October 1, 2016

Should The Patriots Re-Sign Vince Wilfork?

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s not even a question, right?

Most places I’ve looked at have signing the massive nose tackle to a long term contract the number one priority this offseason for the New England Patriots. Many, including media people, say that OBVIOUSLY the Patriots first order of business this offseason is getting this done.

But is it? And should it be?

I’ll admit, I’ve leaned towards the camp of getting him signed up long term. He’s a top performer at his position, was their best defensive player this season, has been loyal to his six-year contract, and has by all accounts been a solid citizen and generous in the community. He has endeared himself to many, and his appearance on WEEI earlier today, where he declared ““I want a long-term deal, or I want to be free” resulted in a number of people on Twitter trying to start a grass-roots campaign to get the Patriots to reward his loyalty and sign him up to the deal he is looking for.

But is it a slam-dunk no-brainer that the Patriots should just back the Brinks truck up to Wilfork’s bank and unload it there?

Well, let’s try and look at this objectively. That’s not an easy thing to do for a player as likable as Wilfork.

The Patriots surely appreciate what Wilfork brings to the team. Bill Belichick has gushed about Wilfork in the past, and particularly this season. Word is that both sides really want to get a deal done – the Patriots want to keep him, and Wilfork wants to be here – but that the sides are far, far apart on the value of the player. The uncertainly regarding the future of the CBA has been a factor as well. The Patriots signed plenty of smaller name (and size) players to extensions this season, but none of their bigger name players. They seem reluctant to lock up a player to a big contract without knowing what the rules will be in the future. In the end, this could cost them Wilfork.

Looking strictly on the field, while nose tackle is a huge part of the 3-4 defense, how good has that unit been in recent years? They’ve been OK, nothing spectacular. Has his presence single-handedly vaulted them into an elite defense? No. The Patriots won two Super Bowls before Wilfork got here, and they won their third when Wilfork was a rookie splitting time with the immortal Keith Traylor (Traylor started 10 games that season, Wilfork 6). Since that time, Wilfork has emerged as a stalwart on the defensive line, and while it is not his fault the team has not won a fourth Super Bowl championship, the fact remains that they found a way to win those Super Bowls before he got there. Is he irreplaceable?

Apparently he is replaceable on third down, as for much of his career, Wilfork has pretty much a first and second down player, meaning he in on the field for only half of the defensive snaps. This season, the Patriots experimented with putting him on end on third down at times, and he still only played in 51.8 percent of the snaps this season, according to Mike Reiss. More on that later. (NOTE: Please see the comment section below for more information and perspective on the snaps played statistic.)

The second and biggest thing to consider is the type of salary that Wilfork is likely to command. As mentioned, the uncertainty of the CBA situation is a problem here. Does Wilfork expect Albert Haynesworth-like numbers in his contract? Haynesworth’s deal is 7 years, $100 million, which is somewhat deceiving, as many contracts under the current CBA are. However, Haynesworth is guaranteed $41 million in this deal. If Wilfork is expecting that, forget it. It’s not going to happen with the Patriots.

Wilfork is 28 years old. If he wants a 6 year contract, that will take him to age 34. What’s he going to be like at that age? Ted Washington, one of Wilfork’s predecessors at nose tackle for the Patriots, was 35 when he played for the New England, and played until he was 39. Traylor was also 35 when he played for the Patriots, and played until he was 38. It’s possible Wilfork could do the same, but can we count on it? Wilfork’s tragic family history of diabetes which claimed his father at a young age is something that could become a factor for Wilfork himself.

But if Wilfork wanted a shorter term deal, maybe four years, at a somewhat reasonable rate, would the Patriots do that? I think they would, but is Wilfork going to take that? Consider what he said on WEEI in that interview this morning:

“I’m not selling my family short and definitely not selling myself short, just to stay back and stay to win and be part of a great organization,” he said. “That plays a big part in winning. Winning is a big part of sports. But a lot of teams win. A lot of teams win. We’ll see. We’ll see. Like I said, we’ll do what’s best for my family, but I would definitely not sell myself short of my ability. Not at all.”

That doesn’t sound like a guy willing to take less money to remain here with the Patriots. He’s going to try to get every dollar he can while he can still earn it. You can’t really blame him for that, but does that mean that the Patriots are obligated to, or even should, give him all that he wants?

His loyalty to the six-year contract that he signed as a rookie is admirable. The Patriots cannot make that loyalty a factor in contract negotiations. It’s not good business.

Will giving Wilfork the contract he wants prevent the Patriots from improving their defense this offseason? That’s certainly a possibility. But keep in mind also that the team needs to get a deal done with Tom Brady sometime soon as well. I’d say Brady is more of a priority than Wilfork, and everyone else on the team needs to come in behind Brady in terms of salary. You’re not going to pay Wilfork more than Brady. It’s just not happening.

