Time for transition?

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Two years ago, the Patriots found themselves in trouble at cornerback, and reacted by signing Bengals cast-off Deltha O’Neal. We all know how that one turned out, which was a little like how the receiver position was handled in 2006.

Today, with the loss of Leigh Bodden, I asked whether the Patriots should make a similar move, and scour the waiver wire for vets. I don’t think they have to. And then I read colleague Tony Massarotti’s column this morning, and saw a point I think is lost in all of this …

Here’s the good news: if you looked upon 2010 as a transitional year,
anyway, the growth rate might just have been accelerated. McCourty was a
first-round pick. Butler was one of the team’s highest selections last
year. Presumably, Bill Belichick didn’t draft either of those guys to be
backups or special teams players, and if the Patriots are going to
struggle some this year regardless, they might as well invest in the
development of their young players along the way.

Great point there.

Would you rather have Bodden on the team? Absolutely. Now that you don’t, it hurts losing his veteran presence in a very young secondary, but I don’t see reason to overreact and reach for someone like Anthony Henry or Nick Harper, or trade for a more experienced hand.

The bottom line is that what you’re going to be able to get now could be better than a Jonathan Wilhite or Terrence Wheatley, or even Devin McCourty (as he’s presently constituted). But to me, the difference in performance isn’t worth taking the playing time away from developing players.

There’s no need to bring in progress-stoppers now. In 2008, the future was murky with a spare-parts crew of corners that included a couple of rookies that struggled early (Wilhite, Wheatley). Today, you might not be sure exactly what you have, but the best plan, in my opinion, is to try and figure it out, and take your lumps now, which is what Mazz was alluding to.

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