This First-and-10 format was a staple of this blog in the early blogspot days, but I use it so seldom now that I might as well rename it the Ochocinco. The jokes, however, are as lame as ever. Because the best time to revive an old standby is 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, here are 10 thoughts on the Patriots ...
1. I understand the sentiment that the Patriots should do everything they can to bolster the roster while Tom Brady is still at the height of his powers. But the howling and entitlement among some fans after the first couple of days of free agency is ridiculous. They've arguably made the longest run of sustained excellence in NFL history, and they've done it in the salary cap era. In the last nine years, they've won at least 14 games four times, and never fewer than 10. Think about how difficult that is to achieve. I know, they haven't won a Super Bowl since 2004. You know why? Because it's really damned difficult to do. But they could have at least two more with a couple of bounces here and there, and that they are positioned to be a Super Bowl contender every single year should be confirmation enough that their approach works.
2. Besides, no official judgments should be made on how the Patriots have done in free agency until Brandon Lloyd picks an employer -- and I'm willing to wager he's coming here, because the receiver's sudden silence regarding whether the Patriots have shown interest tells you one thing: they are interested, and they've told him to keep it quiet.
3. Allow me just one more mini-rant on free-agent "splashes" and then I'll zip it. As Tom Curran noted recently, Adalius Thomas was a first-day signing before the 2007 season and the closest thing to a mega-move the Patriots have made in free agency. How'd that go? Well, as far as I know, he's still asleep in the back of a meeting room at Gillette Stadium as you read this. Meanwhile, what we perceive to be a splash -- the Rodney Harrison/Rosevelt Colvin double-whammy after the '02 season -- happened more than a week in. Patience, people. Let it play out.
4. It's not flashy, but you have to admire how they target under-the-radar players that they believe would fit here early in free agency, assuring that they collect a lot of players that they want while other teams are distracted by the shiny, sparkly so-called stars. Former Charger Steve Gregory is expected to bring versatility and good instincts to the defensive backfield, while ex-Bengal Jonathan Fanene's contract tells you all you need to know about how they regard him. I'm looking forward to watching both come September.
5. Leave it to Brandon Meriweather to mess up a great game-plan. I was hoping Meriweather would sign with the Jets, not just because he would be fun to play against twice per season, but because it would probably take them out of the running for LaRon Landry, whom I really hope ends up here despite his injury history and absurdly musclebound physique. Instead, Meriweather signed with Landry's former team, the Redskins, and now the Patriots and Jets are both trying to convince one of the few obviously appealing safeties on the market to come aboard.
6. The moves were hardly sexy, but you also have to like how Belichick has retained some key second-tier players such as Dan Connolly, Matt Slater, and Tracy White. For a guy who is perceived to be on the bubble in recent training camps, Slater has made himself absolutely essential with his special teams play, leadership, and positional versatility.
7. Danny Amendola is a reasonable facsimile of Wes Welker, an easy comp. He's a small, quick slot receiver out of Texas Tech who had to fight for a real chance. (Seem to remember him getting cut by the Cowboys during one of their "Hard Knocks" seasons.) But let's hold off on calling him same thing. He is far from Welker's equal after the catch, averaging 8.0 yards per reception in his career, and it's not worth sacrificing a second-round pick to acquire him.
9. And just to get a head start on it, I have no issue with the Patriots trading around in the draft, either. I'll take Gronk over former Southern Cal walk-on Clay Matthews any day. And while Devin McCourty's sophomore season was as terrible as his rookie year was dazzling, I'll take last season's version of him over Kyle Wilson, Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, and any of the other players the alleged draftniks thought Belichick should have chosen.
10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:
Barnes, who averaged 37.4 yards per punt for the Patriots in 1973 and '74, is the father of golfer Ricky Barnes, who was Belichick's playing partner at the AT&T Pro Am a few weeks back. Not that punting has evolved in the past 40 or so years, but Barnes career average was four yards less than Zoltan Mesko's net last season.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.