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.

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Gronk Setback?

It was recently discovered that Rob Gronkowski has underwent surgery a few days back for an infection in his arm that he hurt multiple times last season. The good news is that he isn’t expected to miss any extra time and should be reporting to camp with the rest of the Patriots. Hopefully this is true, since we probably would have had a gronkowskishot at two Superbowls with him healthy. That’s speculating, but still. Gronk has been under the knife three times since getting hurt against the Colts midway through November.

This won’t stop Gronk from being Gronk though, as he was criticized for his craziness at a Las Vegas nightclub a few weeks back. Obviously, Gronk is still young and making the most of his youth, as he deserves to do. It’s gotta be tough for all of us Patriots fans to know that he has yet another injury, but at least it isn’t a major setback…hopefully!

Brady Signs Extension

BREAKING NEWS:

Tom Brady has just signed a contract extension through 2017. The reason why this is getting so much publicity right away is because it is only worth $27 million. Yes, that’s a lot for you and I, but for Tom, its chump change. He wants to win another STomBrady-010708-775408uperbowl and cement his legacy even further after the team-who-shall-not-be-named beat him twice in the big show.

Since it is a new story, there are no facts about the contract such as incentives and bonuses or how exactly it will look on the books each season. However, it will definitely make it easier to bring in some top 5 position players that should most certainly help with the success of the Pats going forward. Brady has always said that he wants to keep his loyalty and retire with the team that he started with. This isnot the first time that he has restructured his contract or taken less money for the good of the organization. Hopefully we can get some defensive backs and some other role players and make another run or two (or three, or four).

To put this into perspective, Drew Brees signed a 5-year, $100 million contract last season ($20 million a year). Peyton is making twice as much as Tom at $18 million. Even Sam Bradford made $15.6 million last season!  Brady deserves another chance at a title after all he has done to make this team a powerhouse, and all of the salary sacrifices he has made over the years. I guess Giselle and hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t enough for him, he wants more rings.

The Fraud That Is Ray Lewis

Like any Boston fan, I’ve been trying to avoid Sportscenter as much as possible lately. Aside from the Bruins, there’s just too much upsetting news in the sports world right now. I mean the Red Sox are still irrelevant for the time being, the struggling C’s lost Rondo for the year, and Ray Lewis’s face pisses me off now more than ever.

But with said, it’s kind of hard to raycriesavoid hearing about the latest in the Ray Lewis fraud fiasco. I honestly don’t know how he is getting off so easily with all this. For starters, he may or may not have murdered two guys outside a nightclub, or was at least involved enough to pay off the family of the victims and lead them to cringe each time they see him on TV. I know this is old news and only coming up again now because he’s back in the Super Bowl, but it wouldn’t be nearly as bad if the man didn’t pretend to be a saint. Wes Welker’s wife hit the nail on the head and I really wish she stuck by her words instead of apologizing. As much as he pretends to be and wants to be, the man is no role model.

nfl_u_raylewis_cmg_600With the murder situation aside, new insight from Sports Illustrated claims Ray used banned substances to recover from his torn triceps injury. Again, the man just simply denies it when confronted at media day and everyone moves on. HOW? How in the world did the media just give up on that question? Ray says he doesn’t want to talk about it and that’s it? A 37 year old Ray Lewis suffers an injury that would keep a 23 year old specimen of an athlete out at least 6 months. Within 7 weeks, the guy is back on the field. In less than 3 months he’s playing again. Oh and just happens to announce upon return that this will be his last year. I call bullshit.

Now I’m all about a good sports story. Coming back from an injury to end a Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl win, who wouldn’t want to see something like that? But not from this guy. And I’m not saying that as a Pats fan whose still bitter about losing in the AFC championship game, even though I am. I’m saying that as a human being who doesn’t want to see people praising a murderer, cheater, liar, fraud, etc. In fact, I despise Jim Harbaugh so much I would actually root for the Ravens if it weren’t for Ray Lewis. I know this new story will have no effect on Ray playing Sunday but I truly hope more comes of it after the season and his career gets yet another asterisk next to it. I say this with reluctance, but let’s go Niners!

Brady Fined

Tom Brady was fined $10,000 last night after a slide against the Ravens last week that the league called a dirty play. Not that it matters, I’m pretty sure him and Gisele can swing the 10k. Ed Reed said he didn’t mind the play that much because it was in the heat of the game, but Bernard Pollard (one of the dirtiest guys out there) took to the media to complain. He said that if you can call it on the defense, you have to be able to do what’s right and call it on the QB too. Anyways, I like Brady for doing this. It shows that he was pissed off and wanted to do anything to win.