Are you going to tie up your future in a guy who only plays in 50% (or even 64%) of your defensive snaps? That just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. For a franchise that places such a premium on value, that doesn’t seem like good value to me.

Are the Patriots better off with Wilfork signed long term, and mediocre pieces around him because that is all they can afford, or with a Keith Traylor type in the middle, and great linebackers and players around him? The former has never worked, while the latter has worked in the past.

Besides, it seems like half the league is going to the 3-4 defense now. It appears Seattle and Buffalo will join the ranks next season. Is it time to try something new? If the Patriots sign up Wilfork, they’re pretty much locking themselves into the 3-4 for the length of that contract. That limits your flexibility. With a lower price nose tackle, you’re not going to be forced to keep him on the field to get your money’s worth of the contract, and can perhaps do some more creative things on the defensive side of the ball.

In the end, I think both sides are going to move on. I think the Patriots attempted to plan for this with the drafting of Ron Brace and Myron Pryor last April, Brace was a huge disappointment, but has the size to become someone that can hold his own in the middle of the defense. Pryor showed some good technique, but needs to add some bulk. Albert Breer had the Patriots checking out Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody as someone of interest as well.

Vince, you’ve been a great Patriot, and I thank you for all you’ve done for this franchise for the last six years, but I think you’ve played your last game with the Patriots.

East-West Shrine Game Review

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The East-West Shrine Game gets less attention (and, yes, less talent) than the Senior Bowl, but it’s a great showcase for players with the potential to fill a late-round niche. Just ask New England rookie Myron Pryor, who had a standout performance in last year’s contest (as mentioned in PD’s 2009 review).

It took a while for the offenses to get on track in this one. After the West’s only touchdown gave them a 10-6 lead midway through the fourth, the East came back with a last-second score for an exciting 13-10 win. Below, some players of distinction from a Pats-centric point of view.

Get Carter: The best linebacker on the field was UCLA’s Reggie Carter, who read and reacted with fluid consistency. He stuffed East screen plays and broke off coverage to make tackles up the middle.

Other LBs of note? O’Brien Schofield converted from his usual defensive end position for the first time this week and gathered an interception in the first quarter. Though probably too small for New England’s 3-4 defense, UNLV’s Jason Beauchamp looked athletic getting to the edge.

Kafka’s Trial: Northwestern QB Mike Kafka led the East on their game-winning drive,lofting a pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone. (Quarless also distinguished himself with a nifty one-handed grab in the first half.)

Hall Pass: The other touchdown of the game came on a throw from BYU’s Max Hall, who went three-for-three for 66 yards on that drive. Hall’s college teammate, tight end Dennis Pitta, had a 30-yard catch and run and held on to another pass despite having his helmet knocked off.

Helter Skelton: Fordham QB John Skelton (who at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds is larger than many of the players rushing after him) showed off his arm as well as his inconsistency.At times Skelton fired the ball through small windows; at others, he missed open receivers.

Barnes Storming: He’s not fast. He’s not big. He played for oft-overlooked Bowling Green. Still, Freddie Barnes had 155 receptions this past season, so he must be doing something right. (For perspective, Wes Welker had 123 catches in 2009.) Barnes drew double-coverage throughout the game but came on late with two grabs on the winning drive, managing to get out of bounds and stop the clock both times.

The Blair White Project: Great game from Michigan State receiver Blair White, the Big Ten 2009 reception leader with 70. Like Barnes, White has mediocre speed, great hands, and an uncanny ability to get open. He and Barnes paired up in the final two minutes to help make Kafka the winning QB.

UConn Jacked: With limited playing time for running backs, Andre Dixon stood out the most. The UConn product displayed solid vision and elusiveness, whether cutting up the middle or sliding past defenders on screen passes. Miami’s Javarris James has been credited as a better all-around back, but he got little chance to show it on Saturday.

The Eastern Front: Hard to judge the play of the offensive line in this one, but those who stood out included Miami interior lineman A. J. Trump and Rutgers tackle Kevin Haslam.

Hitting The Wall (And He Hits Back): Cornerback Jamar Wall had a strong game for the West, breaking up a fourth-down pass to White that – with 2:35 remaining – seemed to seal the game. Wall proved the most consistent DB of the contest.

An In-Nate Sense: Nice work by undersized defensive lineman Nate Collins of Virginia (6-2, 290), who played with high energy and got into the West backfield throughout the day.

So It Is Witten: Not a great game for UConn defensive end/outside linebacker Lindsey Witten, who seemed a bit slow coming around the end and a bit stiff breaking down to catch scrambling quarterbacks.

Ahem, Alem: Though he doesn’t appear to have the lateral moves for a switch to outside linebacker, Rahim Alem provided consistent pressure in the backfield and knocked down a pass. Ole Miss end Greg Hardy had a sack but – much like his injury-plagued season – seemed to fall short of expectations heaped on him last fall.

Ruffin The Passer: Thought small-school defensive end James Ruffin deserved a mention for his fourth-quarter sack. Plus, how could I resist that pun?

