You hear a lot about what ails the Patriots this time of year.
For a team that played in a Super Bowl and the conference championship the past two seasons, the list is surprisingly long. Exasperation over whether the Patriots will ever win another Super Bowl is palpable.
When I hear it said -- in a damning tone -- that, “It’s been EIGHT YEARS since the Patriots won their last Super Bowl . . .” I wait for the rest of the sentence. The part that goes, “But they’ve been to four conference championships, executed a perfect regular season, and lost two Super Bowls that were there for the taking.”
Tap the brakes on the teeth gnashing for just a second though and realize this -- all the Patriots under contract until 4 p.m. Tuesday are enough to win a championship.
Without the best tight end in football and their best secondary player (Rob Gronkowski and Aqib Talib), the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the AFC title game less than two months ago.
The same Ravens who’ve already lost Anquan Boldin and Ray Lewis this offseason and may lose Ed Reed and Paul Kruger in the coming week.
The rest of the AFC elite -- Denver and Houston -- should be respected but the Patriots would be the favorites against either team.
The NFC? Well, thinking of San Fran, Seattle, Atlanta, Green Bay, the Patriots should feel fortunate to be in the conference they are in. They could beat any of those NFC teams on any given day, but there are more threats over there.
I mention this with free agency approaching because even if the Patriots only re-sign their own players, they’ll be fine. Retain Talib, Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, Kyle Arrington.
To make a good thing better? Let Julian Edelman follow his muse, upgrade from him to Josh Cribbs. Pluck a corner for depth or to start if Alfonzo Dennard goes to the hoosegow, find a veteran defensive end with something to prove -- Osi Umenyiora -- and add another widebody for depth on the defensive line. Let the Temperamental Artiste Brandon Lloyd stay if there’s nothing else that jumps off the shelf, and they’re good to go.
Sensible? OK. Now some quick hits as we get ready for shopping season.
- Anquan Boldin would never have come to the Patriots via trade. The Patriots are currently Baltimore's chief AFC rival, why would they help New England?
- The Raging Harbaughs colluded on Boldin the same way Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli colluded on Matt Cassel. A second-round pick for Cassel and Mike Vrabel while two other teams were trying to get in on the Cassel deal was giving him away.
- That second-round pick was Patrick Chung who becomes a free agent today and is likely gone. At this time last year, I thought he was trending toward being a borderline Pro Bowler.
- Even if the Patriots decide they have to bring back Lloyd when his option day comes on March 16, can they? If he was mercurial last season, imagine how cooperative he'll be coming back to a team he knows is ambivalent about him.
- When the Patriots signed Lloyd, it was a rare deal struck by the team with the Tom Condon-Ben Dogra camp of CAA. Given the way it went, it will be a long time before another Condon client plays for New England.
- A couple of receiver ironies between Wes Welker and Danny Amendola and also between Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman: In Amendola's case, he was the successor to Welker at Texas Tech; Edelman succeeded Cribbs at Kent State.
- We'll see what happens, but the chance exists that Amendola could be in New England before too long while Welker isn't and Cribbs will fill Edelman's shoes.
- It's been quiet in Foxboro. Maybe too quiet.