Ignore the voice of the guy in the video, even though it is pretty amusing.

Coach Sabotaged SuperBowl?

A new story surfaced today about a former Oakland Raiders’ Head Coach. According to multiple players that played for Bill Callahan, he “sabotaged” SuperBowl X2424XXVII.  According to Wide Receiver Tim Brown, who has almost 15,000 yards and 100 Touchdowns in 17 seasons, Coach Callahan changed their game plan right before the SuperBowl. He said that the whole team called it Sabotage. Callahan was brought into the organization by Jon Gruden, and remained good friends with him. Coincidentally, Gruden was the head coach for their opponent in that game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brown said that Callahan always seemed fed up with the Raiders’ organization and even walked off the field on them a couple times. Even Jerry Rice, who was on the Raiders during that time at the end of his career said he found it “very unusual” that the coach changed dgdgeverything at the last minute. The Raiders ended up losing 48-21.

Normally, I’m not much for conspiracy theories but this seems fishy. Jerry Rice said that they practiced running the ball all week, and then on Friday, two days prior to the big game, they changed the plan to pass. They didn’t just throw it a little more, Quarterback Rich Gannon threw the ball over 60 times in that game. Many former players are either taking shots at Brown, or backing up his remarks as the story keeps developing.

Do you think a coach would actually sabotage a SuperBowl win, and his legacy by handing it over to a friend?

NFL Coaching Carousel: New Faces In New Places

New Year, New Coaches: A few weeks ago the NFL saw a total of 7 head coaches fired by their old teams. Those teams were the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. Since then all 7 coaching vacancies have been filled. Here’s a rundown of who was hired:

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians, who led the Colts to an 11-5 record as interim coach in the absence of Chuck Strong, who battled Leukemia last season.

Buffalo Bills: Doug Marrone, former Syracuse Orange head coach, went 25-25 in four seasons with the Orange and has 7 years of NFL experience with coaching staff stints with the New Orleans Saints 2006-2008 and  the New York Jets 2002-2005.

Cleveland Browns: Rob Chudzinski, former Offensive Coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and also was OC for the Browns in 2007-2008.

Chicago Bears: Marc Trestman, former CFL coach for the Montreal Alouettes winning two Grey Cup titles, also has 17 years of NFL coaching experience spending most of that time as an offensive coordinator for a number of NFL teams.

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid, Former Philadelphia Eagles Bench Boss, spent 13 years with the Eagles, leading them to five NFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl in 2004, he finished last season with a record of 4-12.

Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly, former Oregon Ducks head coach, went 46-7 while helping to turn the Ducks into a college football powerhouse. Kelly also led the Ducks to a BCS National Championship in 2011. Kelly has no previous NFL experience.

San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy, former Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator who helped the Broncos along the way to a 13-3 season that ended with a playoff loss to Baltimore last Saturday (January 12th).

Best and Worst Hire: From the list of recent hires above, here’s my choice for who nailed it and who should have kept looking:

Best: The Arizona Cardinals have earned my nod for the NFL’s best off-season coaching move with the hire of Bruce Arians. I chose the Cards over Kansas City hiring Andy Reid for a few reasons.

1. Arians led a Colts team that nobody had winning more than 4-5 games to an 11 win season and a playoff berth. 2. He coached on a team with a green-horn QB in Andrew Luck and found ways to win. 3. He displayed leadership all season long as he stepped in for Chuck Strong, and picked up the teams spirits to push forward.

It’s all of those reasons that I have Arians having success in Arizona with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Kevin Kolb/ John Skelton, Adrian Wilson, and Patrick Peterson.

Side note on Arians: To have success, he will need to address the teams QB situation. Last year Kolb and Skelton shared duties in leading the team. The Cardinals have the 7th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Which could give them the option to go for either Geno Smith of West Virginia or Matt Barkley of USC (then again, Matt Leinart didn’t exactly workout in Arizona). Any way you slice it though, Arians will need to resolve that position if he is to ultimately succeed.

Worst: This one is pretty clear cut in my mind. The Philadelphia Eagles took a gamble on hiring Chip Kelly and that’s exactly what Kelly will be in Philly, a risk. Kelly certainly isn’t the first college head coach to try his hand on the NFL Grid-iron.

