There are 197 days until kickoff of the 2014 NFL season, 201 too many in my opinion. And as much as I loved seeing Seattle romp over Denver towards their first Super Bowl victory (called it from Week 1, self-five!) I need my fix, man. Football and I could be characters in the newest Nicholas Sparks novel, minus one of us dying by the end. And since it’s the offseason my bias is rooted in absolutely nothing. My trash talking cannot be countered since nothing has happened yet. So let’s talk about my New England Patriots.
The folks over at Patriots.com recently prioritized the team’s current free agents entering the 2014 offseason based on their importance to the team going forward. Andy Hart ranked Aqib Talib, the team’s number one corner and most vital defensive player of the 2013 season at number one. The list includes Julian Edelman, Dane Fletcher, LeGarrette Blount, and rounds out with Brandon Spikes and Matthew Mulligan. Most of the list I agree with; the Patriots should absolutely resign a lot of these guys. But some names stuck out to me in a negative manner. And as an insightful Patriots enthusiast, I see it as my job to re-rank these players based on my opinions.
1. Aqib Talib
Absolutely. Talib was the heart and soul of the defense when both Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo were placed on the IR last season. He was one of the major contributers to the unexpected playoff run and has established himself as one of the top corners in the game. He is in the prime of his career at 28 years old, and finished 2nd on the team with four interceptions after sitting out a portion of the regular season. The absolute best talent on the defense. Resign Talib.
2. Julian Edelman
Agreed once again Mr. Hart. While Patriots fans were looking for Danny Amendola to become the new Wes Welker, Edelman stepped up as Brady’s number one target. Edelman averaged over 10 yards per catch and went over the century mark for the first time in his career (1056 yards on 105 receptions). Not only that, but he isn’t afraid to take hits on punt returns or crossing routes either. He emerged as a leader and a true team player this past season, and would leave a massive hole in the receiving core if he does not resign. The kid can play. Resign Edelman.
3. Dane Fletcher
Fletcher stepped up huge for the Patriots after Brandon Spikes, along with Mayo, had to sit out. Him and Rob Ninkovich had some of the most prominent intangibles on the field last season, specifically on special teams (15 tackles). He flocks to the ball extremely well and comes off as one of the smarter guys on the defensive side of the ball. Resign Fletcher.
4. Michael Hoomanawanui
Hooman! No really, the dude has been a consistent backup over the last two years for New England, and with Gronk as a question mark (along with an estimated 8 rookie TE draft picks) Hooman could contribute far more than some may think. I like Hooman going forward, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep him in Foxborough. I mean, I’d take Scott Chandler over him any day of the week, but this is worst case scenario stuff. See what he can do in training camp. Resign Hooman.
5. Ryan Wendell
Wendell is in no way a superstar offensive lineman, and the struggle of the Patriots pass protection as of late is not a confidence booster. The only reason I have him at #5 is because he has been a consistent starter on the always shifting o-line. He obviously has something that Belichick likes. But if he moves on, it wouldn’t be a total loss. Indifferent.
6. Austin Collie
Austin Collie was good for about one catch a game for the second half of the season, including one big one in the final drive against the Saints. He looked good running routes, and has shown potential in the past with Indianapolis. But he is just one too many of these small, slot receivers. In my opinion, Edelman, Dobson, Thompkins, Amendola, and Boyce stay. But hey, if there’s cap room why not. Which I assume there won’t be if the Patriots go out and get a guy like Emmanuel Sanders or Hakeem Nicks. Indifferent.
7. LeGarrette Blount
The beast of January is going to want too much money. Plain and simple. If we can afford him, bring him back. But he is overhyped going into the offseason and does not deserve whatever he wants after two big games. The Patriots offense won’t skip a beat if he is not resigned. Indifferent.
8. Will Svitek
A primarily back up offensive lineman needs no special attention this offseason. Svitek was bumped from his second string position when Logan Mankins went down, so clearly he is not even the 2nd choice on the o-line. I don’t expect Svitek to return. Don’t resign Svitek.
9. Danny Aiken
A longsnapper’s job is pretty simple. Snap it well. 100% of the time. Regardless of how well he does, one mistake is costly. If the snap over Ryan Allen’s head happened in the Super Bowl, it could cost the team a championship. Aiken had been good up until that point, but it’s a job that requires perfection. Find another. Don’t resign Aiken.
10. Matthew Mulligan
The third string tight end’s high point of the season was a failed hurdle over a Cleveland defender. As impressive as the play was…Mulligan’s contributions were minimal. And with DJ Williams as a factor as well, expect Hooman and Gronk back along with a handful of rookies. Mulligan is history. Don’t resign Mulligan.
11. Andre Carter
The man was basically retired when the Patriots called him. Emergency contact maybe. Don’t resign Carter.
The only player I left off of this list is linebacker Brandon Spikes. Obviously Belichick did not bench him for the playoffs because of one instant of tardiness to practice. There is a recurring issue with him and the coaching staff, and neither wants Spikes to return. Don’t expect Spikes back at all next season. Maybe the Patriots will sign a LB who can actually cover a pass. Until then, expect some younger guys to shine in training camp, since each season is a new opportunity under Coach Belichick. Especially playing in the AFC EAST.