From three time Pro Bowl (at the time) running back Corey Dillon, to two time Pro Bowl and one time All Pro (at the time) strong safety Rodney Harrison, to twelve time Pro Bowl and nine time All Pro linebacker Junior Seau, to five time Pro Bowl and three time All Pro (at the time) receiver Randy Moss the Patriots have long had a knack of finding skilled veterans who had enough left in the tank to help the team in their Super Bowl aspirations. These are players who had already made a name for themselves elsewhere; some of whom had legitimate Hall of Fame bids without ever wearing the Flying Elvis. Some, like Dillon and Moss, had a troubled past. All were looking for that one thing they had never achieved in their professional career: a Super Bowl ring.
With the Patriots winning a Super Bowl in 2001 and narrowly avoiding the playoffs in 2002, they were an up and coming team with legitimate playoff hopes. After they won back to back Lombardis in 2003 and 2004, they were THE TEAM to join if you had talent and wanted a ring. The loss to the Giants in 2007, in my opinion, did nothing to tarnish that standard. If for no other reason than the perfect regular season. They had actually been to the big game, after all, even if they hadn't won it.
In 2008, they lost Tom Brady and went 11-5 with a backup that hadn't played a meaningful game since high school. The glitter from the rings was hardly tarnished at all by that little set back. Since that time, though, the team has gone one and done in the playoffs two years in a row. Sure they actually made it to the playoffs, but the last three playoff games have been losses. The last ring was earned in a game seven season's ago. Are the Patriots still a draw for big names looking at one last shot at glory?
My heartfelt opinion would have to be "yes" with a few BUTS thrown in for good measure. Take Julius Peppers who had the Pats on his short list of teams he'd like to join. He was atrracted, BUT he wasn't going to drop his asking price one dime for "a chance at a ring". Take Jason Taylor who was looking at Foxboro before he settled in New Jersey. He was attracted, BUT the Patriots were just one team on his short list - perhaps not even in the top three. Take Chad Johnson, the prima donna formerly known as Ochocinco, who has much respect for a certain behooded coach. He'd like to join the Patriots, BUT he's also interested in ANY team in our division that's not in upstate New York.
At this point in time, there will be no price cuts to play for a "contender". There will be no preference given to a team that makes early exits from the playoffs. Oh sure, the Patriots are still among the top twelve teams that have a shot at the title. Of late, though, they're sliding down that list. The Jets, for instance, have come closer the last two years. Green Bay and New Orleans are good young teams with rings on their fingers. The Patriots three rings shine no brighter than the five the 49ers earned long ago. In a "what have you done for me lately" league, the Patriots haven't done nearly enough. When it comes to attracting free agents, I'm afraid, they've become just another team. Let me know what you think.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Thanks to AtomicDawg for this week's question. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<