The date was March 16, 2006 and the Headlines read:
Patriots Lose McGinest as Exodus Continues
The NFL was just days into it's FA period after a contentious CBA was battered out just days prior, which left certain teams, like the Patriots, with almost no CAP space and too many key players in FA.
The article read: "New England has now lost two starters to free agency this week - McGinest and wide receiver David Givens, who signed with the Tennessee Titans. The next to depart from New England could be place-kicker Adam Vinatieri...."
And of course most of us know how the rest of that offseason went, AV went to the Colts, Branch held out and was eventually traded away... and two years worth of bleeding players and coaches left them nearly crippled, and still they almost made it back to the SB to win it all.
But in the end, losing players like Phifer, Law, McGinest, Johnson, and others who had been part of that undervalued 3XChampionship Defense was too much to overcome, as we saw in the '06 and '07 playoffs despite having Tom Brady (and in '07 the NFL's most productive passing attack ever).
So why am I referring to the '06 offseason when considering 2013 you ask?
Well, for one, similar to '06 the cabinet is practically bare of WRs, and what they still do have on the shelf rumor has it they are about to throw away. The one solid and proven WR they have had in seasons past they can't seem to come to terms with (Welker), similar to the Branch situation that year, the most productive weapon they had, they couldn't bring back into the fold.
And like in '06, the Defense is too thin, in too many areas, and doesn't intimidate anyone. It's been seven years since RAC moved on and players like Law and McGinest no longer dominate their positions... and they have yet to find the players to fill their shoes (though at that time, Samuel did an admirable job, until he too left via FA).
Now unlike '06, they do have the CAP room to keep from repeating those same mistakes...
In large part thanks to Brady renegotiating his contract, which increased their CAP space by more than $8 million dollars.
There is plenty of FA talent out there right now at many positions of need... Safety, Corner, DE
There is plenty of money to re-sign Welker and Vollmer and not go into 2013 without two critical players on Offense
And there is plenty of talent in the draft, and the Patriots have two solid (top 60) picks in which to land a couple players who can come in and contribute...
How the 2013 season unfolds will tie into their offseason decisions as much as any has, the Patriots are clearly a team that is ready to take the next step forward, and dominate the AFC this season... or take a step back, if too many of the wrong decisions are made and they bring in one too many Ocho-stinko and Ron Brace types with their moves.