Four Downs: AFC East

Four Downs: AFC East
Four Downs: AFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Sean McCormick

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Offseason Hole: Defensive End

The flirtation with the 3-4 defense lasted barely a year, just long enough to get defensive coordinator George Edwards fired, and now the team will turn to new hire Dave Wannstadt to undo the experiment and bring back a base 4-3. The move makes perfect sense, as it allows the Bills to line up their two best players, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, side-by-side. That should give them the freedom to penetrate and make plays rather than requiring them to hold their ground and soak up blockers as they would in a 3-4. It's a move that should help stiffen up the interior run defense, which gave up 4.52 yards per carry on runs between the guards last year. The move probably won’t do much to generate more pass rush, however, as it is unreasonable to ask for Dareus to improve much upon his rookie total of 5.5 sacks. An elite pass rushing defensive end would be a key addition for Buffalo. The Bills have youngsters like Alex Carrington and veterans like Chris Kelsay and Dwan Edwards, but none of them can be expected to suddenly morph into a double-digit sack threat. There is little doubt that the team will make every effort to address the position, but they are unlikely to land a premiere talent like Mario Williams in free agency, so improvement may have to come from the draft.

The other major priority is to re-sign Stevie Johnson, who established himself as a legitimate number one receiver in his first year as a starter. The team will want to add another receiver regardless, as neither David Nelson nor Donald Jones showed much playmaking ability, but receiver would turn into a gaping hole should Johnson skip town.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Offseason Holes: Quarterback, Right Tackle

Matt Moore won six of his twelve starts and was instrumental in Miami’s second-half turnaround, but all indications are that neither general manager Jeff Ireland nor new head coach Joe Philbin consider him anything more than a stopgap solution at quarterback. Instead, the Dolphins are expected to make a run at a premiere quarterback, with Peyton Manning sitting at the top of the list. If Manning spurns them, the Dolphins would likely target Green Bay’s Matt Flynn or look to trade up to the top of the draft for Baylor phenom Robert Griffin III. Whoever ends up as the quarterback, the Dolphins will need to do a better job of protecting him, as the offensive line’s 9.6 percent Adjusted Sack Rate was among the worst in the league in 2011. Some of that can be attributed to injuries, and the return of a healthy Jake Long will go a long way towards solidifying the line. However, right tackle Marc Colombo was a disaster and will not be re-signed, leaving a hole that may not be filled until the draft. Several early mocks have linked standout Iowa tackle Reily Reiff to Miami, but that option looks much more attractive with Manning or Flynn safely under contract.

Miami’s short-yardage woes can partly be linked to that same patchwork offensive line, but they also speak to the disappointing play of rookie Daniel Thomas. No one should be shocked when Reggie Bush puts up a 37 percent Success Rate, but Thomas, who was brought in to be a between the tackles power runner, was not much better. Thomas’ rushing DYAR was the worst of any running back this season, and while the team remains optimistic about his future, it might be wise to draft a potential alternative in the middle rounds.

New England Patriots

Biggest Offseason Hole: Cornerback

You don’t need advanced stats to figure out that the Patriots had serious defensive problems in 2011. The Patriots gave up 411 yards per game, allowing a league-worst average of 37.5 yards per drive. They were 28th in DVOA against the run and 28th against the pass. There is no defensive position group on the team that would not benefit from the addition of a top free agent or high draft choice, but the first order of business is likely going to be to improve the depth and talent at cornerback. The switch of Devin McCourty to free safety and Sterling Moore to corner worked like a charm in December and January, but it would be foolhardy to rely on Moore holding up for a full season without preparing a plan B. Meanwhile, top corner Kyle Arrington’s seven interceptions obscured a concerning drop in his performance during the second half of the season. Based on Football Outsiders game charting, Arrington allowed 7.2 yards per pass through the first eight games of the season, then 10.2 yards per pass afterwards (including the postseason). 2011 second-rounder Ras-I Dowling will be back from an injury that cost him most of his rookie year, but in today's NFL, a good defense needs three starting-quality cornerbacks. Bill Belichick does a much better job of throwing together a damage control party in the secondary than he does drafting long-term solutions, but the Pats probably need to take another run at the latest crop of college corners.

