Recapping some thoughts on the past two weeks, in which the Patriots garnered their fair share of headlines:
- Vic Carucci of NFL.com set off some fireworks with a report that the Patriots were likely to acquire Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers for a second-round draft choice (34th overall). The feeling here is that the Patriots would covet the chance to add a player of Peppersís caliber, even for one season, but multiple things would have to happen to pull it off (e.g. agreeing on trade compensation, fitting Peppers under the salary cap). In the end, itís hard to imagine this happening unless Peppers is willing to take a significant pay cut and the Panthers would indeed trade him for only a second-round choice.
- The Patriots hosted cornerback Leigh Bodden on the first day of free agency and offered him a multi-year deal. But Bodden decided to further test the market and when no other club stepped up, he settled on a prove-it type of one-year deal in New England with a base salary of $2.25 million. Landing Bodden and Shawn Springs should help the teamís secondary, which struggled for stretches of last season. On the flip side, the Patriots wouldnít be making these type of moves for the second year in a row had Asante Samuel signed an extension back in 2006 or 2007. While the Patriots generally are able to limit personnel mistakes compared to most NFL clubs, they're still working to recover from not getting Samuel locked up long-term.
- The loss of long snapper Lonie Paxton, and the subsequent signing of Nathan Hodel to fill the void, is an example of the Patriots setting a financial limit at a specific position. It is similar to when Adam Vinatieri departed in free agency in 2006, with the Colts putting him at the top of the kicking pay scale. At the time, the Patriots were reluctant to have too many players as the highest paid at their position because it would hurt their ability to have a strong middle class on the roster. This year, the Patriots wanted to keep Paxton, but when the numbers came back to them Ė Denver offering a five-year, $5.38 million pact with a $1 million signing bonus Ė they focused on more cost-effective replacements. Hodel signed a one-year deal with a base salary of $745,000, so the Patriots can have two players on their roster this season for what Paxton would have cost them. That looks good on paper, assuming Hodel proves to be as reliable as Paxton had become, which is no given.
- With longtime special teams captain Larry Izzo signing a one-year deal with the Jets for a base salary of $845,000, it appears as if the Patriots had ruled him out of their plans. That isnít the type of offer that is difficult to match.
- In testing free agency, defensive lineman Mike Wright was likely looking for an opportunity to start along with the type of salary that comes with it, similar to Kenyon Coleman going from Dallas to the Jets prior to the 2007 season. It didnít happen for Wright, but he was smart to keep dialogue open with the Patriots. His four-year pact to return to New England is reflective of a veteran backup role, but includes incentives to increase the value should he become a starter. Wright is a valuable player on a 45-man game-day roster, because he backs up two spots (nose, end) and also contributes on special teams.
- The signing of veteran receiver Joey Galloway to a one-year deal appears to be a low-risk, high-reward type of move. The Patriots have an opening for a No. 3 receiver with Jabar Gaffney landing in Denver, and the 37-year-old Galloway is one of the candidates. How well he runs will be a storyline to watch in training camp.
- The re-signings of S/LB Tank Williams, OL Wesley Britt, S Ray Ventrone and C/G Al Johnson add to the teamís depth, increase the competition across the roster, and in Williamsís case, add flexibility for specific personnel packages (3-4 alignment with Williams as a linebacker).