Julius Peppers went to the Bears.
Karlos Dansby went to the Dolphins.
Antonio Cromartie went to the Jets.
Anquan Boldin went to the Ravens.
Aaron Kampman went to the Jaguars.
The Patriots managed to grab...David Patten? We've let Chris Baker go, Leigh Bodden looks like a dream and Jarvis Green has a high chance of leaving. We have no Tight Ends, potentially an unproven (sound familiar?) secondary, and an aging O-Line.
I think this is a good thing.
People seem to forget that the Patriots were possessors of some of the most enticing potential free agents this off-season: Vince Wilfork, Tully Banta-Cain, Logan Mankins, Steven Gostkowski, Leigh Bodden, Jarvis Green hell, even Ben Watson and Stephen Neal. We have already signed Wilfork, TBC and Neal. Mankins and Gostkowski are tendered. If any team were to pick up one or two of those players listed, that team would be regarded as having one of the best off-seasons in the NFL. For us, it just means retaining our quality players.
No, we didn't "better" in the sense that we picked up a high profile free agent. However, how many free agents out there aren't about to be heading over that hill into the sunset?
Looking at the offensive and defensive lines, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork are two of the best options out there, and we brought them back (I bet we'll see a Mankins contract in the next week). We have no need to search out more players in FA on the lines, since the Patriots have been known for grooming elite offensive and defensive linemen (a la Sebastian Vollmer).
Out of the LB FAs? Karlos Dansby was the head of that class and he's 29 years old. Sure, it would be nice to have a veteran presence, but when Dansby is likely the only LB walking away from their team, wouldn't it be better just to retain Tully Banta-Cain and utilize this LB rich draft and pick for the future?
Looking at the secondary, it appears that Leigh Bodden is still the class of this Free Agency. Although it looks grim that we'll be able to retain him, due to Dunta Robinson's extremely lucrative (and extremely undeserving, in my opinion) contract setting the bar for DB contracts. However, after Bodden, the FA pool drops. Severely. Cromartie was an interesting idea, but instead of trading away picks for him, why not try and grab a young player in the draft WITH those picks? Never mind the fact that we're sitting on Butler, Wheatley has a (however slim) chance of regaining his skills and Wilhite might be able to be in his receiver's area code!
I believe that the value we'd get in return from trading for a veteran like Cromartie would be the same, or even less, than if we picked up a quality CB in the early rounds. Although people seem to forget about the CB class after looking at Joe Haden and, in the distance, Kyle Wilson, there is a very deep CB class in the 2nd round. Although we'd take a huge hit if Bodden left in FA, a weak secondary isn't anything new to us. There's still time to resign Bodden, which would give us a large boost- and other than Bodden, there isn't much to look at.
A look at every other FA position reveals old players (Terrell Owens, anyone?), whose signing would be detrimental to this getting-ever-younger team. We have young players on our team who need a chance to shine. Grabbing band-aids in free agency, when there are players in the draft who may be just as capable, isn't the wisest thing to do. We tried to cover up some spots (Joey Galloway? Fred Taylor? Junior Seau?) with old veterans. That isn't the solution. The goal is to get younger- and get younger we will this off-season.
The re-signing of Wilfork was more than just a retaining of the best player in his position in the game- it was a symbol to every other player on the team. Do your job and we'll take care of you. This sentiment was echoed in the resigning of Tully Banta-Cain. Do your job. We all have been talking about how this team lacked the locker room unity of the years past- this is our way of regaining that heart.
So yes, we have not picked up any huge free agent that wasn't on our team last year. However, we've managed to snag the most enticing free agent in Wilfork, as well as have resigned many key role players. If you're waiting for some huge pick-ups, I wouldn't hold your breath; I'd wait until the draft. By keeping our draft picks, we can groom players into our scheme, as opposing to picking up or trading for squares and pushing them into circle positions.
Some may be disappointed in our lack of big trades for players Brandon Marshall.
Some may be disappointed in our lack of monstrous signings of players Julius Peppers.
Other than re-signing some of our key players, it has been relatively quiet up here in New England.
I think that's a good thing.