One Win, One Ross: We figured we should mention linebacker Ross Pospisil. Not because he got to play much for the East, but because he attended the Naval Academy, which gives him a pretty good shot at a Patriots tryout.  (Just ask the three Navy players who signed contracts in 2009.)

Keep an eye on this spot next week for a report on the Senior Bowl.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

What Will The 2010 NFL CBA Rules Be Without a New Agreement?

With the NFL set to enter (barring an unexpected last-minute agreement) the “uncapped year” there is a lot of uncertainty among fans as to what exactly the rules will be this offseason for player movement. While many people might hear the words “uncapped year” and think of huge contracts being handed out to the highest bidder, that is not likely to be the case. In fact, as pointed out in question twelve below, while there is no salary cap, there is no minimum team salary either. The Patriots will not be impacted by the “Final Eight Plan” as outlined in question ten, and yes, there will be a draft in 2011, the year in which the Patriots hold the Oakland Raiders first round draft pick from the Richard Seymour trade, as seen in question two.

We’ll be pinning this post to the top of the page here at Patriots Daily so that it is easy to find when you have questions over the coming months.

This FAQ was created and distributed by the NFL and touches on many on many of the main topics:

CBA-RELATED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

1) Q: When does the CBA expire should there be no extension to the agreement?

A: In March of 2011.

2) Q: Will there be a college draft in 2011?

A: Yes.

3) Q: What is the “Final League Year” in the current agreement?

A: The “Final League Year” is the term used in the CBA to refer to the last year of the agreement. Without a further extension of the CBA, the “Final League Year” would be the 2010 League Year, which begins on March 5.

4) Q: What are the differences between the “Final League Year” and any other “League Year?”

A: The principal differences are that in the “Final League Year” there is no salary cap and there are substantial additional restrictions on player free agency and reductions in player benefits.

5) Q: Are current player benefits affected in the Final League Year?

A: We expect current player benefits to decline in the Final League Year. The union agreed that in the Final League Year, clubs would be relieved of their obligation to fund numerous benefit programs. Examples include second career savings (401K), player annuity, severance pay and performance-based pay. The total league-wide contributions to such plans in 2009, the last capped year, were in excess of $325 million or more than $10 million per club.

6) Q: Are retired player benefits affected in the Final League Year?

A: Commissioner Goodell has stated in a letter to the NFL Alumni Association Board of Directors that there will be no reduction in pension or disability payments to retired players during the Final League Year (2010). Since at least the fall of 2007, NFL owners have consistently agreed and planned that they will not reduce the funding for pension or disability benefits for retired players. Nor will they reduce funding for the 88 Plan during the Final League Year.

7) Q: What determines an unrestricted free agent in the Final League Year (2010)?

A: In capped seasons, a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent if he has four or more accrued seasons. In the Final League Year (2010), a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent only if he has six or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no compensation owed to his old club.

8 ) Q: What determines whether a player is a restricted free agent in the “Final League Year?”

A: In capped seasons, a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three accrued seasons. In the Final League Year (2010), a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three, four or five accrued seasons. The first refusal/compensation rights of restricted free agents remain unchanged in the Final League Year.

9) Q: In addition to the right to designate a franchise (or transition) player each capped year, can clubs designate additional players in the Final League Year?

A: Yes, one additional player can be tagged. In capped years, a club may designate a franchise player or a transition player. In the final league year (2010), a club may designate one additional transition player. A transition player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s prior year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no draft pick compensation from that club.

10) Q: What is the Final Eight Plan?

A: During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team. For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases. In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.

11) Q: Is there an Entering Player Pool in the Final League Year?

A: There may be. The CBA provides that the league has the unilateral right to keep or eliminate the rookie pool in the Final League Year.

12) Q: Is there a Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year?

A: There is no Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year. The Minimum Team Salary in 2009 is $107,748,000, meaning each team is required to allocate more than $107 million to player costs (not including benefits). The team salary cap in 2009 was $123 million.

13) Q: Are there individual player minimum salaries in the Final League Year?

A: Yes, but they rise at a rate somewhat slower than player minimum salaries rise in capped years.

14) Q: Do any player contract rules from capped years remain in place for the Final League Year?

A: Yes, some rules like the “30% increase rule” are still in effect in the Final League Year for player contracts signed in capped years. That rule restricts salary increases from 2009 to 2010. For example: a player with a $500,000 salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010.

This post on PatsFans.com also breaks down the main issues in a very simple manner.

Update 2/12/10 – The NFL has also created a website to answer questions. Keep in mind though, that this is all the NFL’s view on things, not the NFLPA.

Offseason Wish List – IND MLB Gary Brackett

This one comes with a tip of the cap to our good friend Scott Benson, who is recovering nicely from his heart attack suffered during the season.