The pass rush was adequate, but the rotation might look different in 2012. Rob Ninkovich’s late-season development was encouraging, and he looked borderline dominant coming off the edge in the Super Bowl against an overmatched Kareem McKenzie. Mark Anderson and Andre Carter were also effective, but their contracts are up and the team may only look to re-sign one of them. Until Wes Welker gets a new deal, all other contracts will remain on the back burner.

New York Jets

Biggest Offseason Hole: Right Tackle

With the hiring of Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator to replace the departed Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets are signaling their intention to return to the ground-and-pound formula that served them so well in 2009 and 2010. That’s fine in theory, but it will only work if the offensive line rebounds after a somewhat disappointing year. While D’Brickashaw Ferguson got a Pro Bowl nod, he had a subpar year in pass protection and was dreadful in the run game -- New York backs averaged only 2.89 yards per carry when running behind left tackle, worse than every team save Tampa Bay. Ferguson’s struggles went relatively unnoticed, however, because of Wayne Hunter’s spectacular meltdown on the other side of the line. Hunter was charged with 8.5 sacks and 11 penalties according to ESPN New York, and his inability to handle the outside rush essentially took every deep pass out of the playbook. An upgrade here is a necessity. Better blocking out of the tight ends would also help New York re-establish its running attack. Dustin Keller is a one-dimensional pass catcher who gets manhandled when asked to be an in-line blocker, but reserve tight end Matthew Mulligan gave up three sacks and multiple pressures, making him the rare backup tight end to achieve notoriety with the hometown fans. In an ideal world, the Jets would land a tight end who could play all three downs and was effective when lining up in-line or splitting out wide.

The Jets also need some help stopping opposing tight ends. While the pass defense finished the year ranked second in DVOA, safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool struggled badly in man coverage, and teams were able to move the chains on third down by setting up isolations that left Pool or Smith matched up on a tight end. No one is better at shutting down outside receivers than the Jets, but that won’t help them close the ground on divisional rival New England. The tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez dominated New York both times they played the Patriots.

(This article previously appeared at ESPN Insider.)


56 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2013, 6:06am

#1 by ineedawittyname (not verified) // Feb 10, 2012 - 4:10pm

one quibble... Pretty sure Ras-I Dowling was the first pick of the second round... not a first rounder like you say.

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#14 by Rivers McCown // Feb 11, 2012 - 9:46am

Good catch. Fixed that.

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#2 by Dean // Feb 10, 2012 - 4:11pm

How soon before Grantland rolls out their new division-by-division offseason column entitled "4th Down?"

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#23 by chemical burn // Feb 12, 2012 - 1:47pm

I've just glad they started using photos with their by-lines - seeing a photo of Bill Barnwell explains so much.

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#49 by mansteel (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 12:02pm

So what's the story with Barnwell? He catches a lot of flak from commenters and FO doesn't link to his stuff, so I assume his departure was not without bad feeling.

Unlike a lot of readers, I didn't dislike his stuff when he was here and don't
dislike it now, but I can certainly get with the criticism that Grantland has participated in the sincerest form of flattery vis-a-vis FO.

Is there more to this than I am aware of?

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#52 by dmstorm22 // Feb 13, 2012 - 1:11pm

I laughed during Simmons' most recent podcast when he told I think it was Cousin Sal that they started bascially doing 'Audibles' (sending emails to each other, then posting them) which Simmons claimed many other sites do. I'm sure many people do send emails (or Texts, or tweets) to each other on Sunday, but other than FO, I've never seen a site gather them and release them like they do with Audibles. To me, that seemed like a blatant rip-off.