Some college head coaches like Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers head coach) Pete Carroll (recently with the Seattle Seahawks) Tom Coughlin( New York Giants 2 Super Bowl Rings) and Jimmy Johnson (Dallas Cowboys Head coach in the 90’s who won 2 Super Bowls) are having/had great success in the NFL . However, more often than not, “The Old College Try” doesn’t pan out so well for most NFL teams. Here’s a list of college coaches who weren’t so hot in the NFL:

Steve Spurrier (Washington Redskins for 2 years going 12-20 before retreating back to college ball)

Nick Saban (Miami Dolphins for 2 years going 15-17 before taking the Alabama job and building a college dynasty)

Bobby Petrino (Atlanta Falcons for 13 games of the 2007 season left with 3 games still to play, the Falcons finished with a 4-12 record. Petrino returned to college to coach Arkansas)

Rich Brooks (St. Louis Rams for 2 years going 13-19 and was fired, which allowed him to return to college and coach Kentucky)

Unlike Harbaugh, Carroll, Coughlin, and Johnson, I forsee Kelly falling into the same category as Spurrier, Saban, Petrino, and Brooks. I just don’t see his offensive schemes working at the professional level.

Also, unless Kelly, an offensive minded guy, can somehow work wonders with his defensive coordinator and the Eagles defense (who gave up an average of 27 points per game last year and ranked 23rd in rush defense with 126yds per game) things will not get any better in the city of brotherly love.

Final Thoughts: With the new coaches in place, it will be interesting to see what these new bench bosses can do next season. Which coach do you think will have the best season? Who will have the worst season? Leave a comment below.

NFL PLayoff Predictor: AFC/NFC Championship Matchups

Well so much for my prediction of a Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl. As you probably know by now, both those teams lost this past Saturday and Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Broncos 38-35 in OT at mile high and the Atlanta Falcons edged their way past Seattle by a score of 30-28 in Hot-lanta. The other two teams to advance were the New England Patriots who defeated Houston 41-28 and the San Francisco 49ers who beat Green Bay 45-31.

With that, here’s a look at the AFC and NFC Championship games, and My New Predictions:

AFC: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens:

Tom Brady and Joe Flacco meet up in the AFC Championship game for round two of what is sure to be a great grudge match between these two squads. If you find yourself feeling a sense of Deja Vu’ this Sunday, that’s because these two teams met up in last year’s AFC Champ showdown. The Ravens though are hoping this Sunday is anything but a re-run of last year’s finish, which left them a few plays away from reaching Super Bowl XLVI.

Meanwhile, the Pats will be trying to return to the Super Bowl once more to avenge last year’s loss to the New York Giants and capture their first Lombardi Trophy since 2005. The Patriots will also have to try and beat Baltimore without the help of Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski. Gronk suffered an injury to his forearm in last Sunday’s win over Houston and will miss the remainder of the post-season.

My Prediction: Despite missing a big-time weapon like Gronk, I feel as though the Pats can outlast the Ravens in a great showdown between Brady and Flacco. Though on a sad note, it will be tough to watch knowing it could likely be NFL linebacker great Ray Lewis’ last NFL game. Nevertheless, New England wins 24-21 edging Baltimore out again and returning to their second straight Super Bowl.

NFC: Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers:

This matchup will be a slightly different grudge match between these two teams. On one side you have San Francisco who like Baltimore were a few plays away from last years Super Bowl when they lost to the Giants in OT by a field goal. So, like Baltimore, the 49ers will look to avoid the same fate twice against 1st seeded Atlanta.

On the other hand, the Falcons want to prove their the same team who started the season 8-0 and finished the season tied for he NFL’s best record with the Denver Broncos at 13-3. Atlanta will look to avoid another fruitless post-season and return to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1998 (where the Falcons lost the then defending Denver Broncos 34-19).

My Prediction: This game will ultimately come down to one key factor that has been absent throughout this year’s playoffs…DEFENSE. The Falcons arguably sport one of the top QB’s in the league with Matt Ryan behind center. Ryan can light up a scoreboard and uses his weapons on offense like a General on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the 49ers, have an X-factor at QB…Colin Kaepernick. He put up a stat line against Green Bay that was like something straight out of a Madden game: 444 total yards of offense with 4TDS (2 passing, 2 rushing) that’s 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards (the most ever by a QB in a playoff game).

With that said, whichever defense can hault the others QB first wins this battle. I give this one to San Fran as Patrick Willis and Co. find away to stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons at home. 49ers win 31-21 as Kaepernick does it again with 276yds passing for 2TDS and 77yds rushing and 1 rushing TD.

Super Bowl XLVII: New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers:

On the games biggest stage two storied franchises collide in a Super Bowl for the ages. In what will be a grueling back and forth battle in the Superdome of New Orleans, I have the Patriots edging out the 49ers 28-24 as the Pats capture their first Super Bowl title since 2005. Tom Brady wins SB MVP.

Final Thoughts: We’ll see how it all plays out this Sunday. Until then, what do you think will happen in the Championship games? Who do you have winning Super Bowl XLVII? Leave a comment.