Scott is a big advocate of Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Brackett has been a stalwart of the Colts defense. He’s not a big guy (5-11, 235), so he doesn’t fit what the Patriots have traditionally looked for in a middle linebacker, but as Bill Belichick would say “The guy is a football player.” What he may lack in size, he makes up for in effort, leadership, intelligence and will.

The Globe today had a profile of Brackett as he prepares with his Colts teammates to face the Jets in the AFC Championship game (AKA Black Sunday for Patriots fans). Colts coach Jim Caldwell described Brackett this way:

“He’s a guy who loves what he is doing. He has an infectious sort of personality, and it rubs off on every single guy on our defense, even with his voice inflection. They trust him, they know he is going to be right when he gets the defense set, and he plays recklessly.

“He’s a guy people have considered to be a bit undersized, but he plays big every single night out.’’

With the much publicized, and perhaps overhyped “leadership void” on the Patriots this season, someone like Brackett would be a huge addition to the Patriots locker room. Getting a veteran linebacker who knows how to run a defense, and can make plays would be a huge addition.

But would he even consider the Patriots? That’s a tough one. Scott pointed out that according to the NFLPA, Brackett’s salaries during the last four seasons were as follows: $460,000 (2006), $1.67 million (2007), $2.055 million (2008) and $2.415 million (2009). Very team-friendly dollars for the Colts, who have some huge contracts on their books. It’s possible he might want to go elsewhere for a bigger payday, but are the Patriots going to be the team to give it to him?

He’s also very entrenched in the Indianapolis community, so he might be hesitant to leave. He is a huge piece of the Colts team and locker room. Should the Patriots manage to sign him away from them, it would be the classic “strengthen yourself, weaken your enemy” move.

I’m not sure it is realistic, but it sure would be a nice move to make.

2010 – NFL Key Offseason Dates

It’s a long offseason ahead, so here is as complete a list as we could come up with for events between now and training camp, 2010. As we discover more dates, we’ll add them in, and as some dates get clearer (dates for rookie camp, mini camp, etc) we’ll update those as well.

This Patriots team and franchise could look a lot different come July.

Jan. 30 – Senior Bowl

Feb. 8 – Waiver system begins for 2010 League year

Feb. 11 – First day clubs can designate franchise or transition players

Feb. 24-March 2 – NFL Combine

Feb. 25 – Deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players

March 4 - Expiration date of all player contracts due to expire in 2010.

March 4 - Deadline for submission of qualifying offers by clubs to their restricted free agents whose contracts have expired and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.

March 4 - Deadline for clubs to submit offer of minimum salary to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with fewer than three seasons of free agency credit whose contracts have expired.

March 5 – Start of free agency

March 15 – Offseason workouts can begin

March 21-24 – Annual NFL Meeting

April 20 – 2010 NFL Schedule Released

April 21 - Deadline for teams to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents

April 22 – Round 1 of the NFL Draft

April 23 – Rounds 2 and 3 of the NFL Draft

April 24 – Final 4 rounds of the NFL Draft

April 30-May 1 - Patriots Rookie Camp

May 24-26 – NFL Spring Meeting

May 24-27 – Organized Team Activities

June 1 – Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned unrestricted free agents to receive exclusive negotiating rights for rest of season if player is not signed by another club by July 22.

June 1 - Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned restricted free agents or to extend qualifying offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights.

June 1-4 – Organized Team Activities

June 7-8 - Organized Team Activities

June 10-11 – Organized Team Activities

June 15 - Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year’s salary.

June 15-17 – Full squad mandatory mini-camp

July 25 - Rookies report to Training Camp

July 28 – Full Squad Training Camp begins

August 8th - Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH. Bengals vs. Cowboys.

August 10th - Patriots host New Orleans Saints in a joint practice at Gillette Stadium (schedule TBD)

August 12th- Patriots First Preseason Game, home vs New Orleans Saints.

August 17th – Patriots at Atlanta Falcons for a joint practice (schedule TBD)

August 19th – Patriots Second Preseason Game, @ Atlanta Falcons, broadcast on FOX.

August 26 – Patriots Third Preseason Game, home vs St. Louis Rams

August 31 - Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players.

September 2-5 Patriots Final Preseason Game, @ New York Giants.

September 4 - Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players.

Offseason Wish List – ARI ILB Karlos Dansby

Occasionally this offseason, we’re going to post something that we’d like to see the Patriots do, be it a free agent pickup, a draft choice, a coaching move, or even cutting ties with a player.

One thing I’d really like to see the Patriots do is pursue free agent inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

As this bit by Joe Fortenbaugh on the National Football Post outlines, Dansby should be in demand this offseason, and to this point has had no talks with the Cardinals about a new contract.

Dansby has the size that Bill Belichick likes in his inside linebackers (6-4, 250lbs), he’s led Arizona in tackles each of the last three seasons, has been a defensive captain the last two years, and has plenty of postseason experience the last two years with the Cardinals. You might remember seeing Dansby recover an Aaron Rodgers fumble in OT and take it in for the winning TD in this year’s wild card playoffs. That’s the type of right-place, right time, big play moment that the Patriots have been lacking on defense.

