, without further adieu here’s a rundown of teams you CAN and CAN’T trust and some Sleepers/Cinderella’s to watch in this year’s NCAA Men’s Division One College Basketball Tournament:

You Can Trust:

Duke– Likely number one seed, went 14-4 in the ACC and 27-4 overall. Has one of the richest tournament histories and recently got back playmaker Ryan Kelly. Kelly dropped 34 points in Dukes revenge win over this year’s ACC Champion Miami Hurricanes. All reasons to trust the Blue Devils.

Key Wins: Nov.24th vs. then second ranked Louisville 76-71, Nov. 28th vs. then fourth ranked Ohio State 73-68, Mar. 5th vs. then fifth ranked Miami 79-76. Key Losses: Jan.12th vs. North Carolina State 84-76, Feb. 16th vs. Maryland 83-81, Feb.28th vs. Virginia 73-68.

Indiana– Likely number one seed, went 14-4 in the Big Ten and 26-5 overall. Spent time this season as the number one ranked team in the nation and have a sensational offensive/defensive combo in playmakers Cody Zeller and potential POY Victor Oladipo. Led by coach Tom Crean the Hoosiers are as reliable as they come this year.

Key Wins: Nov. 20th vs. Georgetown in OT 82-72, Feb.2 vs. then first ranked Michigan 81-73, Feb.19 vs. then fourth ranked Michigan State 72-68. Key Losses: Dec. 15 vs. Butler in OT 88-86, Feb.7th vs. Illinois 74-72, March 5th vs. Ohio State 67-58.

Miami– Likely a second seed team, won the ACC championship outright. Started the season unranked and have been ranked as high as second in the nation. Led by seniors Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson along with coach Jim Larranaga (coached the 2006 George Mason Patriots to an improbable final four appearance) the Canes can be trusted.

Key Wins: Nov.28th vs. then thirteenth ranked  Michigan State 67-59, Jan.23rd vs. then first ranked Duke 90-63, Feb.2nd vs. then nineteenth ranked North Carolina State 79-78. Key Losses: Nov.13th vs. Florida Gulf Coast University 63-51, Dec.25th vs. Indiana State in OT 57-55, Feb.23rd vs. Wake Forest 80-65.

Gonzaga– Likely a number one seed, went undefeated at 16-0 in the West Coast Conference and 31-2. Gonzaga is the number one ranked team in the nation and have been led by the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, don’t let the WCC schedule fool you, the Zags are trustworthy this year.

Key Wins: Nov.23rd vs. Oklahoma 72-47, Dec.31st vs. then twenty second ranked Oklahoma State 69-68, Mar.11th vs. Saint Mary’s 65-61. Key Losses: Dec.8th vs. then thirteenth ranked Illinois, and Jan.19th vs. then thirteenth ranked Butler 64-63.

Louisville– Likely a number one or two seed (depending on whether or not they win the Big East Conference Tournament), went 14-4 in the Big East and 26-5 overall. The Cardinals have a good chance of winning the Big East tournament and securing a number one seed because of the dynamic play of Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, and Peyton Siva. Coached by tournament hardened veteran Rick Pitino, the Cards offer a solid sense of security this year.

You Can’t Trust:

Kansas– Yes the Jayhawks went 14-4 in the Big 12 and have a 26-5 record, and yes they will likely earn a second seed in the big dance, however, given Kansas’ tournament resume’, they don’t have a leg to stand on this year. Since 2005 Kansas has been upset a total of four times, two of which came in the tournaments first round. To their credit the Jayhawks were in last year’s National Championship Game and won it all in 2008, but given their topsy-turvy tournament track record don’t be shocked to see them going home early…

UNC– The Tar Heels went 12-6 in the ACC with a 22-9 overall record and suffered some struggles this season. While UNC has one a pair of National Championships since 2005 (05′ and 2009) the Heels have fallen short of the Final Four a total of four times, with a Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008. With their up-and-down style of play UNC is far from a safe bet in this year’s tourney.

UCLA– The Bruins were once a household name when it came to the Big Dance, but the glory days of the 60’s and 70’s have long been over. UCLA had a stretch of tournament success from 2006-2008 with three Final Four appearances and a National Championship appearance, however they have also been upset three times as well (2005 1st round, 2009, 2011 2nd round)and didn’t even make it to the dance in 2010 and 2012. Given UCLA’s inconsistency, they simply can’t be trusted.

