08:42 PM EDT on Thursday, May 7, 2009
The NFL Draft is nearly two weeks in the past, but questions remain as to the New England Patriots’ plans and the futures of the players they brought into the fold.
And some who may yet enter the fold.
Among the Patriots’ 12 draft picks, there was but one linebacker – Tyrone McKenzie, who projected to inside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 defense – which has kept alive the belief that it’s just a matter of when, not if, Jason Taylor will be signed by New England.
At the moment, Taylor is in southern Florida, presumably spending time with his family, which is why he walked away from the $8 million the Washington Redskins were set to pay him for the coming season. The Skins wanted Taylor to work out at the team’s facility during the offseason, but Taylor preferred to remain at home, and he was released by Washington.
From the moment he hit the free-agent market, New England has been targeted as a likely destination for the six-time Pro Bowler. Pats’ owner Robert Kraft said Taylor can become a Patriot if that’s what he wants, and it’s hard to believe Bill Belichick would put up much of a fight given his history of fairly gushing over the former Dolphins’ star.
But the possibility of Taylor returning to Miami, where he spent the first 11 years of his career before being traded to the Redskins before the 2008 season, has been floated as well.
That doesn’t seem as likely, however: Dolphins’ GM Jeff Ireland told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last month that re-signing the 34-year old Taylor could hamper the development of the team’s younger defensive players, and it’s unknown whether the rift between Taylor and Dolphins personnel honcho Bill Parcells has been mended enough to pave the way for the player’s return.
One of the players whose progress could be stunted is Cameron Wake. Miami signed the Canadian Football League standout pass-rusher earlier this year.
Last week at Dolphins’ mini-camp, head coach Tony Sparano was quoted as saying, “We’re going to watch Cameron this week and see what Cameron does. I know the Jason thing is out there.”
The Boston Globe reported last week that the Patriots have reached out to Taylor again, citing an NFL source, upping their efforts to get the league’s defensive player of the year in 2006 to Foxboro.
Taylor is expected to make a decision by the end of this month.
There are some who believe the Pats and Taylor already have a handshake agreement in place. With the respect it appears Belichick has for Taylor, it’s not too far-fetched to think that he’ll be given a playbook, told to study up, and stay in shape until training camp begins at the end of July. That would give Taylor maximum time with his family.
Belichick has made similar concessions for certain veterans in the past: Vinny Testaverde was allowed to sit out most of training camp a few years ago, and Roman Phifer had permission to fly home to his family in California after Sunday games and return to the facility on Wednesday.
The Julius Peppers scenario seems dead at this point – Belichick has made it clear that he would rather deal with the Carolina Panthers on a potential sign-and-trade than Peppers’ agent. But for that to happen, Peppers would have to sign his franchise tender, and he hasn’t done that.
So Taylor is the other option remaining, and he’s not a bad one at that. Lest anyone forget, he won the defensive POY award as an outside linebacker in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense, which is a close sibling of Belichick’s system. That year, he had 13 ½ sacks, 10 forced fumbles and two interceptions.