After an off-season of signing and testing out wide-outs, Chad Johnson, Deion Branch, Anthony Gonzalez, Jabbar Gaffney, and Donte Stallworth, Bill and company cut them all. This might be an ongoing philosophical discussion between Bill and re-hired offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Now I fully expect, Branch or Gaffney, or both, back after week one on non-guaranteed deals, but this speaks to something "investment" that the Pats have made in the evolution of the Tight End position. The Patriots have four on the opening day roster and Daniel Fells who they sheepishly took off waivers from the Giants like a thief in the night. This also goes with the recent dollar investment made in both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (who I have raved about since we drafted him).
What this speaks to is the evolution of offensive situational sets and where you start to invest your dollars (i.e. the changing economic structure). Gone are the investments in full-back and tail back who carries twenty-five to thirty times a game; gone are the high drafts picks in this area. What has happen is that TEs are moving up the economic and draft board scale. As a side note, there is a formula that spring this trend; ex-basketball players 6'6' and above who have soft hands. This trend started with San Diego's Antonio Gates and is also true with the Saints Daniel Graham, and Aaron Hernandez. This trend is also having an impact on the wide-out position which is now more: one-outside-the-numbers player and one slot; and double-TE set with one or no backfield. Gentlemen, this is where the next evolution of the wildcat and the skills like Tebow, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, RGIII, Mike Vick etc. etc. take place (more on that later).
Although I have made mention of this before, in watching the offensive sets this afternoon in the Penn State and Ohio game under the leadership of ex-Pat offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, you see the process without the investment in market value. The TE depth chart at Penn State is stacked six deep; Costly turnover hurt them, but the had a ton of creative sets in the backfield and slots that yielded multiple shot and long-term options. Fact is, Ohio was forced to load the box and then the deep threat on the outside started to go off; Interesting - can't wait to see what Brady Hoke at Michigan has in store for Alabama later on.
I suspect that all the off-season moves and then cuts was Bill letting Josh McDaniels know that we are not entirely going back to 2007, when we had Moss, Gaffney, Welker, Stallworth at the wide-out position and that we were shifting the investment and economics differently that yield more "options".
What I am really interested to see is who Bill picks up at QB in light of us cutting Brian Hoyer who was the back-up to Tom Brady last year. The thinking is we owe him $1.9 MM and Ryan Mallet under $1.0MM (who is darn good I might add). There is a school of thought that we might add another QB to our practice squad or back to the roster and keep inactive; it would be interesting if Bill experiments with unconventional types mentioned above. We'll see...
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