Hi-res-159848160_crop_exact

Syracuse– The Orange Men have been feeling a bit blue lately going 2-4 in their last six games losing recently to Georgetown 61-39. Cuse did manage to go 11-7 in the Big East and 23-8 overall but have struggled thus far in the Big East Tournament. Since their one and only National Championship in 2003 Syracuse has failed to advance beyond the Sweet 16 in six of the previous seven tournament appearances, the most recent was an Elite 8 loss last year to Ohio State. With the Orange Men having the longest case of an Upset Stomach I’ve seen in a while, they have yet to earn any amount of trust.

Notre Dame– Aside from a 5 OT thriller victory over Louisville this season the Fighting Irish have had a lack luster season posting identical numbers to Syracuse (see Cuse’ numbers above). Notre Dame’s tournament history is riddled with first and second round upsets over the decades that have past since the schools one and only final four appearance way back in 1978. The last time the Irish broke into the Sweet 16…2003. Needless to say, the Luck of the Irish has been absent for Notre Dame year-in-and-year-out. Moreover, the Irish are a historical lock to be upset.

Sleepers That Could Open Your Peepers:

Michigan State– The Spartans finished second in the Big Ten standings going 13-5 with a 24-7 overall record. Coached by tournament veteran bench boss Tom Izzo and led by the likes of Keith Appling and Gary Harris the Spartans are ranked eight in the AP Poll and will likely garner a number three seed. Michigan State has made five Final Four appearances with two National Championship appearances (won it all in 2000, lost to UNC in 2009) in the last 12 years. The Spartans have made runs before and could be poised for another deep run this year.

Saint LouisThe Billikens have only made two tournament appearances in the last 12 years (2000,2012) but they managed to make it to the second round last year and only missed making the Sweet 16 by four points losing to the aforementioned Spartans 65-61. Led by playmakers Dwayne Evans and Kwamain Mitchell Saint Louis finished in 1st place of the Atlantic-10 Conference going 13-3 and 24-6 overall. The Billikens are ranked sixteenth in the AP poll and could surprise a few teams this year.

ButlerDespite some early exits pre-2010 and missing last year’s tourney, the Bulldogs have managed to play in two of the last three National Championships and finished 3rd in the Atlantic-10 with an 11-5 record going 24-7 overall. Given the Bulldogs recent success in the big dance, Butler should not be counted out of this year’s potential sleeper group as they can surprise teams the same way they did in 2010 and 2011 this year.

Marquette– The Golden Eagles ended the regular season with a four game win streak that included W’s against Cuse and ND and have stayed hot in the Big East tournament. Marquette is ranked fifteenth in the AP poll going 14-4 in the Big East and 23-7 overall. The Golden Eagles last Final Four was in 2003, however, they have posted back-to-back Sweet 16 finishes recently. Marquette may be able to pull off a similar run like the UCONN Huskies did in 2011.

Oklahoma State– Despite recent tourney woes the Cowboys were on fire in the second half of season going 11-3 in their last 14 games with wins over higher ranked Big 12 foes Kansas and Kansas State. Led by Marcus Smart and Markel Brown (both averaging 15PPG) Oklahoma State may have the offensive scoring ability to trip a few teams up in the tournament.

Cinderella Stories:

Iona– The surprise MAAC Conference Champions finished the regular season with a overall record of 20-13 going 11-7 in MAAC play. The Gael’s will likely be a sixteenth seed in the tournament and as we all are aware no sixteen seed has EVER upset a number one seed in the history of the tournament. Nevertheless, this year’s crop of sixteen seeds will be some of the strongest yet and could give those trustworthy teams I mentioned early a scare…at least in the first half anyway.

South Dakota State– The Summit League Champions went 25-9 overall with a 13-3 conference record and will likely be a fifteenth seed, which gives the Jackrabbits a slight chance at an upset. Only six teams all-time have ever been a fifteen seed and upset a two seed. However, two of those upsets happened in last year’s tourney with Lehigh knocking off Duke, and Norfolk State defeating Missouri. So there’s hope for the Jackrabbits still.

Florida Gulf Coast University– This would certainly be a textbook Cinderella story as the Eagles are making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance!!! FGCU won the Atlantic Sun Conference title and will likely be dancing as a fifteen seed. The Eagles went 24-10 overall with a 13-5 conference mark. Their a feel-good-story team that could win the hearts of millions while busting millions of brackets at the same time.

Belmont– The Bruins won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in their first year as a member going 14-2 with an overall record of 26-6. Belmont has been a rising mid-major program and will likely earn an eleventh seed, meaning they could legitimately make some noise if they catch fire this year.

James Madison– Won the CAA Conference Championship to punch their ticket to the tourney going 11-7 in CAA play with a 20-14 overall record. The Dukes will likely be a sixteenth seed, but just like Iona, this team could play a number one seed tougher than we’ve ever seen.

