John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant writes that the first week of free agent shopping has brought remarkable change to the NFL. The free-spending ways of the Redskins and Browns, the trade of Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins, the release of productive but opinionated receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens, who joined the Cowboys Saturday, and the signing of quarterback Drew Brees by the Saints will change the dynamic of the upcoming April draft and the feel of the 2006 season.
Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the last five years. They've made the playoffs four of the last five years. That record would seem to speak eloquently, and emphatically, for itself. Yet some people, upset by the departures of veteran free agents David Givens and Willie McGinest, and concerned that popular kicker Adam Vinatieri might follow those two out of town, are wondering if the Patriots know what they're doing. San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, who grew up in Cranston, and began his career in pro football as a part-time film grader for the Pats more than 25 years ago, isn't one of those people. "I study other organizations," he said last week, "to see how they do business. It's interesting to see the ones who'll stick to their guns. If you overpay players, of course they'll sign with you. But you have to draw a line in the sand. That's why I admire the Patriots." Others are questioning the Patriots for allowing Givens and McGinest to sign with other clubs.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe and Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant report that the Patriots signed former San Diego Chargers wide receiver Reche Caldwell on Friday. Caldwell, the Chargers' second-round draft pick in 2002, started only 14 games with the Chargers in four seasons and is deemed a disappointment as the 48th overall pick. Caldwell has 76 receptions for 950 yards and 7 TDs in his career. "Reche made the comment to me after he met with [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick that he was excited about the team's offense," said Tony Fleming, Caldwell's agent. "He said there were some routes he had never seen before, but he really felt like it was a system designed for a quarterback and receiver to make some plays. He knows what the organization has done and he knows what type of quarterback is there. He sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald reports that kicker Adam Vinatieri left Green Bay Friday night without having signed a free agent contract. Vinatieri is likely looking for the largest deal ever given to a kicker, which would mean an annual salary well over $2 million per season and a signing bonus north of $3 million. He is close with Packers executive Andrew Brant, who served as the kicker's agent for his first few seasons with the Patriots.
Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag which discusses the departure of wide receiver David Givens and the future of linebacker Willie McGinest.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.