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#53 by Theo // Feb 13, 2012 - 2:04pm

AFAIK Bill and some commenters had a love/hate relationship sometimes.
Let's not kick a man in the back and just keep it as something to laugh at for the off season.

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#35 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 12, 2012 - 9:24pm

Of all the things we do at FO, Four Downs is the thing I feel the least amount of intellectual ownership over. "Let's do a division-by-division look at the offseason when we have nothing else to write" is just a blatantly obvious thing to do and probably done by like 20 other sites. Believe me, we're not special here.

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#42 by wr (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 9:10am

In terms of concept, you're absolutely right. But IMO the content is a notch or two above the norm.

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#3 by MJK // Feb 10, 2012 - 6:02pm

Disagree that the Pats biggest need is CB. I think McCourty to safety was more a reflection that the Pats safeties really sucked, and less that he is now officially a bust at CB. I don't think, after seeing his slump this year, that he's bound for a ton of Pro-bowls, but I think he will still be a decent starting option at CB. And Arrington is servicable, provided he has good safety play beside him and some pass rush in front of him. Dowling we'll have to see. And I think Moore has shown enough talent to be a good enough backup.

On the other hand, at safety they have Patrick Chung and...a bunch of scrubs. Ihedigbo is the best of the lot, and he is at most a backup, and probably no better than a special teamer who spot fills in at S.

And on the line (DT and OLB), they have Wilfork, Ninkovich, maybe some promise with Love, and a few old veterans or unproven young players. Carter and Anderson are both free agents.

So to recap: at CB I count 2 decent (not great) starters, one highly drafted second year player, and a decent backup. At safety, they have one starter and one backup. And among their front 5, they maybe have three players who are starting calibur.

It really seems to me that CB is the LEAST need on defense, except for perhaps ILB.

It's easy to pin a bad pass defense on the CB, but it's amazing how much better average CB's look when you get the safety play or the pass rush to play better. Granted, it goes in reverse as well, but to improve at CB you need to find an elite guy, someone who's clearly better than Arrington and McCourty. To improve your pass rush or safety play, you merely have to find someone who's league average. And that's much easier to do.

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#4 by Kanguru (not verified) // Feb 10, 2012 - 6:16pm

Let's be honest: McCourty played awful at corner this season and Arrington is absolutely awful too ... he has been horrible the previous season and all but 8 games this year. I don't get how anybody thinks McCourty will magically return to his rookie season form.

In my eyes Chung was the best cover guy, as he often takes on the guy in the slot.

But I would tend to admit that the scheme the Patriots play must be a big part of the problem ... that is a non-scientific guess because I cannot understand how you can keep picking defensive players (esp. DBs) high in the draft and only end up with garbage. How do other teams fare MUCH better here?

So, the highest priority on the Patriots defense should be Defensive Coordinator and getting rid of Belichick's ego (Dom Capers: left after one season, won a SB as DC in GB. Dean Pees: forced out, now DC at Baltimore ...).

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#6 by Ima Pseudonym (not verified) // Feb 10, 2012 - 8:46pm

Not sure I would be citing Capers there. The Packers were one of the few teams who could make a claim at having a worse secondary than the Patriots. Not sure if a coordinator is what they need, or just a new defensive backs assistant. It isn't just that they can't scout could prospects, its that the people they pick up seem to play worse the longer they are with the Patriots coaches.

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#10 by Anonymouuuuuuus (not verified) // Feb 11, 2012 - 7:38am

Aha, why did none of the dbs they cut manage to get a decent spot somewhere else? Butler was a high pick and when they picked him after the Dolphins picked up vontae Davis, the analysts raved about how BB managed to snooker the Dolphins into picking the worse player. Now that worked out.

Anybody realize that Bb mainly picks up draft picks from colleges where one of his buddies coaches? Cunningham anyone (Spikes and Hernandez worked out )

The guy needs to start looking at the way he does things. It also looks like only a small percentage of players buys into the Patriot way ... the majority ridicules it. That seriously reduces the number of players and coaches available.