Side Note: The odds are stacked against these Cinderella teams yes, but in March…ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!!!

Final Thoughts: Granted there were plenty of teams I left out in what will be an eventual field of 68 teams, however I personally felt as though these teams stood out amongst the rest of the field. Who do you have going all the way? Who is most likely to get upset? Leave a comment below.

The Welker Situation

wesBeing a Boston-based sports blog, how could we not touch on the whole Welker situation? I didn’t want to and put it off because, frankly, I’m indifferent about it. My general essence over this ordeal can be summed up by one word, “meh”. I mean we clearly had this coming. As much as I wanted Wes to stay, this was inevitable after how things have been panning out over the last few years. You can argue that he chokes in the big game situations, but the guy put up crazy numbers for us and left it all on the field. I’m not going to blame him, or the Pats for that matter. The NFL is a business. Belichick, Kraft, and the front office made a business move that they feel made sense to better their business. Granted, letting him go to Denver wasn’t ideal for us in New England, this isn’t the first time the Pats have made risky moves in terms of signing, or not signing, a big player. Also, keep in mind Danny Amendola isn’t some scrub. The guy can play. Oh and in case you forgot, Brady will still be the one throwing the ball to him. I don’t know about you but the way the Patriots have completely dominated over the last decade, and that’s not an opinion, I think I can safely put my trust in Bill and company to make the right offseason moves for the team. There’s always a plan. With that said, will we miss Wes Welker? Of course. You haven’t watched a single Pats game over the last five years if you say different. Just how much though, is the question? Only time will tell.

manning-welker

B’s Options

With Chris Kelly out indefinitely with a broken Tibia, will the Bruins go out and try to make a big time trade before the April 3rd deadline? They have already recalled 22-year old Jordan Caron from Providence for 3 games, and could even play Jay Panalpho (38-years old) a lot more than they have.

hi-res-141630913_crop_exactThose would be the cheaper options, for sure. However, the B’s have quite a bit of money that they can spend.  They still have $7.6 Million in cap space. That should be more than enough to bring in a proven star.

The problem is, the Bruins don’t have many “stars”. They are such a balanced team and haven’t relied on any one player since Savard went down a few years back. One name that has come up in talks is 35-year old Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. Jarome is a 15 year veteran and former first round draft pick. He has played his whole career with the Flames, and has proved that he can still play at his older age. Last season, Iginla netted 32 goals while adding 35 assists. In his career, Iginla has a total of 523 goals and 569 assists for a total of 1,092 points.

To put that into perspective: Zdeno Chara has played 14 seasons (albeit as a defender) and has only 470 total points. Bergeron has played 8 seasons, but only has 423 points.  Iginla has scored as many as 52 goals in a season and has only had under 25 goals twice in his career. With the Flames sitting outside of the projected playoff bracket, they may be willing to deal for a younger player. Not saying we will go for Jarome, but he has been the only one mentioned so far. They still have plenty of time to figure out a move that they want to make, if any..


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Patriots Offseason Update

talibCiting Multiple Sources, the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots would like to get the Aqib Talib deal done soon. It remains their top priority on defense.

Globe writer Greg Bedard also mentions that if the Patriots sign Talib he expects them to be on such players such as Keenan Lewis (Steelers), Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles), Derek Cox (Jaquars), Quinton Jammer and Antoine Cason (Chargers, Chris Houston (Lions), and Cary Williams (Ravens) to fill the other cornerback position.

http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/extra_points/2013/03/thoughts_on_har.html

In other news CBS sports reported from several sources that the Patriots had considered making a run at restricted free agent Victor Cruz before Cruz switched agents to Tom Condon Monday

Since the Giants placed a 1st round tender on Cruz, the Patriots would have to had to give the Giants a 1st round pick and a long term contract.

Due to the tender and Condon as the agent, the Patriots will now not likely make a run at Cruz

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/jason-la-canfora/21854299/on-heels-of-boldin-harvin-deals-more-wrs—-including-giants-cruz—-could-be-dealt-

Jason La Canfora reported that Ed Reed has hired an agent. La Canfora reported that there is a “good chance he moves on.” The two top teams are likely New England and Indianapolis.

http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/2222/ed-reed

Patriots Off-Season Options

Getting Things Down Pat: With the latest news from the New England Patriots regarding Wes Welker wanting to “test the waters of free agency”, and the team failing to franchise any of their free agents, one has to wonder…what will the Pats do this off-season?

