The New England Patriots have made an interesting start to the off-season. Star receiver Wes Welker has left for rivals, the Denver Broncos and number 2 receiver, Brandon Lloyd has been released, though he could be back for less money. Other losses include top O-line back up, Donald Thomas and fan favourite Danny Woodhead.
The Patriots have made a number of key veteran signings that will definitely make them a better team next season. Specifically the signing of Adrian Wilson will add a veteran presence in the secondary. A number of key resignings have also been made including top slot corner, Kyle Arrington and starting corner, Aqib Talib which is a huge boost for the New England secondary, which faces the prospect of seeing Alfonzo Dennard heading to prison.
The Patriots have been pretty active in free agency so far, and as usual, they have made some interesting signings in an attempt to create good competition for roster places.
The signing of Leon Washington adds an obvious need to the Patriots roster - a legitimate return threat. Devin McCourty and the now departed Danny Woodhead both had limited success returning kicks and the addition of Washington should make the Patriots lethal on special teams.
At the age of 30, he's going to be entering the later part of his career and the one-year deal he signed reflects that. However, Washington's performances for Seattle last season show that there is plenty of gas left in the tank. With Woodhead now in San Diego, Washington, in theory, could play a part on offence. The development of Shane Vereen could limit any opportunities Washington could get, but he definitely has use as a change of pace back.
The signing of Washington could also mean that Jeff Demps' roster place is in peril, as Demps has expressed interest in maintaining his track career. The two could be in competition for one roster spot.
Donald Jones isn't going to be your number 1 or 2 receiver but he is a very nice addition as a third or fourth option. He has good special teams experience and good size for a receiver. With the Patriots looking thin at receiver right now, Jones has a good chance of making the opening day roster and contributing significantly.
It is no coincidence that after Jones had career best games versus the Patriots that they have shown an interest in him. He can be a nice complement to the explosive offense and his size and athleticism is a nice tool for Tom Brady to exploit.
A lot has been said and wrote about Danny Amendola in the days since he was signed from St. Louis as Wes Welker's replacement. It would be naive to think that Amendola is going to match Welker's production immediately and next season, Welker will probably have more catches and yards, but this move is about the long term. The Pats get a replacement that is five years younger, more athletic and even more sure handed.
The biggest question about Amendola is his fitness. Injuries have plagued him the last two seasons and he has been limited to just 12 games over that period. After the success of Troy Brown and Welker in the slot, Bill Belichick and his staff seem very confident they can continue their success with Amendola there. Amendola has history with offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels who was Amendola's OC during the 2011 season. That should make Amendola's transition to the tricky Patriots offense smoother than it could have been and if I were Amendola, I would be on the phone to Tom Brady immediately, working things out and developing chemistry.
Before Pats fans get carried away at the signing of the multiple time Pro Bowler, don't expect Rodney Harrison type production from Adrian Wilson. Firstly, Harrison's body had many more years left than Wilson's does and Harrison was simply the better player, regardless of what Pro Bowl voters think.
Wilson's biggest contribution will most likely be within the locker room as he can act as a mentor to Tavon Wilson, who has shown promise, and there are not many better safeties to learn from than his namesake. Wilson, I suspect, will most likely be used in the sub defence, possibly even as a linebacker. He will definitely compete for a starting place and as a result, the underwhelming Steve Gregory could see his play limited. Despite his larger frame, Wilson is supremely athletic and has the playmaking ability the Patriots defense has been calling out for. Wilson is a tough, talented veteran who will serve a key role for the Patriots over the next season. An impressive signing.