Has the free agent frenzy fizzled out for you?
The alleged “legal tampering” period did its best to whip football fans into a free-for-all furor not seen since, well, since the last legal tampering period a year ago. Or perhaps since NFL Kickoff Weekend. Suffice to say, the NFL stole a few headlines in the off-season once again.
Sure, there were some moves around the league that made you blink – Odell Beckham, Jr. to Cleveland, for one – but the reality of it all is…no one knows how free agents will fare until the pads are put on and the hitting begins in training camp.
And even then, it might be too soon to tell how anyone associated with their new team will fare. We’re still a little more than four months away from camp and five-and-a-half months away from playing any meaningful football.
A collective chill-pill would be appropriate at this stage. Some players got their contracts, others are still searching for a landing spot.
As such, the business of building a team from within continues, and as you are undoubtedly aware the Patriots clearly have work to do on the 2019 roster. Let’s recap for a moment:
- Trent Brown goes to Oakland
- Trey Flowers moves to Detroit
- Cordarrelle Patterson signs with Chicago
- Eric Rowe goes to Miami
- Malcom Brown signs with New Orleans
- LaAdrian Waddle heads to Buffalo
Of the above free agents that have since moved on from Foxboro, it comes as little-to-no surprise that any one of them has signed elsewhere. Absolutely, you’d love to have kept each of these guys in a perfect world, but this world is far from perfect when it comes to handling personnel within a salary cap – and the Patriots don’t have the ideal wiggle room for wheeling and dealing here.
You are keeping around Jonathan Jones, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, John Simon and Jason McCourty. You are actively searching for receivers, and there are still more than a few available through free agency (Chris Hogan, anyone?). You have special teams to consider as well, with your kicker (Stephen Gostkowski) and punter (Ryan Allen) still unsigned.
It’s not like the Patriots are standing still. Far from it. Prudent might be the appropriate word here. Patience should be the next word to follow. There is now some work to do on offensive line depth, with Waddle’s shuffle off to Buffalo, and still work to do on the defensive front as well – at end and at tackle even with Mike Pennel’s arrival.
Working on the trenches seems New England-ish. If you’re looking for the big splash, you should know better. “Value” players, hungry players looking to re-make/redeem/revive themselves will be in the future mix. That’s been a trademark of the “Patriot Way,” until it isn’t anymore.
Frenzy is fine for other teams. Work yourselves up over nothing. We’re a long way from playing meaningful football again. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Got any more clichés to throw in here?
How about – let’s just take it one day at a time and see how this goes?
Scar’s job duly noted
Dante Scarnecchia’s value to the Patriots’ organization hasn’t been headline-grabbing material through the years, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Close fans and followers understand what he has meant, and how he’s gone about the business of developing offensive linemen over the past several seasons.
He’s missed only three seasons since joining New England in 1982, two of those for a short-lived retirement before he was coaxed into returning in 2016. And since that return, he’s merely worked with and developed Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason into solid, dependable, reliable guards; assisted in David Andrews’ growth as a top-tier center; and trained two of the now-highest paid offensive tackles in the NFL, Nate Solder and Trent Brown.
Brown recently took to social media to praise Coach Scar and his Patriot experience, upon signing his new contract with Oakland:
“Thank you to my favorite, the GOAT, Coach Scar. It was an honor to be a part of that O-line group in New England, by far the greatest room I’ve ever been a part of.”
Isaiah Wynn, last year’s top draft pick out of Georgia, now awaits his plug-in-and-play moment with Coach Scarnecchia – one of the reasons the Patriots opted not to franchise tag Brown. Is there any doubt he won’t somehow seamlessly fit right in, even following his injury last summer?
Ex-Patriot lineman Damien Woody told the Boston Herald recently the Patriots “do a better job than anybody of replacing guys when they leave.”
A large part of that is due to Scar’s presence on the staff. Perhaps the Patriots should also think about clearing some space on their Hall of Fame wall some day for an offensive line coach with a Midas-touch around his guys.
He’s also been the tight end coach (in 1991) and found and coached a guy named Ben Coates – who became a Patriots’ Hall-of-Famer himself, too.
At the least, he stands to gain some additional long-deserved praise for a job well done.
It may be cliché, but it’s cool
You’ve heard the phrase “going out on top?”
Absolute props to the one-time Ravens, Lions and Eagles’ defensive tackle Haloti Hgata on his retirement this past week for doing just that. Not so much for his leaving the game after a successful 12-year career, but for the way he decided to announce his retirement.
On top. Of a mountain. A really, really big mountain - Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa - via Instagram:
“Just a man standing on top of the world with a heart full of gratitude. Thank you, Lord, for letting me play the game I love for 13 unforgettable years. I’m retiring on top. I might be finished playing football, but I’m holding tight to the friendships, memories and wisdom I’ve gained along the way. Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it. Walking away with no regrets, just peace in knowing I gave it my all and had a helluva lot of fun doing it.”
Classy, right? Impressive, too, for a five-time Pro Bowler and 2012 Super Bowl champ with Baltimore. I mean, you ever tried to climb a mountain like that one? It takes some athletic skill to get there, sure.
That’s certainly going out on top, for sure.
John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is entering his 27th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio & Television Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.