The Patriots have two primary needs this off-season. 1. A solid number one or number two wide receiver (should they fail to bring back Welker) and a productive cornerback/defensive back to help with the pass defense. Here’s a rundown of who the Pats can sign/draft to fill those needs:

Slot Machine: Wes Welker has no doubt been a great offensive weapon for the New England Patriots. Welker has caught 110 or more passes for 1,100 yards or more in five of his six seasons with the Patriots. He had a career year in 2011 with 122 grabs with 1,569 yards and 9 TDS. Welker however, is aging at 31, and is likely going to use his impressive Patriots resume’ to land himself a big pay-day somewhere else.

With all that said, and the fact that Welker is willing to talk to other teams, the Pats need a plan B should re-signing Welker fall through.

Here are the top five free agent pass catchers available:

Mike Wallace- In 2012 with Pittsburgh: 64 REC, 836 YDS, 8 TDS.

Greg Jennings- In 2012 with Green Bay (in 8 games): 36 REC, 366 YDS, 4 TDS.

Danny Amendola- In 2012 with St. Louis: 63 REC, 666 YDS , 3TDS.

Austin Collie- In 2012 with Indianapolis: 1 catch for 6 yards missed the season due to injury.

Brian Hartline- In 2012 with Miami: 74 REC, 1083 YDS, 1 TD.

Granted, those numbers don’t exactly replace Welker, but the Pats won’t need to completely replace him if they can land a solid receiver like the ones listed above.

Realistically Greg Jennings and Green Bay will probably agree to re-sign and Mike Wallace will probably take his talents elsewhere for more money than he’s worth. Austin Collie, when healthy has been reliable in Indy, but I don’t see him in New England next year. Brian Hartline had a career season last year for the Dolphins, so he should stay in South Beach.

So, that leaves Danny Amendola as the Pats most realistic option, as pointed out by Chris. Amendola has been a solid slot receiver for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and would be a good pickup should Welker leave.

Side Note: The Patriots only have 5 picks in this year’s NFL Draft (one in rounds 1,2, and 3 and two picks in round 7). The Pats will pick 29th in the first round and could wind up in a position to draft highly ranked wide receivers Keenan Allen out of California, Justin Hunter of Tennessee, or Cordarrelle Patterson also Tennessee.

No Thanks, I’ll Pass: The Patriots pass defense ranked 29th overall in 2012, giving up a total of 4,342 yards for an average of 271 yards per game. New England also gave up 27 passing TDS, allowed an average quarterback rating of 86.9, and a 62 percent pass completion rate.

Given those results, the Pats may want to hire one or two of these free agent pass defenders:

Ed Reed- In 2012 with Baltimore: 58 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Dashon Goldson- In 2012 with San Francisco: 69 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

Antoine Cason- In 2012 with San Diego: 73 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Quentin Jammer- In 2012 with San Diego: 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

LaRon Landry- In 2012 with New York (Jets):  99 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie- In 2012 with Philadelphia: 51 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Given the numbers the Patriots pass defense put up last season, any one of these available DB’s are significant upgrades to the secondary. Realistically Ed Reed, Laron Landry and Dashon Goldson will likely all re-sign with their respective teams or elsewhere. That leaves Antoine Cason, Quentin Jammer, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Again, picking up any one of those guys would be a step in the right direction.

Side Note: The Patriots 29th draft pick position could also allow them to go after a few defensive players such as Kevin Minter inside linebacker out of LSU, Blidi Wreh-Wilson cornerback of UCONN, or Desmond Trufant of Washington.

Final Thoughts: The Patriots have plenty of time to consider these and many other options in the weeks to come. It will no doubt be interesting to see what New England choose to do this off-season. What do you think will happen? Will Wes Welker stay? If he goes, who should the Patriots pursue? leave a comment below.

Welker to Test Free Agency : No Deal Imminent

Both the Boston Herald writer Jeff Howe and Adam Schefter have reported that Wes Welker expects the market next week.

Yesterday a source told CSN New England that the Patriots were closing in on a multi-year contract but now that looks like it is not the case.welker

Ultimately, the Patriots want to resign Welker and Welker wants to stay with the Patriots, so in all likeliness he will be back. But it looks like Welker wants to know his market value and out in the open anything can happen. (See Vincent Jackson’s contract last year, 5 Years 55 Million). If a team comes out with a huge number. The Patriots likely will not match. But Welker is turning 32 next season and viewed by most as a system player, the market may not be as strong as he would like.

Hopefully, the Patriots reward Welker with a deal, and we do not have to go through the awkward breakup stage of watching him in a uniform that is not red, white, and blue.