Dansby is just 28 years old, and should have a number of good years coming up. From the outside, he seems to be a “character guy” who might be able to help with the much over-hyped leadership void on the young Patriots defense.

Gary Guyton is a nice player, but he’s woefully overmatched as a starting inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo in the middle of the Patriots defense. Put this guy next to Mayo, and have Guyton as a jack-of-all-trades linebacker in positions where he can use his freakish speed and athletic ability, and the defense is better already.

ProJo Reports DC Pees Fired/Resigns

The Providence Journal is reporting at this hour that the Patriots have fired defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

Personally, this move wasn’t all that much of a shock. The timing of it is, a little bit. It was reported that the Patriots coaches would be taking a couple of weeks off before launching into 2010. The fact that they made this move now (if true, of course) seems to indicate that this was something they had to get done right now. Romeo Crennel was just hired as the Kansas City defensive coordinator, so does this mean someone like Pepper Johnson will be moving into the DC chair? Johnson had been a candidate for the Giants DC job earlier this week, and perhaps he has been deemed more important to keep than Pees.

Could they hire someone outside the team? Al Grohl has interviewed with the Dolphins this week, so he is available, but Pepper Johnson seems the logical move. Linebackers coach Matt Patricia is considered a rising coach as well. The National Football Post thinks that Patricia is the leading candidate.

Several new reports state that Pees contract was up at the end of this month and that Pees made the decision not to come back.

The offseason just got a whole lot more interesting.

Last Chance To See “The AFL Turns 50” Exhibit

(From Patriots Media Relations)

Special exhibit at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon will close February 8

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (January 14, 2010) – Less than a month remains for football fans to see the most extensive collection of AFL memorabilia ever available on public display. “The AFL Turns 50” exhibit at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon will close on February 8, 2010, with most of its artifacts returning to a private collection.

In September 2009, in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Patriots and the AFL, The Hall at Patriot Place unveiled “The AFL Turns 50.” The exhibit features memorabilia from all 10 AFL teams, including expansion teams Miami and Cincinnati. Artifacts in the exhibit include Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III jersey, game-worn uniforms from AFL greats George Blanda, Lance Alworth, Jim Otto, Don Maynard and Otis Taylor, and a graphic timeline of the 1960s relating events in the AFL to historic events of the time.

The 2009 season marked the 50th anniversary for the American Football League (AFL), of which the Boston Patriots were an original member. The Patriots were featured in the NFL’s first “AFL Legacy Game” on the opening weekend of the 2009 season, a 25-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. It was the first of four AFL Legacy games in which the team donned uniforms replicating those the Boston Patriots wore in the 1963 AFL Championship Game.

ABOUT THE HALL AT PATRIOT PLACE PRESENTED BY RAYTHEON

The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multimedia exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for thousands of schoolchildren each year. In 2009, The Hall received a Gold MUSE Award from the American Association of Museums and The Hall’s signature film, “Patriots Way,” won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. The Hall was named to Boston Globe Magazine’s Best of the New, and was a Yankee magazine Editor’s Choice recommendation.

Tickets to The Hall are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and military and $5 for children 5-12. Children 4 and under are admitted for free. The winter hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.thehallatpatriotplace.com.

–TheHallatPatriotPlace.com–

So Long, Seau

Junior Seau appears to have finally called it a career, telling the Inside the NFL crew on Showtime that the Patriots loss to the Ravens last Sunday was his last game.

Here’s the segment from the show:

CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Well are you going to hear any more of his (Bill Belichick) speeches or are you finished?  This is 20 years in the NFL…

JUNIOR SEAU: Cris, I’m surfing I’m going to go surf.  Yeah Warren, I’m not going to give you another speech.  It’s all over with the speeches.  Whatever happens, I can say, honestly say, that that probably was my last game.

COLLINSWORTH: So you’re going to retire after that one.

SEAU: Yeah, that, that’s going to be my last game.

(On accountability for loss to Baltimore)

SEAU: Tom (Brady) will be the first to tell you that that wasn’t his best game.  It probably wasn’t even his second to the best game.  But at the same time we are all accountable.  We are all accountable to what we do on every given Sunday…You have to be accountable. He’s going to be accountable to what he did, but there’s no one, no one can be exempt in that locker room as to what happened to us against the Baltimore Ravens.  And that’s talking the coaches, offense, defense and special teams.  So, we lost to the Baltimore Ravens because they are a better team.

