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Pat's free agency and trading success

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Patfandango, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. Patfandango

    Patfandango Rookie

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    I posted this as part on Patfankens' things I learned last sunday thread but I like this analysis enough to start a new thread. Besides, it was a lot of work.
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    Free agency. I'm pleased that we hit with hawkins and seau the last couple of years but i think that getting 1-2 FAs that make a difference is about right. 2002 was a bust year (Hayes, Martin etc) but otherwise BB/SP have got 1-2 that make a difference. The following analysis suggests how important getting at least 2 FAs that make a diffference can be. Here is a list of players via FA or trade on the roster or that i remember with ! beside those of profound contribution and - for negative contribution except this year (too early to judge).

    2001: Vrabel! Neal! Izzo! Cox! Patten! Pfifer! Pleasant! Smith!, Chatham, Ashworth, Cherry, Coleman, Compton Edwards Huard, Johnson (Charles), Parker- Shaw- Sullivan, Walter. 2002: Hochstein!, Fauria! Buckley Cleeland, Holsey-, Knutson-, Lyle-, Tuitele-, Green, Martin-, Hayes-. 2003:Harrison! Colvin! * due to injury), Poole!, Washington!, Gorin, Mrukowski, Akins, Cloud, Davis, Kichen, Mayer-, Ward. 2004: Dillon!, Miller Josh! Gay!, Traylor!, Andullah, Alexander, Kasper-, Miller Jim, Moreland, Poteat, Weaver, Yates 2005:Hawkins! Scott, Evans, Britt, Childress, Flutie Starks-, Brown-, Beisel-, Stone, Thomas, Tucker,Wright. 2006: Seau, Caldwell, Baker Gabriel Gaffney, Mays, Testeverde, Woods.

    One could argue that the FA success is the tipping point as 2002 and 2005 were weaker years and they were non superbowl years. You can see that in Superbowl years we do quite well for ! compared to -. It's not that FA success is the most important thing but perhaps the thing that puts us over the top given that we draft reasonably well and coach and train superbly.
  2. cstjohn17

    cstjohn17 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Good breakdown, looking at the list I still think the Pats strength is in the draft not free agency. FA selection is dependent on the stage of the team's devlopmenrt. For example in 2001 & 2002 the roster was going through a massive overhaul and team needed players with the right mentality and / or knowledge of the system. As the team progressed into one of the leagues elite the FA approach should have shifted to addressing specific needs but it remained relatively unchanged as many low to average players were brought in with an approximate 50% success rate. This is my beef with the FO, in 2005 & 2006 the team was 1 or 2 top end players away from being the dominant team in the league. Sometimes these players can only be obtained through free agency and sometimes they cost money. IMO The Pats reluctance to fill these holes has left them as a good team but not a dominant team.
  3. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  4. TeamPats

    TeamPats Rookie

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    Great breakdown but I have one comment. All Poteats should nay must be changed to Poteat!!!
  5. 5 Rings for Brady!!

    5 Rings for Brady!! Rookie

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    I think that the Pats success ratio in free agency is a pure numbers game. They have brought in hundreds of players to training camps, but instead of bringing in players with no chance of making the team just as camp fodder, they try to make every single guy coming into training camp a potential starter. Your list doesn't include a lot of training camp players that where brought in for camp to try to make the team, the Hitchc0ck's, Chris Hayes or the Tommy Knight's of the world, who were actually half decent players looking for an opportunity. It is the overwhelming numbers of half decent players that Bioli brings to camp that make for a few good free agents most years.

    Some people think it is an art form or something, but it is really just a numbers game on a huge scale, and creating a competitive situation in camp where the cream rises to the top.

    The list of O-Linemen alone that have been brought in to try out at Foxboro these last few years would boggle the mind. Probably a hundred!
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  6. arrellbee

    arrellbee Rookie

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    Well, you have something of a point. But you more or less assume that particular high profile free agents will:
    1) make a significant difference (ie the difference between winning a SB and losing in a playoff game);
    2) fit into the Belichick system well enough to add to the effectiveness of the team rather than disrupt it.

    1) When you look around at all of the high profile high price free agents signed by teams, what percent of those teams actually moved up to a top contender ? Redskins might be the prime example. One or two pieces are not really the answer for most teams.

    You can assume that the Patriots are 'different'. They are already an elite team so maybe one or two top pieces is all they need to be dominant. But would it really ? What position would you have signed a top free agent for ? The favorites going into the season were probably LB, WR, and DB. What would you have picked ? Conventional wisdom says that defense wins SBs. So if you added one or two top free agents, it would probably have been on the defensive side. And yet, without those two top free agents, the Pats are 2nd in the NFL in points allowed and 3rd in TDs allowed. If you picked just one free agent, it would probably have been LB. But the Pats are 2nd against the rush, 2nd against rushing TDs, and 1st in limiting plays over 20 yards (the last stat is a big Belichick thing). Would and extra defensive free agent have been 'worth' it in terms of using salary cap ? Not sure you can make the case. Suppose you have the benefit of hindsight and said that it was WR that was the place where you put your money. You might make more of a case that a top WR could have helped win one or more of the loss games. It may be a little hard to predict for sure. The big factor in the losses were turn overs. You can't make a case that turnovers by Faulk, Watson, or Dillon wouldn't have happened if you had another WR - and Brady surely has had enough time so that familiarity with those players is not an issue. And at least a couple of the sacks and Brady fumbles were not coverage caused - they were protection break downs. And some of the interception or even incompletions were also to Brown, Watson, etc. And Brady would still have had to get on the same page even with a top FA WR. So I can't by any means say that a top WR wouldn't have made a difference in the losses. But you probably can't also say that it for sure would have - and you still have to deal with the issue of allocating cap money to a high priced free agent instead of using it to sign or keep the solid middle and depth of the team.
    There is only a fixed amount of cap space.

