We're officially at the most boring time of the NFL year. Free agency is in the books, the draft has come and gone, mini-camps/OTA's are complete, and the Patriots roster (aside from rookie draft pick signings) is what it will be in 2010.
So now that we've reached, "The Waiting Period" (as I like to call it, the period between the end of mini-camps and the start of training camp), are you satisfied with how the team played it's offseason? Do you think the Patriots are ready to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2010?
To answer this question, for me, I'll look at an article I wrote for my old website PatriotsBlog.net back in January, which took a look at the five major offseason priorities for the Patriots, and if the team addressed them. Then I'll make a quick comprehensive grade of the Patriots' offseason.
1. Re-Sign Vince Wilfork: I made this my number one offseason priority for the Patriots, for obvious reasons. The Patriots had lost a lot of veterans over the past year plus, and in order to maintain the integrity of the 3-4, the team would need to keep a dominant nose tackle. The Patriots had one of those in Vince Wilfork. So when the team signed Wilfork to a record setting contract for a nose tackle, task accomplished. Task Grade: A+
2. Re-Sign Leigh Bodden: I saw this move as an underrated move for the Patriots, even before the offseason really began. Bodden had played a terrific 2009 season. While he may not have been the definition of a "shut down" cornerback, he was pretty close, and was certainly playing in the top half of #1 cornerbacks in the league. Because of this, I felt that the Patriots should make bringing back Bodden a priority. Turns out, they did. Bodden was brought back on a four year deal. Task Grade: A+
3. Find a Pass Rusher: While the Patriots brought back faces like Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess, the only veteran pass rusher the team added was Marques Murrell, who has yet to record an NFL sack. They also released Adalius Thomas. In the draft, the team used a second round pick on Florida outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham. While Cunningham may have a great future ahead, it's hard to tell what 2010 will hold for him, as it is often tough for college defensive ends to make the transition to outside linebacker their rookie seasons. While the Patriots have certainly upgraded for the future at pass rusher, it's hard to tell how much they upgraded for the present at this point. Task Grade: B-
4. Get Another Playmaking Wide Receiver: Heading into the offseason, I felt the Patriots needed to add some explosiveness to their offense with another receiving option for Tom Brady. Through free agency and the draft, the Patriots brought in three players: Torry Holt, David Patten, and rookie Taylor Price. While Holt and Patten are older, and may not be the playmakers they once were, they should still provide some nice production for Brady and the offense. Taylor Price on the other hand, with his blend of size, speed, and talent, should become an explosive play making option for Tom Brady in the not too distant future. The Patriots also added two tight ends through the draft, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who will also help make plays. Task Grade: B+
5. Figure Out the Lines: Entering the offseason, I felt the Patriots had some things to work out along the offensive and defensive lines. On the defensive side, there was Vince Wilfork and there was the right end situation. With Jarvis Green testing the free agent market, the team likely would need a replacement for him. On the offensive line, Stephen Neal was entering free agency and Logan Mankins was going to be a restricted free agent. On the defensive side, the Patriots managed to bring back Wilfork. To replace Jarvis Green, the team signed a pair of veterans, Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren, and drafted a pair of rookies, Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston. Along with incumbent ends Darryl Richard and Mike Wright, the team looks like it should be able to fill Green's absence sufficiently. On the offensive line, the team made a big move by bringing back the underrated Stephen Neal. If he stays healthy in 2010, that should really help the team. However, things have fallen apart with left guard Logan Mankins. While Nick Kaczur is moving from right tackle to that spot, the team will be a lot better off if Kaczur doesn't have to play guard and Mankins can return. Task Grade: C+ (waiting on Mankins)
Overall Offseason Grade: While the Patriots didn't have a really flashy offseason in 2010, I liked it. They were able to keep their core intact from 2009 by bringing back veterans such as Leigh Bodden, Kevin Faulk, Vince Wilfork, and Stephen Neal, while bringing in some new additions with good track records such as Torry Holt and Alge Crumpler. Meanwhile, the only veterans the team lost were the underachieving Ben Watson, and the regressing Jarvis Green. Combine all of that with the great draft the team had, and you've got yourself a solid offseason. Greg's Offseason Grade: B+
Now I ask you: What did you think of the Patriots 2010 offseason, and is the team ready to make a run at another Lombardi trophy?