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#37 by JonFrum // Feb 12, 2012 - 11:41pm

The Pats just played in their fifty SB in 11 years, Mommy says time to take your meds,

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#44 by Kulko // Feb 13, 2012 - 9:53am

No I think he is perfectly alright.

One thing that I would seriously consider broken in NE, is the inability to develop Diva Position Players into NFL Starter material.

We have tried like a gazillion Deep Thread Receivers and we havent had that much success with CB either (apart from Asante Samuel). On Top of that we couldnt get Merryweather to develop at all after 1 year of success.
I would not put this necessarily down to the patriot way, but to the fact, that different Coaching techniques are needed, when coaching up this type of player, whch dont come easily to Bill and the assistants who have been brought up his way.

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#45 by sundown (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 10:54am

50 Super Bowl appearances in 11 years!? Now there's a record that will never be broken! ;-)

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#7 by Kal // Feb 10, 2012 - 9:38pm

CBs are one of the positions I would bet is not one that people immediately step in and do well at; the 'great' CBs that we know and love did not have their breakout seasons until at least their third year, IIRC (Revis might've been year 2). Samuel, Asomugha - they learned later. I'd imagine it's much like being a WR; it takes a while to learn the audibles and learn the reads and get the right feel for the spot.

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#20 by RickD // Feb 11, 2012 - 3:57pm

You're not seriously arguing that the Pats would be better off with Pees as their DCon, are you?

Pees is the guy who leaves Vegas with a small fortune because he arrived with a large one. He's the guy who inherited a very good defense and left because it had become awful under his coaching.

And now he's at Baltimore? We've yet to see that he can keep the Ravens' defense performing at the level we've grown accustomed to. Saying that he's been hired for a job in no way argues that he'll do the job well.

People make claims about Belichick's ego, but it seems like just so much mud-flinging, unless they say exactly how it relates to the current situation. A few years ago, Belichick ran a season with no coordinators on either side. Basically, Bill O'Brien called the plays on offense and Matt Patricia called them on defense. The offense did very well and O'Brien had earned the title of Offensive Coordinator.

The defense still hasn't done well. Presumably, if they'd excelled, Matt Patricia would have the title of Defensive Coordinator.

Between 2004-2007, the Pats had 4 coordinators hired away to be head coaches elsewhere. That might play into Belichick's thinking that it doesn't help him to have his coaches continually hired away.

As for Dom Capers, he wasn't the Defensive Coordinator in New England. He was the secondary coach. He went to greener pastures because he wasn't about to get the coordinator job in New England.

You could argue that Capers should have gotten the coordinator job in New England, but if you do so, you'll have to ask us to ignore how well his defense is doing in Green Bay.

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#22 by Kanguru (not verified) // Feb 11, 2012 - 7:30pm

None of the stuff you say is backed by facts. Pees coached the defense in 2007, when it was good. He coached the LBs in Balt this season, and they promoted him. And I believe you have a hard time doing a good job with the Pats defense because BB influences too much.

Dom Capers was a "defensive consultant". And - not backed by facts - I believe he would not have stayed because you don't get to run the defense under BB.

It is widely believed that no one has been promoted to DC because BB does not want to chose one over the other from Matt Patricia (Safeties, former LBs) and Pepper Johnson (DLine).

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#25 by jackgibbs // Feb 12, 2012 - 3:09pm

the 2007 defense was not very good either, their stats look decent only because they were playing with a mountainous lead for the first 3/4 of the season. Once the offense started to stall, the defense started to look a lot like it does now. teddy bruschi in particular was exposed in coverage repeatedly

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#28 by Rabbit // Feb 12, 2012 - 5:06pm

I always thought Capers was simply given the job because of Belichick's respect for him. He could teach, but he never would have become DC under BB. Not because, as you suggest, DC's aren't allowed to run their defense with BB around, but because his and BB's philosophies are about as contrasting as you can get.