Making The Grades – Wildcard Playoff vs. Ravens

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

That’s all, folks. The halls of Patriots Daily University are now closed for the season on the heels of Sunday’s humiliating disaster at Gillette Stadium, in which the once proud Patriots lost a 33-14 wild card game to the Baltimore Ravens. The score may as well have 100-0, that’s how much of a chance the Pats of actually winning. Every aspect of the game was a complete catastrophe, from the passing game to the run defense to the special teams to the coaching. The Ravens showed up hungry to win and advance, the Pats didn’t show up at all. The score was 24-0 five minutes into the game and even though the Ravens only scored nine points for the rest of the afternoon and the Patriots had multiple chances to close the gap, they were so listless, so unprepared, so utterly and completely outclassed that they couldn’t capitalize on any of them. It wasn’t so terribly surprising that they lost; what was shocking was the way it happened. No Patriots team of the past 10 years has been beaten so thoroughly in a playoff game and offered such minuscule resistance to it. You’d have to go back to new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s team of 1998, which had Scott Zolak at quarterback and was lambasted by the Jaguars in the wild card round to find as bad a postseason defeat, one that someone called “a pre-season like effort,” and Vince Wilfork deemed, “JV.” The professors here have all agreed that we will try to avoid making this a post-mortem on the entire season, as there will be plenty of those to go around for weeks. We’ll just focus on Sunday’s game and we warn you, it will not be pretty. But before we do, thanks to all who’ve taken the time to read these report cards all year long. It was a rich experience to be able to watch and analyze the game this way and the readership is truly appreciated. So with that in mind, let’s get to the final report card of this crazy, up-and-down season.

OFFENSE: Overall Grade: F

Where should we start? The passing game was hideous. The running game never got going, thanks to the four-score deficit within the game’s first five minutes. The play-calling was atrocious. The offensive line played as poorly as it has all year. Tom Brady played the worst playoff game of his career. There were less than 200 yards of total offense. One pass play went for 20+ yards. There were five 3-and-outs on their first 13 possessions. Other than that, everything was great.

Quarterbacks: F

Brady passed for just 142 yards on a whopping 42 attempts, good for a brutal 3.7 yards per attempt. He turned the ball over four times, three of which were devastating. He was never comfortable in the pocket or out of it, forced one throw after another into double or triple coverage, as well as even more to receivers who were blanketed by their men. He looked ginger and unwilling to run, even with large swaths of turf open in front of him. Some of it had to be injury-related, some of it had to be his inability all year to connect with anyone other than Wes Welker with any consistency, some of it had to do with the fact that he had mediocrity all around him at the skill positions, some of it had to do with his line’s continued inability to handle three and four man rushes. The Ravens said afterward that they wanted to move him out of the pocket and keep seven or eight men in coverage to make him uncomfortable and it worked perfectly. There was nothing good about his performance, even his two TD passes to Julian Edelman, which only prolonged the inevitable. It was a humbling, sad, embarrassing day for the best player in franchise history.

Running Backs: D

Other than Kevin Faulk, who for a couple of stretches was the entire offense and totaled 89 of the teams 196 yards, there was nothing good to report. Laurence Maroney got back into the lineup and he didn’t fumble for a change. But he did follow up one vintage two-yard run with a total whiff on a blitz pickup right up the middle that cost the team a sack and Maroney , again, his job. He was never heard from another time after that sack by Ray Lewis and it’s hard to imagine him ever playing for this team again. Neither Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris had the chance to do anything given the circumstances and the two of them subsequently combined for 25 total yards on six touches. We’ll never know if the Pats could have run on the Ravens given the mammoth early deficit but when they did go to any one in their stable of backs, with the exception of Faulk, they did exactly nothing.

Wide Receivers: D

A lot of credit is due to Edelman, who was only asked to become Welker this past week. He did a reasonable job, making a couple of nice grabs on the two TDs and clearly playing through some sort of leg injury suffered in the second quarter. After that, nada. Randy Moss was supposedly dealing with some malady during the week which could have at least partially explained his (sadly predictable) no-show. he did catch five passes for 48 yards, but none came in the first quarter and none were of any consequence. Sam Aiken suffered a scary looking injury after halftime but before that, he was completely invisible (one catch, five yards) except for yet another play on which a catchable ball clanged off of his stone hands and into the arms of Ravens safety Ed Reed for one of the three picks. Here’s hoping that more due diligence is given to the receiver position before next season than there was before and during this one so that we never have to see him impersonate one again.

Tight Ends: F

It was nice to see Ben Watson reach the likely end of his tenure here by having a dump-off from Brady that traveled three yards bounce off his hands and shoulder pads and onto the turf in the first quarter on one of the rare occasions in which there was actually room for a play to be made. Watson caught one pass for three yards and Chris Baker caught none. All season long, the Pats inability/refusal to involve their tight ends more in the passing game hurt them badly and Sunday was no exception. Maybe it was because Watson, for all of his considerable athletic talent, is not any good, a topic discussed in this very space going all the way back to the preseason. Whatever the reason, Sunday’s no-show by these two underscored a season-long problem, yet another that will need fixing in the off-season.

