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AFC East and Free Agency: Patriots in for a tough 2010?

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As much as I'd like to drink the coolaid on a consistent basis, as much as I'd like to follow in lock step with Hoodie and the Front Office,  I can't right now.  Yes, I know we still have the draft and there's plenty of time for trades and movement and heaven knows what else.  But that's not making me feel warm and fuzzy right now.  Right now, I'm concerned.

This year, a number of teams turned their free agents into exclusive rights free agents by slapping tenders on them.  A tender is essentially an offer of contract, but ERFAs are, in essence, loaded with poison pills.  A tender is not as severe as franchising a player, but it can be close.  There are different levels of tender for RFAs, the ones at the top being expensive for an interested team.  Take, for example, G Logan Mankins' tender:

The Patriots [team stats] made it a near certainty their most pivotal restricted free agent will stay in their uniform, but they left the door open with two others.

Guard Logan Mankins [stats] was extended the highest RFA tender, ensuring any team wanting to pry the two-time Pro Bowler from the Patriots would have to give up first- and third-round draft picks.

How's that for assigning importance to a player?  Tenders and tags are a tool used by a franchise to hang on to their most valuable players, but they're not always the best thing for the player.  Tags and tenders can stop a player from looking and make that player expensive for an interested team to pickup.  Just as we've tagged and franchised players,  other teams have,  too.  This has limited the pool of available players in free agency, a pool Hoodie has used to his advantage for many years.

Many of us are happy about the signings that have happened over the past several weeks.  Vince Wilfork, Leigh Bodden and Kevin Faulk were all high profile moves that made us feel good.  But have those signings made the team better or have they just maintained status quo, keeping the finger in the dike?  I say it's the latter.

Former Cardinal ILB Karlos Dansby is now a Dolphin.  While ILB is not a major concern for us, Dansby's pickup by the Fins makes them that much better at a position they were struggling with.  And don't forget Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie jumping ship for a touch of the green.  Cromartie, opposite that loudmouthed punk Darrelle Revis, will make a potent combination on a Jabba the Rex style defense.

These 2 players alone do not spell gloom and doom for our Patriots.  But the point is while our brothers in the East are making moves to get better, we're remaining status quo and, in some cases, letting players go (Jarvis Green and Benjamin Watson) when we can't afford losses at those positions.

Maybe I need a happy pill or something.  Maybe I'm just too negative.  Or maybe this franchise needs to get off its collective butts and sign some impact players, savvy?