Capers is a balls-to-the-wall, get after the QB maniac, while Belichick seeks a smart, conservative defense instead. He'll blitz but not that often. If Capers had his way, as he did with NO, he would blitz on every down, which he damn near almost did. And it didn't particularly work well either.

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#29 by ammek // Feb 12, 2012 - 5:23pm

Have you confused Capers with Gregg Williams?

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#30 by Rabbit // Feb 12, 2012 - 5:51pm

Your argument is invalid.

As is mine.

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#32 by PatsFan // Feb 12, 2012 - 7:00pm

I thought Capers was hired by NE (Feb 21, 2008) as an insurance policy in case Goodell decided to brownnose nutcase Specter and suspended Belichick.

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#34 by RickD // Feb 12, 2012 - 8:23pm

Pees took over a veteran defense in 2007 that had become what it was under the tutelage of Crennel and Mangini. The way to measure the impact of a coach is not to see how well he does with the players he's inherited, but how he does after time demands that those players be replaced.

The Pats started with an elite defense when Pees took over the job and got slowly worse until he was "fired" (i.e., he "decided" that he no longer wanted to coach for the Pats).

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#46 by sundown (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 11:00am

Imho, the true measure of a coach comes when he goes to another team. That's why it's still too early to fully judge Pees--the next year or two in Baltimore will tell us a lot. He'll either prove he's the real deal or at the other extreme become the defensive version of Josh McDaniels.

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#16 by RickD // Feb 11, 2012 - 1:56pm

So, you're saying that they only need to find an average-level safety.

That doesn't really support the notion that their greatest need is safety. I think everybody agrees that they need help at safety. But really, after this past season, I think it's very hard to swallow the argument that the Pats don't need help at CB.

Arrington got a good number of INTs, but he's hardly an elite CB. And we have no idea what happened to McCourty. Dowling hasn't shown that he can play a 16-game schedule.

That makes for three fairly large question marks.

I honestly think there's something wrong with the coaching when so many things go wrong. It's not just last season - the Pats haven't developed a good CB since Crennel left.

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#5 by FooBarFooFoo (not verified) // Feb 10, 2012 - 6:22pm

Wes Welker isn't worth the franchise tag. He is over 30, has had a major knee surgery, is too small. He is easier to replace than the missing deep threat, and they should get rid of him in order to push Brady out of his comfort zone.

Spend the money somewhere else.

BTW ... anybody has any hope that Jermaine Cunningham will pan out in some form? And why did they spend a lot of money on Markell Carter and never activated him to the roster?

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#12 by Rabbit // Feb 11, 2012 - 8:47am

He definitely deserves their tag. For one, he should have at least one more very good season left. Two, he's been grossly underpaid (relatively) as one of the league's top 5 receivers since he signed with NE 5 years ago. He could have started bitching about that contract following his '09 season, as a number of other players would have, but he never did.

Thanks for being you, Wes. Here's $9mm.

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#38 by JonFrum // Feb 12, 2012 - 11:44pm

The Pats just played in the Super Bowl, What have you been doing recently?

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#39 by BaronFoobarstein // Feb 13, 2012 - 4:36am

Ah, well. I haven't personally played in a Super Bowl so I guess I better not have any football-related opinions.

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#43 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 13, 2012 - 9:21am

Emmitt Smith played in three. Does anyone think he has an intelligent opinion about anything?

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#47 by sundown (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 11:10am

Sorry, not seeing how a team that just lost the Super Bowl on a late drive needs to start dumping star players.

Brady's already going to be pushed out of his comfort zone by the return of McDaniels. Still trying to figure out what the guy that completely ignored his tight ends in Denver (including trade away the one receiving threat he had at the position) is going to do with Gronkowski and Hernandez. I think the old phrase about not being able to go home again is going to apply and McD 2.0 will end poorly. Brady will need all his magic to prevent Josh from ruining it all.