Offensive Line: F

From Matt Light’s ole on Ravens beast Terrell Suggs that led to a strip-sack and subsequently another Baltimore TD on the Pats third play from scrimmage, to Brady being sacked or hit six times and heavily pressured several others, it’s safe to say that the O-line belongs as firmly in the camp of those who didn’t show up as anyone. Baltimore never really brought more than four pass rushers but, as seems to happen every time the have a numbers advantage in protection, the line couldn’t handle it. Light was blown away a few more times after that first fleecing by Suggs and with free agency looming, is likely a goner unless he’ll take less money and maybe even convert to guard. The majority of the Ravens pressure came up the middle and Stephen Neal, Dan Koppen and Logan Mankins (another free agent who will likely be gone), were inconsistent at best in picking it up. Even Sebastian Vollmer , who has a stellar rookie season and should be a cornerstone for years to come, gave up a sack. Over the years, this bunch, which has been together in some capacity for six years, has been one of the most obvious strengths of the team. It’s fair to say that at this point, to put it simply, they are not anymore. With the likely impending departures of Light and Mankins and the revelation after the game on Sunday that Neal may retire, it will be interesting to see how the line – only the most crucial aspect of an offense having consistent success – is rebuilt.

DEFENSE: Overall Grade: F

The Ravens ran for 234 yards on an astonishing 52 attempts. In other words, they basically announced over the house PA that would be running on virtually every play and then went out and did with the Pats powerless to stop them. All of this season’s biggest duds – Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler, every linebacker not named Tully Banta -Cain – did at least one thing that could be classified as a horrible mistake. The Pats were dominated at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t counter-punch. If you need more evidence as to what a total mismatch this was, here you go: Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco had the fewest passing yards of any playoff winning quarterback since 1970 (34), only dropped back to pass 10 times all day and had a passer rating of 10.0 (!!??!!) and his team still won by three scores. Give credit to the Ravens, who knew what they wanted to do and did it, and give none to the Pats, who showed no pride in their attempts to stop it.

Defensive Line: D

It will be sad to see Wilfork go. Even though he was double-teamed out of Ray Rice’s game-opening, 83-yard TD run, he still was the only player on defense, with the possible exception of Leigh Bodden, who had an OK game. Wilfork was in on 13 tackles, nine of them by himself. He made stops from the nose and from the right end position, where he played in the second half after Jarvis Green was put out of his misery and benched following as dismal a first half as anyone on the entire team. When the Ravens needed to, they paid extra attention to Wilfork and dared someone else on the Pats defense to make a play and no one did, including Ty Warren, who gets a semi-pass due to the ankle injury he’s been battling since the trip to London all those weeks ago. It was said during the week leading up to the game that the Pats would have the advantage when Baltimore tried to run. Not too many more wildly incorrect assessments about football have ever been made.

Linebackers: F

The weakest element of the Pats defense all year was also the weakest element of the Pats defense on Sunday. Starting with that long run by Rice on which Jerod Mayo overplayed the running lane and allowed himself to be easily sealed off, giving Rice a galaxy-sized hole, it was one awful effort after the next. Mayo only made two solo tackles all day, an astonishing statistic given the Ravens 52 rushing attempts. The Pats had better hope that Sunday, and the whole season for that matter, were just byproducts of a sophomore slump or lingering effects of his Week 1 knee injury because he was utterly horrendous all game long and had an overall dreadful season. He can’t shed blocks, he over commits himself too often and whiffed more times over the course of the year than Mark Bellhorn did at the height of his Red Sox days. There is very legitimate cause for alarm with Mayo. Gary Guyton is a nice player, fast and with reasonable coverage skills, but he is not an inside backer in a 3-4 defense. Let’s hope he doesn’t get another year to prove that to us. Adalius Thomas had another mediocre to lousy game and will probably be driven to the airport by someone in the front office at warp speed, he’s so gone. And Derrick Burgess, who had come on of last and was praised for his run defense by Bill Belichick last week, had one tackle and barely played after halftime. Only Banta -Cain didn’t humiliate himself, finishing his breakout year with eight tackles and a right-place-right-time interception after he was beaten in coverage by four steps but adjusted to a different route and came down with a ball tipped by Bodden . If the Pats decide to spend any money in free agency, which they don’t do (other than – you guessed it – with Thomas three years ago), they had best fins themselves at least two linebackers who can make plays because right now they have one and who knows if he’ll ever be able to repeat his performance of this season again.

Secondary: D

Even though Flacco only completed four passes all day, when he needed to complete two of them in the second half, one to Mark Clayton, one to Derrick Mason, both to convert third downs, he just found Butler and victimized the rookie for the umpteenth time this season. I think Butler will get better – of all the Pats lousy young DBs, he seems to be the one who has the best instincts and most polished skill set. But with a few exceptions, this was a nightmarish year for him and he’s got a lot of work to do. Bodden had a decent game, making an incredibly athletic play to tip that interception in Banta-Cain’s direction. But he was also in the vicinity of one of those two second half completions, making him at least partially guilty. He was easily the Pats best corner this year; naturally he’s also a free agent. On a great team, he’s the No. 2 guy, maybe even a nickelback, just to give you an idea of how awful this secondary is. Meriweather proved once again that all he’s good at is playing 50 yards from the line of scrimmage and fielding overthrown deep balls like punts – he was burned to a crisp by Rice and Co. over and over again, routinely taking terrible angles to the runner and thus putting himself out of position. I’m really on the fence with Meriweather . He had his moments this season, especially in the first few games and against bad teams. But when he sucks, he sucks so badly that one has to wonder if he’ll ever turn out to be even a very good player let alone a great one. It will be nice to have a few months off from seeing him look so utterly lost.

