Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

When and if the labor situation gets settled, the NFL's free agent shopping period will follow soon after. Who's out there? What do the Patriots need? What do the Patriots have? We'll go position-by-position to bring you up-to-speed. WIDE RECEIVERStatus Report: The Patriots scored 31 or more points in every game after the Cleveland debacle. 39, 31, 45, 45, 36, 31, 34, 38. Five players caught more than 30 balls, six players were over 375 yards receiving. Their passing game is excellent. Their wide receivers had a terrific year. But still...there's something that makes you feel they could be more complete at the position. And better stocked for the future.Who They Got: Wes Welker is entering the final year of his contract and is about to turn30.Coming off the ACL injury, he hada modest year by his recent standards - 86 catches for 848 yards and 9.9 average. His could be a sticky renegotiation.Deion Branch is 32. His presence kick-started the offense and - in an upset - opened things up for diversity the way Randy Moss didn't. Brandon Tate remains raw but he's their X receiver. Julian Edelman had a very disappointing second year and was plagued by drops. Taylor Price performed a season-long apprenticeship as a rookie before making three catches in the regular-season finale. What They Need:For one thing, they need to panic less than the region did after the playoff loss to the Jets. FIELD STRETCHAAAHHH! THEY NEED A FIELD STRETCHAAHHH! They do need a better outside the numbers threat than simply Tate, though. And they need better depth at all three receiver spots. But the transformation of the passing game from a wideout-based one to one that features tight ends means we have to redefine what they need going forward. The Patriots have made a habit of trying to find smart, veteran receivers who are advanced in the pro passing game. Those are the ones with whom Brady has most success. There have been misses - Torry Holt, Joey Galloway - but they are always looking for that kind of player. Who's Out There: Braylon Edwards (Jets),Sidney Rice(Vikings), Brad Smith (Jets), Steve Smith (Giants), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Santana Moss (Redskins), Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars), Randy Moss (Titans), Lance Moore (Saints), Jacoby Jones(Texans) Possible Targets: Santana Moss, Brad Smith, Lance Moore, Jacoby Jones. Braylon's a moron; Santonio and the Giants Steve Smith want to stay where they are. Santana Moss is a smart route runner. Smith is a Swiss Army knife and his gain would be the Jets' loss. One guy the Patriots should explore is the Panthers' Steve Smith. He turns 32 in May and has two years left on his contract. He's got nobody to throw to him in Carolina and his numbers reflect that 46 catches for 554 yards last year. He is the same as a Corey Dillon or Randy Moss - very talented, very competitive and combustible. New England would be Eden for him for a year or two. A third-round pick could get it done on draft day. More than Chad Ochocinco, who - a well-informed source recently told me - has lost his nerve and work ethic - Smith is the kind of player to target.

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 4

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 3

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.