1. What is (should be first ballot HOFer) wide receiver Randy Moss's future with the New England Patriots?
Everyone has heard Moss's comments about how he doesn't think he's a part of the Patriots' future. The Patriots have focused a lot of attention at the receiver position and Moss doesn't believe that the Patriots deem his worthy enough of a new contract. Keep in mind, this quote was from before the Free Agency period, when Vince Wilfork was still fighting for a new contract:
You know the Patriots don't really pay, so when I got my second contract from them that was a blessing in disguise. I understand the business. I don't think they're going to re-sign me back. I'm not mad. I'm not bitter. It's just the way things are in this NFL, so like I said after this year I'll be looking for a new team. I think so.
Of course, after this free agency period where the Patriots have paid almost everyone (except Logan Mankins! I'll keep finding ways to bring him up), Moss should be singing a different tune - but he isn't. Regardless of whether or not he'll be back with the Patriots, this upcoming season is a contract year for Moss. He'll need no extra motivation to perform well and exceed expectations and I fully expect him to post fantastic numbers.
So there are two questions when regarding Moss's future:
1) How will he fit into the Patriots offense this upcoming season?
2) How would he fit into the Patriots offense down the road?
Looking at this upcoming season, I want to point out a video by Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. Now I know these plays are merely skeletons and drills, but what might we be seeing on the field? First play, Moss runs an In route. That's stark contrast to last season, when Moss only ran Go and Out routes. We can remember the couple of times last season that Moss ran across the field he had great yards and first downs- and he also (most likely) was injured. After the injury, he stuck to the sidelines.
Second play: Slant. Moss again runs across the field. As a fan, I wondered what happened to the deep ball between quarterback Tom Brady and Moss last season and I should wondering why they aren't polishing that pass to perfection- maybe I shouldn't worry. If we can find utilization for Moss that doesn't involve him running down the field every down, I'd be an extremely happy fan. There's a point down the field where, if a receiver isn't part of a play, he loses value since he cannot contribute. If Moss stays closer to the first down markers, perhaps he'll always be engaged in plays.
Third play: I'll call it a slant out. He runs across the field and, once he engages his defender, he fakes going down field, but instead heads to the sideline for a toe-tapping grab. Moss stays closer to the quarterback, allowing him a greater chance to adjust the play for the ball.
Now I know this video means very little in the overall scheme of the Patriots offense. I just have to wonder how the Patriots will continue to maximize Moss's value in our offense, now that defenses have figured out how to slow the vertical attack (a simple jam works). Hopefully we'll see Moss getting in on a little more action- and hopefully he won't get injured.
Looking down the road, I hope to see Moss sticking with the Patriots. Jerry Rice was still posting great numbers at 38 years old. I don't see why, barring injury, Moss wouldn't be able to produce for another 3 or 4 years (or 6, if you're Moss). Why not, if he excels this season, sign Moss up for a 3 year contract? He would still have contributions on the field, but his mentorship off the field, helping young players like Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate learn from an All-Time great, would prove to be extremely valuable.
It's not as if Moss fully disappeared last year- he was top 5 in the league in receiver yards and tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns. He has plenty of gas in the tank. If Moss plays at the level of a #1 receiver, the Patriots have themselves a great player. If he slows into a #2, which is a possibility, that's more than okay- the Patriots need top caliber receivers around Brady.
If Moss is available for top 15 receiver money at his current $6.4m a year, which is good for top 15 money per season (the link says Moss is paid top 10 money- that's the average over his whole contract, not per year), he's worth it. Moss is still an elite player who has great chemistry with Tom Brady. There's no need to see that end after this season.
Two more points after the jump!
2. Where might some additional talent be found?
Most of the big names in free agency have already been attached to new teams. The Patriots still have some positions that could do with extra competition, such as running back (it wouldn't hurt) and outside linebacker. Where could the Patriots look to find great quality players? Sure, there are some undrafted free agents to look at. How about an alternate location?
Let's look at the UFL. The league's top receiver, Taye Biddle, has found a home with the Minnesota Vikings. Former UFL players have found their way onto teams like the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. Why could the Patriots uncover some gem from the JV league?
Here's an overview of some players that might do well on the Patriots. (Keep in mind the UFL has 6 game seasons).
OLB: These players could potentially fight for the OLB spot.
Jason Parker, Sacramento Mountain Lions - 6'3, 258 lbs, Parker played at the University of Arizona. He had 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 6 games. Make that 16 games: 32 tackles and 4 sacks. Not saying these numbers are transferable, but they're not bad.
Eric Henderson, Las Vegas Locomotives - 6'2, 256 lbs, Henderson played at Georgia Tech. He's 27 years old. 6 games stats: 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. 16 game stats: 43 tackles, 8 sacks, 5 forced fumbles. He also bench pressed 30 times, with a 4.73 40 time and 32 inch vertical leap. Definitely worth a look.
OLB/DE: These players could potentially fight for the OLB/DE spot.
Josh Cooper, Florida Tuskers - 6'4, 270 lbs. 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble in 6 games. That's 64 tackles, 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He could be a player who could push Jermaine Cunningham and could use his size on both special teams and to reach the quarterback.
Paul Carrington, formerly the California Redwoods, now a FA - 6'7, 270 lbs, Carrington is a monster. While he didn't play much in the UFL (should be a sign), when he was a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons, he posted 37 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble. I'd gladly take those numbers.
RB: This player could potentially fight for a spot in the RB rotation.
Cory Ross, Sacramento Mountain Lions - At 5'6, 201 lbs, Ross may be a little undersized. However, if he can produce, I won't complain. In 1 game in the NFL in 2007, he ran for 78 yards and a TD against the Steelers. In 6 UFL games, Ross ran 117 times for 462 yards and 4 TDs- a fantastic 6 game stat line (that's around 1250+ yards and 10 TDs in a 16 game season). He's a body who would be worth a look and his size would bring a different style of back to the committee.
3. Thomas Welch signs up!
Congratulations to OT Thomas Welch for signing with the New England Patriots. Welch was commended for his toughness because he played his senior year with an ankle injury. He can play both tackle positions, which adds to his value. The Patriots packaged two 7th round picks to move up and snag him so they thought he was worth the two picks. At 6'7, 310 lbs, Welch could do well to bulk up a little bit, but he has great size to work with.
Welch is the 3rd Patriots draftee to sign a contract, following center Ted Larsen and WR Taylor Price. Number details are not available, as of yet, pertaining to Welch's contract, but it's reported to be a 4 year deal. My guess the deal will be for around $1.87M. Let's see how close I am!
I'll update this section as more information is known.