Everyone knew that, when the Lockout ended, we were going to see a very action packed week in the build up to the start of training camp. Teams usually have a good five months to prepare for pre-season; this year however they had just one week! Firstly, the race was on to pick up undrafted free agents and they dropped off of the board quickly. Then trades began being discussed!

The Patriot’s fans were left disgruntled after the first 3 days. Many big names, including wide receivers which many saw as a big need, were trading hands and flying off of the free agency board. Many had to be reminded by the likes of Mike Reiss that although the trade front was quiet, it didn’t mean it was inactive! Not very comforting with rumours of the Jets hunting Nnamdi Asomugha gaining rapid strength!

No one could have predicted the Thursday we all experienced.  Firstly the Patriots reportedly brought in Albert Haynesworth from the Redskins for a 5th round pick in 2013. A shadow of his former self in Tennessee, Big Al had lost a lot of respect within the league after holding Washington to ransom, then playing sporadically at best; occasionally putting on a good performance when it suited him! A lot will question the choice, but it is a classic Bill Belichick acquisition of low risk/high reward. The Pats take on little of his salary at just over $5 million a season, whilst not owing him anything if they decide he’s not worth it and cut ties! I personally feel that given the chance to win in a class organisation, driven by top coaching, Haynesworth will revert back to his form that saw him as one of, if not the best, defensive tackles in the league!

The next saw my twitter timeline erupt like never before! There were some mixed reactions, but I would have said mostly good ones! After years of speculation, Bill Belichick had finally landed Chad Ochocinco…or is it going to be Johnson again? Who knows? Who cares? The once prolific wide receiving threat is still very productive. Despite some people believing he is finished and has ‘past it’, under the head coach he has vast amounts of respect for and Tom Brady, I feel he will show signs of the Chad Johnson era which saw him voted to 5 pro bowls and average over 1000 yards and 8 TDs a season! All this for two late round picks in 2012 and 2013! Again, low risk…high reward!

Bill Belichick has made a habit of surprising people and doing the opposite of what the fans want but, whilst still surprising a lot of people, he answered Patriot Nation’s cry. Haynesworth will no doubt contribute to pressuring the QB whilst Ochocinco will almost certainly stretch the field, adding a whole new dimension to the Patriots’ offense!

However, I don’t feel this will be the last of the Patriots’ moves and there are a lot of priorities to address still. Earlier in the week, Mankins thrilled fans by announcing he would sign his Franchise tender and show up to training camp on time; this happens to be no earlier than the 4th August due to the timeline set out under the new CBA! However, signing him to a long term deal will lower the cap room he takes up and lift a worry off of all our heads!

With Kaczur apparently refusing to take a pay cut, it’s looking more likely he will be out of here. This is ideal, especially if we can work a deal with Mankins, as Matt Light is the team’s next big priority and we need to free up some cap space to do so. It’s been very quiet on the Light front so far. The unrestricted free agent is yet to find another home and could very well earn more money elsewhere, but signing him to at least a 1 year deal is integral to the success of our team, and the development of 1st round draft choice Nate Solder, Light’s heir apparent at left tackle.

It doesn’t end there. Safety Jarred Page is the next target for the Patriots. Also an unrestricted free agent, if Page is allowed to walk, it leaves us a little thinner at free safety. Whilst he only saw limited time last season,  he has vast experience at the position and will have gotten a year under his belt in the Pats’ system…it would seem a waste to let his talents go after showing some promise during the time he saw on the field!

Then there’s the issue of Benjarvus Green-Ellis. A restricted free-agent who has yet to sign his 2nd round tender, he was the Patriots’ first 1,000 yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004. He has yet to fumble in his college and professional career and it is rumoured he never fumbled in high school! He is a sure asset to the team and must be re-signed to a multi-year deal. North-South rushers are hard to come by and it would be a shame to lose him!

So it certainly has been a fun day for Patriot Nation! I certainly haven’t got rid of the excitement. It’s 3:30am here in England as I type this and I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Ochocinco is indeed a Patriot! I kind of feel like I did back at the beginning of the 2007 season, similar to the feel of the dynasty days, where we bring in apparently ‘washed up’ (in the words of our very own Rodney Harrison) and ‘finished’ (Randy Moss) players, and utilise their talents to make our team even better! It’s been a few years since the front office splashed out in Free Agency and it finally feels like we’re being aggressive and attacking our key needs; something we need to be as the Jets are hot on our heels right now!

For those wondering, there is a reason I do not include Faulk in this conversation. In football, there comes a time when you have to move past certain players! This is that time for Faulk in my opinion. We have got young at the RB position since drafting Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley and, with the emergence of Danny Woodhead, we effectively have his replacement amongst those players! I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morris kept for a little bit of depth as he can play the role of fullback too, but I think Faulk’s age, combined with his injury, will hinder him. I would love for him to remain a coach and would expect him to give camp a go to mentor the younger players, but expect him to retire as a player before the season gets underway! I would rather see him retire a Patriot then get cut! I hope I’m proved wrong, but I see the Patriots moving past him this season!

So, in summary, what do we need to do to make this free agency a successful one? We seem to have addressed our pass rush issue and our deep threat problem but I would like to see us bring in a free agent outside linebacker to add some depth; Roth and Lawson are the two remaining stand-out players left out there. Roth has a lot of experience under Mangini (Mangina for all you PFW listeners) and could be an asset to the team! Sign Mankins to a long term deal to free up extra cap room and re-sign Matt Light at left tackle. Kaczur seems like a lost cause right now…so cut ties and free up some more cap space! Then re-sign Jarred Page for at least one more year before getting Green-Ellis back on board.

It seems a lot, but if we can get all that done, we will have addressed all over our off season issues in the draft and free agency and even possibly gained the heir to Tom Brady in Ryan Mallett during the whole process! There are obviously other free agents to sign or release, but none are as important as those I have listed. 2011 is shaping up to be a very good year people and no one is more excited than I am! All the doubters out there in Patriot Nation remember this; in Bill We Trust!

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