Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that after losing two of their all-time greats in free agency, the Patriots were feeling a little sentimental yesterday, setting aside their hard business approach to aggressively court Troy Brown in hopes of finalizing a deal that will likely keep Brown in New England for what is left of his career. Team sources said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, after the departures of Willie McGinest and Adam Vinatieri, stepped into the negotiations to help retain the 34-year-old Brown. Kraft has allowed Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli to run the business side of football, but with the losses of two of his favorites, Kraft wanted Brown to know the Patriots cared about keeping him. In addition, the Patriots agreed in principle to a deal with starting right guard Stephen Neal, chipping away at some of the team's $20 million in salary cap space.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald and Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that the Patriots last night were on the verge of re-signing Troy Brown to a one-year contract to keep him in New England for a 14th season. Brown would be the first veteran to re-sign following the departures of Willie McGinest, David Givens and Adam Vinatieri. He provides depth at wide receiver, as well as in the secondary, where he has seen action each of the past two seasons. The deal should be consummated today.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that during his press conference yesterday, Adam Vinatieri was gracious to his former employer, the Patriots, yet was clearly ready to move on. "I have no animosity toward that organization whatsoever," Vinatieri said of the Patriots. "If there's any one thing I can say, it's thank you to all the fans for all the support and well-wishing and just all the people there that have supported not only myself, but the team. They're a great organization, really a truly classy place. This to me was the right decision. "There's nothing negative for me to say about them at all." The Colts on Tuesday signed him to a reported five-year, $10 million contract that includes salaries of $2.5 million for each of the first three years and a $3.5 million signing bonus.
Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal draws comparisons of Adam Vinatieri going to the Colts with Johnny Damon going to the New York Yankees. Reynolds writes that the days of most players growing old with their original teams is now as old fashioned as afternoon doubleheaders and "win one for the Gipper" pregame pep talks. Free agency has changed that. The huge money has changed that. Once upon a time no one knew how much money athletes made. Now it's as well-known as their stats, always in your face. Once upon a time we were able to look at pro sports through a child's eyes. It's almost impossible to do that anymore.
Tim Weisberg of the Standard Times writes that the concept of setting a value number on a player has worked well for the Patriots since Bill Belichick was given the keys to the stadium. The coach has never let emotion get the better of him when it came to making player personnel decisions. But letting Vinatieri go the the Colts goes beyond the thousands of No. 4 Patriots jerseys that now mean nothing more than memories. This means more than just the loss of one player, albeit one of the most iconic in franchise history. This shows that no matter who you are, no matter what you've done for the franchise, it's all about the bottom line.
Michael Parente of the WoonsocketCall writes that several key free agents have left New England this winter, prompting many to wonder where the team is heading as the 2006 season approaches. The negatives have far outweighed the positives, but there's still plenty of time left as the Patriots continue to build their roster. Once they replace Vinatieri, the Patriots need to add depth at wide receiver. Givens' departure created a major void that they hope can be replaced by Reche Caldwell - the former San Diego Charger who signed with the team earlier this month. McGinest is arguably the easiest of the free-agent departures to replace. The Patriots could move Mike Vrabel back to outside linebacker and give Monty Beisel a chance to start inside next to Tedy Bruschi. Shuffling the lineup would leave them with a solid starting rotation, but little depth, so they might need to consider finding reinforcements within the next two months. The Patriots are roughly $19 million under the salary cap, so they have money to spend. They're undoubtedly looking for value with each acquisition in order to ensure they won't fall into financial trouble down the road. They also have enough picks in next month's draft to continue to stockpile young talent.
The Republican reports that Go FIT, a nonprofit fitness and wellness organization based in Western Massachusetts, will hold a fund-raising event, "Breakfast For Champions," featuring keynote speaker Doug Flutie of the New England Patriots on April 4 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Blake Student Commons at Bay Path College in Longmeadow. Tickets for this event are $50 per person.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.