Curran: Patriots moves allow for long 'AFC elite' status

Curran: Patriots moves allow for long 'AFC elite' status
March 15, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Adrian Wilson, Dwight Freeney and John Abraham have spent a combined 100 years on the planet. All are in Foxboro on Friday considering whether or not to join the Patriots.
 
Hold the Ensure. The age of those players – and the team’s quarterback – notwithstanding, the majority of the Patriots roster is young as hell and locked up through at least the middle of the decade.
 
The two top running backs – Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are 24. The two tight ends – Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez - are 23 and signed to six and seven-year deals. The left tackle Nate Solder is 24, the center Ryan Wendell is 27. Defensive end Chandler Jones is 23 and his counterpart Rob Ninkovich is 29. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Donta Hightower are 27, 25 and 23. Alfonzo Dennard is 23. Aqib Talib – expected to return – is 27. Devin McCourty is 25 and Tavon Wilson – the projected safety next to McCourty is 22.
 
The Patriots flipped out Wes Welker, soon-to-be-32, and replaced him with 27-year-old Danny Amendola (turns 28 in November). On Friday, they signed wide receiver Donald Jones and are expected to jettison Brandon Lloyd, who is 31, when Lloyd’s option bonus comes due on Saturday. Who knows if Jones will turn into more than a JAG (just another guy), but that’s another story.
 
For all the talk about the Patriots “closing window” because Tom Brady happened to be born during the height of disco, the Patriots are better poised to stay among the AFC elite than any other team currently in the AFC elite. And that especially includes the Ravens who aren’t only losing and cutting old dudes but young ones like Dannell Ellebe and Paul Kruger.
 
I’m not glossing over Brady’s age – he turns 36 in August. I do believe Brady’s 36 isn’t your father’s 36, though. Or anyone’s. Two years removed from a unanimous MVP, a year removed from a near-miss win in the Super Bowl, I’m just not seeing a lot of slow down.
 
In conclusion, my friends, the “WE WANT TO WIN NOW!!!” picketing you hear on the radio because Wes Welker signed in Denver this week and was replaced by a 27-year-old facsimile of Welker (who was a facsimile of Troy Brown who was a facsimile of Wayne Chrebet), is not just being unable to see the forest for the trees. It's humping furiously away at one particular tree while being oblivious to the whole scene around you.
 
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As you may have heard this week, the Patriots keep doing it all wrong. And that's a hot take, as they say. Can someone guide me to the team that's doing it right, though? I mean, the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl in eight seasons, I know. Which team, though, is stacking them up like cord wood?

Giants? Who've won two but are in the playoffs one year and out the next (tough to win in February when your season ends in December half the time). Steelers? They won two also. Missed the playoffs this year, got Tebow-ed in front of America last year and have only lost Mike Wallace and Jimmy Harrison this offseason. Jets? They used to have it sussed, the radio guys told me.

Must be the Ravens, right?

Ravens legend Ed Reed, currently a free agent, on how he perceives things in Baltimore.

"I think, as an organization, they kind of want things on their terms,” Reed said. “Seeing how things have transpired over there right now, it’s like wow, I just can’t believe how things are happening from a business standpoint when guys give you blood sweat and tears and give you everything. And try to do the best for the team. Players definitely did that."

Thanks, Ed.

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Every once in a while, you hear the name Larry Fitzgerald mentioned in rumors with the Patriots. If such a move were to occur this offseason, the Cardinals would have to take $15 million in accelerated bonus money on their cap in order to make the move. After checking with people in Arizona on the possibility, the words, "Hell" and "No" came back.
 
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The reason the Patriots didn't announce the signing of Danny Amendola when the two sides agreed Tuesday was because the agreement was pending a physical which Amendola completed on Thursday. The notion of having Wes Welker back in New England along with Amendola was considered briefly but dismissed as unrealistic.

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The Welker Phenomenon has fascinated me for a while in terms of how indignant and emotionally invested people become with more than the player but also how much he's paid. When Welker was making play after play for the Patriots, the kneejerk tweets I so often saw in the aftermath were, "PAY THE MAN!" This for a guy who was working for $9.5 million last year and turned down $16 million guaranteed the year before. But the chorus of people personally injured by the Patriots hardballing Welker - more than a few of them the type who leave 10 percent on a $6 breakfast bill - was always mystifying to me. Guess you gotta speak out against some kind of injustice in this world.

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As for Welker himself, there's never been a better slot receiver to play. Period. But it's a niche position, as I've said for three years, and even if Welker's work can't be duplicated, a reasonable approximation can be found. I used to mention Davone Bess until I saw Amendola playing in 2010. Now, hopefully he won't prove to be injury prone. Imagine if he tears an ACL in Houston when nobody touches him. Phew. But even he can't be that brittle, right?

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The depressed market for cornerbacks - Sean Smith signing for $18 million over three years in Kansas City and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing a one-year deal in Denver for $5 million - could signal to Aqib Talib that he's not going to find gold in the free agent hills. That would help the Patriots who have been working toward getting him back in the fold.