By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots had a flurry of activity on Friday, perhaps setting the stage for even bigger things to come during NFL Free Agency. After the Danny Amendola signing, things were quiet around 1 Patriot Place for only a short time.
The team re-signed CB Kyle Arrington to a 4-year $16 million dollar contract which should answer the questions about the slot CB position for the foreseeable future. They also added veteran KR/RB Leon Washington, WR Donald Jones and perhaps the biggest deal of the day was the signing of former Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson on a three year deal.
Also included in the day’s activities were the hosting of DE John Abraham, DE Dwight Freeney and WR Emmanuel Sanders. The announcement as of Friday night was that nothing had been finalized on either Abraham or Freeney and reports were circulating but remain unconfirmed that Sanders was given an offer sheet.
Arrington Signing A No-brainer- While the amount of money given to Kyle Arrington may be a subject for discussion, the decision to bring him back is not. With Aqib Talib still unsigned and the status of Alfonzo Dennard uncertain because of legal woes, the re-signing of Arrington brings stability to the CB as he is a proven commodity in the defense.
When playing in the slot, Arrington was very effective and should continue to be there if the team is able to re-sign Talib and Dennard is available once the season starts. He has played on the outside when forced to move due to injury and was not as effective. He also brings a valuable presence on STs as well.
Wilson, A True Strong Safety- Adrian Wilson, if he still has gas left in the tank, should bring a physical “in the box” presence to the safety position. A big (6’3 230) strong safety, the five-time Pro-Bowler excels in run support, and blitzing off the edge.
He also brings a true strong safety presence, something the team has lacked to the team. With Devin McCourty at FS, the team played Steve Gregory somewhat out of position next to him. While not a great cover safety, Wilson should be more than able to hold his own against TEs, especially in sub-packages. He’ll be looked upon to fulfill that role and probably rotate down to be that hybrid LB/S role Bill Belichick has sought for quite some time. Gregory would then rotate to the second deep safety position. Where this leaves last year’s 2nd round pick Tavon Wilson at this point is unclear.
Washington A Much Needed Upgrade- Leon Washington brings a much needed upgrade at the kich returner’s position for the Patriots. One of the most dynamic returners in the league, his average of 29.0 on returns in 2012 stands in stark contrast to the team’s dismal 21.4 average, good for only 25th in the league.
From a practical standpoint, that would give the Patriots starting field position at closer to the 30 yard line rather than the 20. The change in field position alone is big and couple that with Brady and the offense and it gives them many more options.
Washington also will bring a depth at the 3rd down RB receiver slot that was ably filled by Danny Woodhead, who’s moved on to the Chargers yesterday. It also doesn’t bode well for Jeff Demps, the speedster from Florida who was on IR last year and wants to resume his track career as well as play in the NFL. Belichick, who lives, eats, and breathes football can’t be pleased about that. The Washington signing is proof of that. The training camp battle between those two should prove to be interesting.
Jones Brings WR/ST Depth- Donald Jones was signed from the Buffalo Bills and will bring good size, (6’ 208lbs) and excellent run blocking ability to the WR position. Most Patriots fans remember the big hit from Vince Wilfork on Jones that caused a fumble as well as his 68 yard touchdown against them in 2012.
Jones could be a valuable piece of the puzzle when the team goes to its spread formation. He can catch the ball (41 recepts in 2012) and play STs as well as step in and be a spot starter if need be. He will bear watching during training camp to see how the team plans to use him.
But the big question remaining for the Patriots right now is Aqib Talib, if the Patriots sign him and one or more of the visitors from Friday, the team will be in great position for the NFL Draft in April. All has been quiet on the Talib front, but with the market playing itself out for cornerbacks, the Patriots are in a good position to sign him to a team friendly deal.
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 Podcast at blog talk radio as the writers from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesday at 12 noon. We will also continue to update the Patriots moves on Free Agency as they occur.