Tom E. Curran offers five things you don't have to worry about.
1. Tom Brady Holding Out. He's not in this for the money. Over the years, we've gotten a mountain of evidence that shows Tom Brady is motivated more by team success and personal excellence than money. If he's irritated about not having a new deal, its not because he's worried about putting Jack and Ben through college some day. It's because he feels he's played for his entire career at a below-market rate and he shouldn't have to mud-wrestle for his fourth and final contract. When it comes to money and contracts, he's never made a public misstep. In fact, "We all get paid too much," is one of the things I specifically remember him saying. A holdout is out of the question because A) it invites controversy B) it damages the team and his teammates and C) football is too important to Brady.
2. The Kicker
In each of the past three years, Stephen Gostkowski has made more than 80 percent of his field-goal attempts. Last year, he was at 83.9 (26 for 31) and was 2 of 3 outside 50 yards. He's 26 years old and – even though he's one of those guys who got screwed out of becoming a free agent because of the expiring CBA – he's signed his restricted free agent tender and is good to go for 2010.
3. The 2009 Leadership Disaster
Did we pummel that angle or did we pummel that angle? How many times were you reminded that the departures of Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour left a void on defense that was filled by guys who simply didn't buy in to what Bill Belichick and his staff were selling? How's it changed now? With guys like Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Darius Butler, Ty Warren, Tully Banta-Cain, Gary Guyton newly acquired Damione Lewis and rookie Brandon Spikes. The first six I mentioned won't let 2009 happen again and the last two are going to be excellent additions because of their passion and professionalism.
4. Coaching Shortcomings
The lack of leadership on the field in 2009 was often matched by the lack of experience and competence on the sidelines. Defensively, the secondary was a wreck with young Josh Boyer in charge of a talented-but-hard-to-rein-in crew. Meanwhile, de-facto coordinator Bill O'Brien never hit his stride pulling the levers for the Patriots' once devastating offense. Wasted timeouts, poor communication and predictability became hallmarks of the New England offense last year. Early in this offseason, Belichick made a decisive move to fix the defense, parting ways with defensive coordinator Dean Pees and assuming a greater role on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, Boyer was reassigned while former Patriots safety and – more recently – Notre Dame defensive coordinator Corwin Brown was brought in to coach the secondary. As for O'Brien, he seems worth betting on. In minicamps this spring he was very vocal and crystal clear about his expectations. There should be a big sideline improvement in 2010.
5. Wide Receiver Depth
Even if Wes Welker isn't ready for the start of the season, the Patriots have done a nice job stocking the pond at wideout. Randy Moss, Torry Holt, Julian Edelman, Sam Aiken, Brandon Tate, rookie Taylor Price, undrafted dude Darnell Jenkins (I like him!) and old friend David Patten are currently on the roster and – while there are individual shortcomings to each guy – the group as a whole should afford Tom Brady with plenty of weapons. If, ya know, he shows up.
- Help Vince find his 'stolen' Super Bowl ring. How? "Grab the SCVNGR app for iPhone & Android and start doing challenges. Hurry, time is running out!" Vince needs his bling back.
- Rich Perillo puts the spotlight on second-round pick LB Brandon Spikes.
- Andy Hart profiles third-round pick WR Taylor Price.
- Andy Hart takes a pre-season look at the Tight End position and how the competition might play out.
- Andy Hart talks about Terrell Owens being open to playing for the Patriots.
- Albert Breer focuses on rookie signings and says signing players drafted in the Top 45 won't be easy for any team.
- Albert Breer scouts the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Albert Breer has posted Sebastian Vollmer's Combine video. Very impressive. (4.07 min. video)
- Ian Rapoport talks about the "Help Vince" promotion, saying there are all sorts of prizes with the ultimate one being lunch with a Patriots player.
- ESPNBoston explains a bit more about the interactive game fans can play on their iPhones or Android devices to help Vince find his Super Bowl ring.
Vince Wilfork appears on 98.5 The Sports Hub at 9am this morning. Always good to hear Vince, and he's got Brady's back when the contract question comes up.
- Jamison Henley (Baltimore Sun) Early scouting report: New England Patriots.
- John Clayton (ESPN) Podcast: Clayton talks Brady, T.O.
- ESPN Podcast: Patriots WR Wes Welker talks about injury.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) No progress on first-round negotiations.
- The changing impact of the safety position. Cover safeties are now in high demand. (Nat'l Football Post)
- ESPN Video: Michael Smith, Tedy Bruschi and Tim Hasselbeck on why Terrell Owens is still unsigned.
- Eric Edholm (Pro Football Weekly) Owens, Patriots are unlikely match.
- Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) Is it collusion that's keeping Terrell Owens unemployed?
- Mike Florio (Sporting News) Ten possible landing spots for Terrell Owens.
- Aaron Wilson (Nat'l Football Post) Source: Harvey Unga could go as high as third or fourth round.
- Wes Bunting (Nat'l Football Post) What’s Unga worth?
- Aaron Wilson (Nat'l Football Post) Richard Seymour expected to play under franchise tag. No new deal coming for veteran defensive end.
- Jerry McDonald (Oakland Tribune) Where is Seymour's ripple effect?
- Pat Kirwan (NFL.com) Without defensive improvement, these seven teams will struggle.