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#50 by Mr Shush // Feb 13, 2012 - 12:26pm

The Patriots have always dumped star players under Belichick. Like the Eagles and Steelers, they have amply demonstrated their commitment to the principle of better a year too soon than a year too late. I'm not saying Welker's gone (I'd expect him to play under the tag this year) but it would hardly represent a radical change of approach if he had played his last game as a Patriot.

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#55 by dryheat // Feb 15, 2012 - 10:04am

Prior to the 2011 season, I figured Wes would play out his contract, move on, and Edelman would come in and give them 75% or the production at 20% of the cost....but I don't see how they can let Welker walk now. I don't think anybody expected him to have the kind of season he did. I'm sure the Patriots would be happy for a year-to-year tagging in 12 and maybe 13, but I don't expect Welker to be pleased with that arrangement. The sensible thing to do would be to offer him a two or three-year deal that would give him slightly less guaranteed than he would earn under the tags.

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#8 by Rabbit // Feb 10, 2012 - 10:32pm

"Until Wes Welker gets a new deal, all other contracts will remain on the back burner"

Said matter-of-factly. I don't agree with it at all. Here's something that's never said: If the Pats sign Welker for the kind of money it's assumed he wants (which I doubt happens), their 2nd thru 5th highest paid players will be Wilfork (NT), Mankins (G), Mayo (MLB), and Welker (SLWR). Nice players all, but if I were building a team, NT, G, MLB and SLWR would not be where I would spend the bulk of my cap money.

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#9 by BaronFoobarstein // Feb 10, 2012 - 11:06pm

OTOH, he's their best player. Put a replacement level slot guy there and what's their offense, throws to TEs and Chad Johnson drops?

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#11 by Rabbit // Feb 11, 2012 - 8:34am

I'll agree that he's their 2nd best 30+ year old player, but Brown to Branch to Caldwell (61/760/4, out of football the next year) to Welker doesn't exactly suggest that the next guy will be replacement level, at least in a statistically sense. Brady seems to have as much to do with the position's performance as the actual receiver playing it does.

But anyway, with Hernandez, Gronk, Edelman, and even Branch on the roster, 6 yard passes for first downs should not become much harder to come by. It would simply be a matter of Brady finding the open man instead of keying in on Wes each time.

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#13 by Mr Shush // Feb 11, 2012 - 9:18am

I really don't think Welker is better either in the sense of closer to the top at his position or more valuable than Gronkowski or Brady, and I'm pretty sure he's not better in at least the first sense than Wilfork.

I'd still franchise him, though.

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#19 by RickD // Feb 11, 2012 - 3:46pm

The problem with Ochocinco is not that he drops the ball. It's that he doesn't know the playbook.

He won't be coming back.

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#18 by RickD // Feb 11, 2012 - 3:45pm


Well, Belichick has gotten to the Super Bowl with his spending decisions.

The thinking is clear: you need to have strong players in the middle to be the foundation of the defense. Hence the big contracts for Wilfork and Mayo. Mankins is the boss (and arguably best player) of the offensive line.

What's wrong with giving Welker money? He really isn't easily replaced. And he's not a speed receiver, so the next few years shouldn't hurt his value a lot.

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#24 by Stats are for losers (not verified) // Feb 12, 2012 - 2:41pm

I still don't get all the hate on Welker. 4 100-catch seasons, tied with Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice. Three of those he was league leader in receptions, three of those he was top-5 in DYAR. He's an essential part of the Patriots' scheme--a guy who can find a hole in the zone and generate some quick YAC, stretching the field horizontally rather than vertically. Sure, he's not Calvin Johnson, and maybe if he were a bit taller, Gisele wouldn't be so mad at him, but I'd still put him as a top-10 WR since 2007.

But maybe I'm just biased as an middle-sized white guy.

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#27 by Rabbit // Feb 12, 2012 - 4:53pm

It's not a matter of hate. I know I certainly don't hate the guy.