Special Teams: F

Another day of bupkus on kick returns. The Pats averaged a pathetic 19.7 yards per return, about in keeping with their numbers there all year. Chris Hanson hit one of his five punts well, sending it 53 yards, but that was of course nullified when the punt team allowed it to be returned 34 yards and into Pats territory. Stephen Gostkowski even got into the act, chunking a 44-yarder that could have cut the deficit to two scores early in the fourth quarter. The non-recovery of the muffed punt in the second quarter that set up the Pats first score wasn’t even a real positive since it shouldn’t have counted and wouldn’t have if Ravens coach John Harbaugh had bothered to challenge the ruling on the field. Only Edelman did anything noteworthy, with his weaving, spinning, tackle-breaking punt return in the third quarter. Given all of the other complete and total failures, it didn’t really matter.

Coaching: F

Belichick ends his worst season since his first one in 2000 with an effort that should and probably does embarrass the crap out of him. Any adjustments that were attempted to curb the Ravens running game either didn’t work or weren’t even made. When it became clear that the Ravens would pressure Brady up the middle and were all over the screen pass game, the play-calling did not change one bit. And, most glaringly of all, the lack of preparedness, mental toughness and pride, while certainly having a lot to do with the players, ultimately falls at the feet of the coach. The Pats didn’t have enough good players on Sunday or all year for that matter.Belichick the personnel guy totally failed Belichick the coach this year, in numerous ways. He never pulls any punches when they lose and always holds himself as responsible as anyone, never failing to point out when he and his staff is outcoached. He was outcoached a lot this year, never worse than on Sunday. He has as much work to do as anyone, starting yesterday.

Take A Lap – 2006 Deion Branch

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Okay, stay with us. In 2006, receiver Deion Branch sat out the beginning of the season in an attempt to work out a bigger, better contract. The Patriots tried to make do with Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel, adding Jabar Gaffney midway through the season. After a superhuman effort from Tom Brady, that team fell a minute short of winning the AFC Championship.

In 2007, Coach Bill Belichick made a concerted effort to make it up to Brady, getting Randy Moss and Wes Welker. This led to the greatest offense in NFL history and one of the biggest upsets in that year’s Super Bowl when the defense failed to hold a four-point lead in the final minutes.

Since Branch’s holdout the Patriots have evolved into the type of squad that has to outscore opponents because they cannot stop them. Though the passing proficiency has proven entertaining at times, it has failed to garner overall success. When thinking of Super Bowls, these names come to mind: David Patten, David Givens, Troy Brown and Branch. Not a Hall of Famer in the Bunch, but plenty of fat rings to go around.

Sunday’s collapse vs. Baltimore was about as much fun to watch as a vasectomy, largely because New England lost sight of what made them great five years ago (for clarification, see: 2009 Ravens and Jets). Therefore, Deion Branch, for breaking your contract and eventually coaxing the Patriots into taking the wrong path, you can take the final lap of the ill-fated 2009 season.

And, hey, if you want to come back to Foxboro, that’s cool, too.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Game Ball – WR Julian Edelman

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

“What are you standing around for?”

If you’ve ever watched a JV football team get killed, at one point you’ll hear their coach yelling at his team. The above phrase is one borne of frustration, when nothing else has or will work. It’s also what you might have heard around these parts as the home team got their backsides handed to them Sunday.

So few Patriots actually made plays that this week’s awarding of the coveted PD Game Ball became easy, especially after Julian Edelman’s impressive gain of a first down late in the fourth quarter. (Yeah, it got called back, but nothing else went right yesterday, either.) Added to his six catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns, Mr. Edelman receives the final game ball of the 2009 season.

On that fourth-down play, Edelman snared a screen pass four yards behind the line of scrimmage and raced to the sideline. He went into reverse to elude two defenders, accelerated, pinballed off two more defenders and slipped past another to gain the energizing (if short-lived) first down.

During the broadcast, they showed Wes Welker applauding this play. Next to him sat Troy Brown. The shot of these two receivers summarized what the Patriots lacked on Sunday: guts. Talent is great, but talent without determination always seems to come up short.

Mr. Edelman, for your mix of quickness, strength and fortitude, and for your consistent efforts to cheer up a dismal afternoon in New England, PD awards you the game ball. Take a little rest this week. You, at least, deserve it.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]