Date of Birth: January 27, 1976 (1976-01-27)
Place of Birth: Pahokee, Florida
Height: 6 ft. 1 in.
Weight: 228 lb.
High School: Glades Central HS (Belle Glade, FL)
NFL Draft: 1998 - 1st Round - 9th overall
Experience: 12th season
Jersey Number: #21
Contract Details: 2 years, $5 million. Includes $1.45 million signing bonus and base salaries of $1.55 million (2009) and $2 million (2010).
Fred Taylor has spent his entire career in the NFL playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Up until now, that is. After visiting with the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots, Taylor ultimately chose to come play for Bill Belichick and the Pats as he enters the final stages of his illustrious career.
This is old news at this point, considering his signing came way back during the early days of free agency, but there's still plenty to be excited about.
First and foremost, the guy is an established veteran (and we know Bill likes his vets), who's hungry for a Super Bowl win. Sounds like he'll fit right in. Here's what Taylor had to say back when he was still a free agent:
“I want to play in a Super Bowl so bad, and the Super Bowl’s down here in Miami next year. I want to be in that game. Two years ago, Plaxico [Burress], my child’s godfather, won the Super Bowl. This year, my little cousin from Belle Glade [Fla.], Santonio Holmes, was the MVP in the biggest game in the world. My taste for that game is getting stronger and stronger. And honestly, I feel fresh. I get inspired by young guys and showing them what I can do. There are a lot of young guys I’m still quicker than. God gave me a lot when he was handing out ability. I still have a lot.”
This is ultimately what attracted Fred Taylor to come join the Pats - a chance for a ring (I mean... I can't imagine it being the weather, can you?). Taylor helps to fill the void left by Lamont Jordan's departure and joins a stable that already consists of Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Omar Cuff, and Eric Kettani (as recently outlined by MaPatsFan here). The Patriots like to employ a RB-by-committee approach, so the depth is important, as we witnessed last year when injuries hit. Taylor shouldn't have any problem splitting the carries; he shared the load with RB Maurice Jones-Drew the last few years in Jacksonville, and the two were quite the 1-2 punch during his time there. Adalius Thomas agrees:
"I'd hate to be on the other side," said Thomas. "You got Kevin, you got Sammy, you got Laurence, you got BenJarvus Green-Ellis and you got Fred. If all the guys are up, by the fourth quarter nobody is really tired. You're kind of fresh. It might not play off the first game, but when you get to Week 10, 11 or 12 and people are starting to wear down I think that, barring injury, that can definitely be a great asset with the different ways you can use them."
I'll be quite frank and say that I'm really excited about having Fred Taylor in New England. The guy can flat out run. However, whenever I'm looking to have my enthusiasm tempered about an incoming free agent, I normally ask myself, "why is this guy available in the first place?" In this case, the Jaguars were looking to get younger and they weren't ready to deal with the $6 million cap hit that would've come along had they kept him.
He is also statistically coming off one of his worst years as a pro. In 2008, he had 143 carries for 556 yards rushing (3.9 yards per carry). Those numbers aren't necessarily his fault considering Jacksonville's injury woes last year. They were decimated with injuries to their offensive line, and Jones-Drew was affected as well by seeing his yards per carry drop to 4.2. Without any real threats at wide receiver, the opposition was allowed to crowd the box and stuff the run. The Jags consequently finished their season at 5-11.
Still, he is only two years removed from an All-Pro season in 2007, and he's motivated. Did you know that he's 16th all-time in rushing yards with 11,271? One of Taylor's goals is to pass Jim Brown before he retires. He only trails him by 1,041 yards, and he's already passed former New England favorite Corey Dillon on his way there. Taylor is also the 5th best all-time in yards per carry with 4.6, behind only Jim Brown (5.2), Barry Sanders (5.0), O.J. Simpson (4.7) and Tiki Barber (4.7). That's impressive production for a guy once labeled as "fragile."
Best of luck to you in New England, "Fast Freddy!"
Fred Taylor Links
Pats Pulpit - Interview: New England Patriots RB Fred Taylor
Reiss's Pieces: OTA Video
Shalize Manza Young: Fred Taylor elated to be learning playbook
Reiss's Pieces: 3 with Fred Taylor
Reiss's Pieces: Kyle Brady talks Fred Taylor
YouTube: Video Highlights (props to MaPatsFan for finding this one)