Are injuries the only concern for the New England Patriots?
Here we are in week 2 of the 2013 NFL season. Some things look the same while others not so much. Today we take a look at one question everyone seems to have: The Patriots injury depleted roster.
We all know their roster is depleted of talent but is it really due to injury? A closer look might shed some light on this topic which is sure to be a weekly debate as strong in week 17 as it is today. We will break this down into a 3 part segment so facts don’t become too blurred. Now at no point will I provide countless links or any links for that matter to back my facts I will use general time frames, names, etc. This should be sufficient for those who follow the team to any degree even if only from February, 2002.
1) Where do we start? I say start with the heart or life blood – by this mean the draft. The draft has never been a strong point for NE at least not under current dictator Bill Bellicheck. Yes he has accumulated tons of picks allowing for a sweltering number of rookies being either added to the 90 man roster or in some cases the 53. Given a closer look this has only magnified an already glaring issue, where are all these players today? If you said “not in NE” you are correct my friend. Many a drafted player and undrafted player has made this team but outside of 1st rounders (not all of them) drafting has been far from stellar. There is a staggering number of 2nd and 3rd round picks in recent years exiled from this team many before their rookie deals even expired. Names such as Ras IR, Butler, Whilite, Crable, Brace and Chung. This is just 6 players off the top of my head but I think you get my drift. Rounds 4-7 have brought nothing more then camp fodder for the most part. Yes there are players like Edelman who seems to have finally “got it” after 4 full seasons, that’s just too long in most cases to wait for talent to hopefully develop though. You can add in some depth like players such as Deadrick, Love and some OL who were either drafted late or not at all. Again, where are these players today? Gone. That doesn’t make or break most teams but when you can’t find sustainable starting talent in the early rounds you better find it in the later rounds. Long story short, the Patriots are a truly poor drafting team. Please don’t bring up Brady in the 6th round because as much of a steal as he was the following 13 drafts have become the polar opposite. Risks were taken (Gronk-AH) more often only being flash in the pan type of success stories, not what builds a team for the long term.
2) Now lets take a look at what some would call the primary tactic at evaluating a teams success or failure, the salary cap. Much like the draft which back in the day seemed to be a well you couldn’t run dry with opportunity to add players who would contribute for many years to come, has turned into a chore many would suggest is like getting blood from a stone these days. Gone are the days of ample cap space with the final nail being driven in the coffin this past offseason with the team having to fully guarantee the contract of a QB with 1 foot on the doormat of the 40 year mark. As we sit here today the Patriots have 8 mil in cap space remaining with a mere 6 mil available next year with 5 very prominent starters about to hit Free Agency, Edelmen, Wendell, Nincovich, Spikes and Talib. Also many serviceable depth playes who will need to be replaced.
[dropcap]…[/dropcap] So what happened? As I said above Brady’s contract has become crippling. Sure he played below market value for years but most fans fail to realize that during this time the restructures of his contract (what I like to call eating the cheeseburger today and worrying about paying for it down the road) has lead to a handcuff cap situation. Everyone knows this team is not much more then one that would find itself picking in the top 10 of the draft yearly if not for Brady in recent years. (please NO Cassel reference, that was 7 years ago) It must be frustrating from a Patriots fan standpoint as they have watched very productive players depart in large part for cap savings only to turn around and see that precious money blown on the likes of Ocho Cinco 7 mil, Haynesworth 2 mil, Fanane 4 mil, Ellis 4 mil, Bolden 7 mil (only to be cut months later) and AD (don’t recall exact numbers but it was ground breaking for an OLB at the time).
So how did we get here? Good question. From the outside it looks like management or who ever makes the calls was trying to improve the team but more often trying to save a dollar at every turn also, and that approach seldom brings success with it. Can anyone dispute that some of that money would have been better spent retaining players like Welker or Seymore? How about Moss? Maybe solidifying the CB spot 5-6 years ago rather then throwing away countless draft picks and a rather large sum of money when you add up all the low level bargin bin CB shopping, while still suffering the same issues today, years after the fact? I agree, it kind of slaps you in the face like a ton of bricks.
3) Father time. Brady is kind of like a 3 week old pack of Bologna. It has a long shelve life, that’s a plus. It doesn’t smell too bad, another plus, then there is the color, what color is that? Yuke. Gone is the dimpled smiling face of a QB who could hold his head high after the rare playoff loss. Gone is are the flowing locks of a QB who could laugh off Spygate questions and opponents score predictions for the SB (even after being proven true). What we are left with is a scowling QB who started taking out his rage on water bottles and helmets to having his OC fired and now a well documented case of screaming at his 20 something year old rookie WR’s. His body language is being well documented by national pundits across the country. I brought this up 2 years ago that Brady was changing but was laughed at. Who’s laughing now? You can tune in to Mike “Sweet Tooth” Reiss if it helps you sleep at night. He will tell you all this stuff can be cleaned up, I mean it must be true if he says so right? Pay closer attention if you would to what he says and words he uses. “ALL”? All leads me to think there is more then 2 or 3 things that need fixing and that’s not good in the NFL for a QB going on 40 and a HC well over 60. Neither has had success with young WR’s over the past 13 years but now that both are nearing the end things will change? Doubt it. 13 years will not and can not be corrected in a year let alone a couple weeks. This is a team that has clearly planned poorly for the golden years of their QB and HC. Instead of sitting back and riding off into the sunset with SB victories not clouded with controversy in a still weak AFC.
Gone are the days of abundant draft picks. Gone are the days of endless cap space. Gone are what looked like a patient HC and QB. So yes there are injuries to this roster but what we see today is more the product of a death by a thousand cuts, not a quick heart attack. This is a team just licking the tip of the iceberg which will soon crack open the hull of their ship, the same ship they spent the past 13 years steering directly into that icebergs path.