Baseball season is just starting, but I’m having trouble switching my thoughts from football. It was easier last year because as I blogged about, Bill Belichick was scaring me to death. The team had no free agent activity other than letting many good players leave.
This season is different, though. The Patriots have been the most active team in the free-agency period, signing seven players from other franchises while only losing three. Not only that, the players they signed are not the usual bargain-basement old guys that the Pats usually acquire; they all add tremendously to the team.
- Donte Stallworth – wide receiver from the Eagles
- Adalius Thomas – linebacker from the Ravens
- Sammy Morris – running back from the Dolphins
- Kyle Brady – tight end from the Jaguars
- Kelley Washington – wide receiver from the Bengals
- Wes Welker – wide receiver from the Dolphins
- Eddie Jackson – cornerback from the Dolphins
- Tully Banta-Cain – linebacker
- Daniel Graham – tight end
- Corey Dillon – running back
Daniel Graham is certainly a loss, but the Pats still have David Thomas and Ben Watson who are both good pass-catching tight ends and the addition of Kyle Brady will replace much of Daniel Graham’s blocking strength. Corey Dillon had to go. He wasn’t getting the carries he wants with a great rookie running back, Lawrence Maroney, on the team. I would have liked him to stay for one more season, but that’s how the NFL works. I’ve always liked Tully Banta-Cain, but he was never a star and the addition of Adalius Thomas more than makes up for the loss.
On the positive side, Tom Brady has a slew of people to pass to now. What a major upgrade. Wide receivers, tight ends and receiving backs, oh my! And standing behind Brady will be Maroney, Faulk, Morris and the recently resigned Heath Evans. None of them mega-stars, but all really solid players. It’s difficult to see how the team could have done much better (so far) in the off-season when it comes to improving its offensive power. Defensively, the addition of Thomas is huge for the Pats’ aging linebacker core, but equally important is the team’s decision to franchise Asante Samuel, tied for the most interceptions in the league last season. I’m hoping that Rodney Harrison can remain healthy this year.
It’s months away, of course, but I’m already excited about the 2007-2008 NFL season. Anything can happen – injuries, poor play, drug problems – but hope runs wild before the first play of the season is called. Oh, did I mention that the Pats are the only team in the league with two first-round draft picks? There should be more positive news to come . . .