Re: Brandon LaFell is now a Patriot.
posted at 3/17/2014 1:07 PM EDT
The WR position has been an area of weakness for the Pats, I'd argue, since 2009. I thought Moss's decline started that season and by 2010 he was losing battles in one-on-one coverage. After Moss, left, the only good wide recevier we had left was Welker. I understand we compensated with two good TEs, and while I liked the two-TE offense when both Gronk and Hern were in the game, I always felt that the lack of a second good receiver was a liability, especially whenever one of the TEs was out.
Since Moss was let go in the middle of the 2010 season, I think the Pats have mostly addressed the WR position with stop-gap moves--guys like Branch and Ochocinco who really were past their primes. Lloyd in 2012 maybe was an attempt to bring in a better quality player, but there were lots of red flags with him (he hadn't been able to stick for any length of time with any other team) and I was never crazy about that signing. I wanted a guy like Garcon, who I think would have been a great choice for the Pats, but he came at a cost. Lloyd was a cheap alternative and, unfortunately, like many cheap alternatives ended up being a disappointment--and not really that cheap either, since the Pats ended up paying him $4 million for his one year of service.
Last year, the Pats let Lloyd and Welker both go. Amendola really was just a replacement for Welker, so even if he had worked out better, he wasn't really improving the receiving corp, just stopping a leak. Lloyd was replaced with rookies. I like the move to youth, but not when you need a true number one receiver and your rookies are second and fourth round picks, plus an undrafted free agent. We also brought in a few junkie free agents, none of whom made the team. In my opinon, 2013 was the fourth offseason in a row where the key WR position was not adequately addressed.
This year I can't say whether things will be different, but the LaFell signing encourages me for three reasons. First, he is not simply a replacement for someone we let walk. He's a true addition. Second, he's not old and he has no questionable history of either injury or character issues. Third, he's a big guy who maybe increases the diversity of our WR group and has proven he can be a competent third receiver at least. I think LaFell is likely to make the team (not something I could say about Jenkins last year) and will add something we need to the mix of receivers.
I do think that if LaFell is the only new WR we bring in this year, we again won't have done enough at the WR position. I think we need one more decent WR to make this group truly competitive. That could be one of the better free agents still available (though none of these guys impresses me much) or a guy we trade for or, if necessary, a higher round draft pick. Dobson, Thompkins, and Boyce are all question marks still in my opinion. If one or two of them become quality starters then all will be well even if we pick up no one else, but going into the season expecting that to happen seems highly risky to me. Dobson is hurt, Thompkins seemed to peak mid season last year adn then fade away, and Boyce never did a thing when he had his chances. I just don't have a ton of confidence those guys are going to be enough. Amendola, Lafell, Edelman, Dobson, Thompkins, and Boyce (or Harrison?) doesn't strike me as a great list. Add one more accomplished veteran or a high round draft pick to that, though, and I think it looks pretty good.