With nothing but other teams to watch on Sunday, about 5 stories per week have been ripped out of my hands. Game previews, Q&A's with other blogs, recaps... all gave me obvious and clear things to write. Now I actually have to, like, come up with stuff, K?
Seriously, there's a plethora of stuff out there and I'll begin by taking a crack at what Kraft and Co. should do at each position. The most obvious one to start with is quarterbacks. I'll try to give a brief profile where necessary, as well as contract and salary information. Pointers to Patriots and NFL profiles will be provided, too. On to the show.
Tom Brady (NFL, Patriots, $14.6M, Contract) - Well, what can be said about Wonderboy, Tom Terrific, GQ Tom... He's got Giselle, he's got a baby boy, and he's got a gazillion dollars. A first ballot HoF'er, there's no question TB is one of the greatest to play the game. And, he's on OUR team. From clipboard carrier to starter in 2001, he hasn't looked back since. He's our franchise QB, no doubt. BB and the organization are normally ruthless with players and have jetisoned ones that aren't able to help. That doesn't apply to Brady. HE...DAH...MAN. And he has a bum knee. Much has been written about the status of the most famous joint in football and much more will be written. A major wad of cash is going to be spent to fix the quarterback situation and Brady's knee is the main culprit.
Matt Cassel (NFL, Patriots, $540K, UFA) - When Brady went down in the KC game, there was a collective gasp heard from Patriots fans everywhere. The ensuing frenzy of blogging activity was incredible. Then, there was the realization that the as-of-yet untested Matt Cassel would be starting. MC had a tough pre-season, but the organization saw something in him that some of us fans didn't - talent and dedication. Cassel came along nicely and was able to navigate the myriad of injuries plaguing this squad. 11-5; that's not a shabby way to end your last contract year. Now, the question of what to do with MC is highest on Patriots fans' minds.
Kevin O'Connell (NFL, Patriots, Contract) - Drafted in the third round, many thought Belichick and Pioli had blown a gasket. Not me. I thought it was an inspired pick, even BEFORE Brady went down. Many, including myself, were calling Kevin the "Heir Apparent". He's smart, can run, and has a gun for an arm. Now, it's a must he's on board. As second in line (with Brady on IR), Kevin is more important than ever. We need to keep developing this kid, 'cause I think he could be THAT good.
Matt Gutierrez (NFL, Patriots, $382K, Contract) - Matt was placed on the practice squad at the beginning of the 2008 season then promoted to the roster after Brady went down. Matty G will, most likely, be the perennial backup and it is doubtful he'll see much playing time over the course of the upcoming years. Brady, Cassel, and O'Connell will have to move on for him to see a snap and I'd guess that NE would bring on a new QB before handing over the reins.
What to Fix
This is easy - Franchise Cassel. Is there any doubt? Lingering questions about Brady's recovery make this a must move. If NE applies the tag to Matt, we still have a right to trade him away when Tom's ready. The franchise tag is rarely, if ever, a good thing for both parties: Matt can't capitalize on his recent success with a high dollar, long term contract and the Patriots will tie up $14M and change for 2009. What's the options? That's really it. 4 years in the system, one as a starter in an 11-5 season, gives Cassel a leg up on just about every other candidate out there. Apply the tag and let's move on.