The question is how long will he last. For a small guy who gets thumped by LBers repeatedly (Wes is a slot man's slot man as his target depth is right around 5 yards off the LOS. The norm is around 10 yards), one has to wonder if he'll last longer than his pint sized, slot receiver contemporaries did. Mason lasted through his 35th year, Driver has to, but he wasn't always in the slot. Most others, either forcibly or not, called it quits soon after their 31-32 year season.

Welker is going to be 31 next year. As such, I hope he's offered and accepts a major $9+mm payday next year at the expense of the Pats cap, and similarly hangs on like Troy did, each year making the kind of money reflective of his waning value.

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#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 12, 2012 - 6:41pm

Welker's only coming off his 6th season as full-time player. Mason played 11 seasons as a starter, and didn't see a drop-off until season 9. Driver's finishing season 10, with 9 as his drop year. (Mason's drop was much less sudden, and even the drop year in season 9 was a pretty good year)

I think Welker's got a couple of 90+ reception years left in him. It's not like finding a hole in the zone is a huge athletic feat.

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#33 by Rabbit // Feb 12, 2012 - 8:10pm

All true but your 2nd paragraph may nail it.

I know I don't get the impression that Belichick thinks Wes is irreplaceable. He's had ample opportunity to resign him, while also talking up Edelman enough. And since RickD is right that Belichick's been money since he arrived in NE (putting aside Law, Samuel, maybe Glenn, and his poor job of projecting Oakland's 2010 season), if Wes resigns elsewhere, he's probably closer to shot/replaceable then most would like to believe, and if he stays, sure, 3 years is possible. Why not.

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#51 by sundown (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 12:29pm

One of BB's great strengths is he's willing to move on from guys...which is good because you have to move on from guys all the time. But this isn't the same as when he let Branch leave or even when he let Moss go. Realistically, their window is likely to be closing within the next 2-3 years. Brady ain't old, but he ain't young any more, either. He's done everything; how many more years will he feel like sticking with it? Gronkowski and Hernandez are HUGE for them and both only have a couple years left on their contracts--no way will the Pats pay top dollar to keep both of them. Branch won't be around much longer. Maybe they give Randy Moss another try--that might work out better than Ochocinco, or it might not. They need either Welker or somebody much like him right now.

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#15 by Karl Cuba // Feb 11, 2012 - 10:06am

These articles would be much improved with some salary cap data.

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#17 by Mr Shush // Feb 11, 2012 - 2:02pm

A lot of FO offseason writing (the Almanac included/especially) would benefit from more focus on the cap. It's a crucial factor in everything that goes on. Who can afford Peyton? Who can afford Mario Williams? Who can hold onto their own free agents? This stuff matters.

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#21 by Karl Cuba // Feb 11, 2012 - 5:29pm

Agreed and the nuances of the new CBA have changed the structure of the cap in a way that I haven't seen properly explained anywhere. I think that the discretionary spending power of teams has been reduced as a result of the increased pension and medical benefits. I really haven't a clue what this means in real terms though.

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#36 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 12, 2012 - 9:25pm

That's coming as a separate series from Brian McIntyre, actually.

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#40 by Karl Cuba // Feb 13, 2012 - 4:55am

Great, I look forwards to it. I hate not being able to work out what's going on and I haven't seen any articles that do a good job explaining it.

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#48 by johonny (not verified) // Feb 13, 2012 - 11:52am

Dolphins grabbed the CFLs top running back so apparently they read 4 downs. I also think the Dolphins are going to be looking for a DE. While their roster seems stacked for a 3-4 defense for whatever reason the Dolphins are going to a 4-3 and thus suddenly need to find another edge rusher. The Dolphins have several young linemen that looked ok at times. I think they might find an in house RT and draft oline depth in rounds 3-4. 1st sounds like either a trade for a QB or DE though.

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#54 by Chris Povirk // Feb 13, 2012 - 2:16pm

"Reggie Bush puts up a 37 percent Success Rate"

I think 37 is his rank, while the rate itself is 44%.

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#56 by shankar (not verified) // Feb 15, 2013 - 6:06am

thanks for this very nice

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