By Andy Lindberg
It took me a while to get past my hate of New England’s moves yesterday. I thought long and hard about them and tried to focus on them from the organization’s standpoint. While I’m still not thrilled with either acquisition, I cannot deny the upside that presents itself in both moves.
There’s no question the Patriots love steals and they will work with any volatile personality. New England safety Brandon Meriweatherwas a huge question mark coming out of college due to an on-field brawl with FIU in which Meriweather used his own helmet as a hammer to strike an opposing player. To this point as a Patriot Meriweather’s been relatively low-key because Belichick knows how to work with the personality. In the case of Randy “Straight Cash, Homie” Moss, the Patriots stole him for a 4th round pick and Moss put up unheard of numbers with Tom Brady. Even though Moss had to get traded at the end, he immediately regretted his behavior because he realized too late how good he had it with the Patriots.
On Thursday the Patriots acquired a former two-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro defensive lineman in Albert
Haynesworth for a 2013 fifth round pick. In other words, the Redskins almost paid the Patriots to take him. There’s no questioning Haynesworth’s talent. He’s put up 30.5 sacks in nine years (and it seems to outsiders that only 6-7 of those years was he actually trying) and he has to be doubled. Opposing teams will have to double-team one guy and New England still has big Vince Wilfork plugging up the middle, and he needs to be doubled as well. While this move is still suspect, it is more important that Haynesworth perform well as New England has just released longtime left defensive end Ty Warren. One would figure on any given down opposing teams will have to commit 3-4 lineman for two guys while a linebacker such as Jerod Mayo can walk to the opposing QB and crush him (such is the theory). The Patriots did fill a need here with D-line help and not to mention these veterans can also help the wealth of younger D-lineman the Patriots have. All in all, like Moss, if this doesn’t work out it’s really not a tragedy because the Patriots gave up a 5th rounder for Haynesworth and he agreed to re-work his contract as part of the trade, meaning the Patriots will not be shelling out the majority of a $100 million mistake made by Dan Snyder. I am not ecstatic about the move, but from a statistical standpoint given what the Patriots had on defense, it cannot hurt New England
Later in the same day, New England traded a pair of later-round draft picks to Cincinnati for disgruntled wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, a much more likable character than Haynesworth only because of his flashy end-zone dances and utterances of hate toward what he calls the “No Fun League.” There’s no question Ochocinco, like Moss, once belonged to a class of elite receivers. A six-time Pro-Bowler, Ochocinco put up 1,047 yards only 2 years ago and 9 TD’s as a 31-year-old. He keeps in phenomenal shape but unfortunately played for a poor Bengal team. He put up 1,000+ yards in six straight seasons from ’02-’07. He still has some gas left in the tank and quite frankly, if you play with Tom Brady, he will force you to be good even if you’re not overly exceptional. Examples that come to mind are David Givens, David Patten, Deion Branch (who became very good again when he got back to NE last year), and Jabar Gaffney, just to name a few. This move spreads opposing defenses out more especially with the Jets making a legitimate push for Nnamdi Asomugha, the second best cover corner in the NFL behind the Jets’ own Darrelle Revis. The Patriots needed to upgrade at receiver. Brady now has two very, very good receiving tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. He has Wes Welker and Deion Branch (whom Brady would literally throw to blindfolded and still know where Branch was on the field). Brady also has the young 24-year old Brandon Tate, who has tremendous upside. Throw Ochocinco into the mix and have fun. If you double one of the receivers, teams run the risk of leaving the other receiver open or getting burned up the middle with a double tight end set. Ochocinco may not be as good as he once was, but he still demands that teams put an above-average defensive back on him. He can still put up very good numbers with the right QB.
The Patriots re-signed Logan Mankins (thank God) so Brady will remain pretty well protected. These are far from the 2007 regular season Patriots, but there is a very good upside. The Patriots spent little to nothing to get both Haynesworth and Ochocinco. Now, for all we know, they’ll both get hurt in the preseason. However, if they stay healthy, the Patriots did become much more of a threat to go deep into the playoffs, especially given that the Jets are actually good now. The one thing that still irks me off is not drafting a better RB (like Mark Ingram). This is mostly because I’m a Crimson Tide fan and that the Patriots went out and drafted two running backs a round later. I like BenJarvus Green-Ellis a lot, but if he’s not 1,000 yard capable this year, New England could have a problem. If Green-Ellis is that effective along with Danny Woodhead, I’d be scared as an opposing defensive coordinator. Time will tell on how these moves pan out, but for right now the moves seem to have solid theory and motivation behind them.