    2) Regarding the issue of 'fitting in with the scheme' - that is probably also a huge factor. How many of the high priced free agents, especially WRs, do you think would be willing to play the position like Belichick and Brady need them to ? I'll go out on a limb and predict that you would be hard put to find one of those guys that would be willing to sacrifice his ego and stats and instead work within the scheme to increase the overall effectiveness of the passing game. Can you see a TO or a Moss being satisfied with Brady spreading the ball around to 8 to 11 different receivers in a game ? Or throwing TDs to Watson and Brown and Graham instead of to them ? How many of these guys are willing to go over the middle and make the tough catches ? How many of them care if the team wins the game versus them getting their catches and yardage ?

    So if you put yourself into Belichick and Pioli's shoes, you weigh your decisions on high priced free agents somewhat along the lines:

    - Do you end up needing the FA at the position you guessed at during signing period (this year, you would probably have picked LB / DB)

    - Are one or two high priced FAs more effective and productive than spending the money on your middle class and depth

    - Do you take a chance that putting your dollars in one FA will end up being a high priced IR spot and no contribution at all (the injury bug is blind to cap value - remember Colvin and now this year Tebucky Jones)

    - Will the guy be willing play within a restricted and disciplined scheme that is the cornerstone of the Patriots success

    - If the guy is willing, can he actually learn to play within the scheme

    - If the guy is willing and can learn to play in a scheme approach, does he actually make the scheme more effective than a lower priced player would (after all, that is both the knock and hype about the scheme approach)

    When you look at these factors, you begin to realize that each signing has significant risk - and if it's a high priced player that you are taking a risk with, if the player doesn't work out, it's a huge handicap.

    The salary cap limit is a very real factor. It is easy to ignore, but no team can have all high priced players. Even just ONE extra high priced player means that you HAVE to replace some of your middle class or depth players with lesser talents. So to be credible, if you advocate signing a high priced player, it's simplistic to do that without saying who you would let go down the roster. This year it is less obvious at the moment because there apparently is some cap space available. But you better believe that Belichick and Pioli know how much of that money they need to be able to resign some of their middle roster players, especially with the cap inflation that is now taking place.

    It is impossible to avoid the itch to sign high priced players. But I, personally, keep reminding myself that Belichick and Pioli's apparent choice and tradeoff seems to keep the Patriots very solid and competitive each year. While Pats fans may be disappointed to only win one playoff game last year, we have to realize that 20 teams out there signed some high priced free agents this year and aren't even going to make it to the playoffs - feel sorry for those fans (on second thought ....nahhhh.... ;) ).
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  7. RayClay

    RayClay On the Roster

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    #75 Jersey

    Draft picks are the paint, free agents are the spackle.:D
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  8. Patfandango

    Patfandango Rookie

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    I think some have missed my original point and I was unclear. I'm not arguing that we should do more free agent signings. Indeed, with the exception of Colvin, our free agent signings have been at a bargainb rate. Our strength is indeed the draft and that is he way it should be for the Kraft/BB/SP business strategy to work. I agree with several that free agency is an art form and somewhat unpredictable what you're going to get. My point is that this variable, when successful, tips the balance such that a very good team becomes outstanding and we win super bowls. I think it's too early to tell about the 2006 crop, but if Caldwell, Gabriel and Gaffney pan out and Seau continues to do well, I would say this could tip the balance.

    PS I like the paint and spackle analogy. I usually spackle before I paint but then again i'm not very handy around the house.
  9. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan On the Roster

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    i would agree with you except that in 2005 there was NO CAP ROOM, but that was not the case in 2006, I concede.

    Belichick's "secret weapon" unleashed in the second half, is adequate reserve depth to maintain a "no holes anywhere team". Many of the earlier vet pickups were going over the hill, reaching the end in 2005, and had to be replaced. That is why there were so many "just good reserves" acquired.

    The only positions that the Pats needed were a #1 WR, and a Good CB. They never anticipated losing Branch as he was under contract, and they tried to get Law but lost out.

    By the time the Branch situation became untenable, there was nobody to sign. Caldwell has successfully replaced Givins, thats why he was allowed to walk when the price got too high, and CJ will be gravy. I would never have signed Javon Walker, as he could very well have been damaged goods needing a year to recover like Caldwell and most ACL returnees need. Walker might have been expected to help in 2007, but not so much in 2006.

    This is a very strong club, with lots of talented youngsters playing, and making youngster-type mistakes, unlike the older veteran who dominated earlier clubs. They will get better.

    You do realize that of the starters on Offense not a single one is over 29. On Defense the only older vets are Tedy 33, Seau ( a 1 year patch), Vrabel 31, and Harrison 33.

    Please remember that the LBs they played were all older than Tedy is now, when they started playing for the Belichick led Patriots. e.g. McGinnest 33, Cox 34, Phifer 33.

    This is a very young team ! Perhaps even, its too young !!! i doubt it; its getting visibly better as the season goes on... none of the Super Bowl clubs have anywhere near the defensive stats established by this club. (13 ppg) None had anywhere near the offensive talent this team has, either.
  10. ChockBlkr

    ChockBlkr Rookie

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    Adding the best of 2000 to 2001 (2000 - Andruzzi, Hamilton, Otis, Grant Williams /2001 - Cherry, Compton, Edwards, Izzo, Patten, Phifer, Cox, Pleasant, Antowain Smith, Vrabel, Buckley, Matt Stevens) and you can really see the foundation being built for what being a "Patriot" football player is all about. Definitely a tipping point.
  11. cstjohn17

    cstjohn17 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #54 Jersey

    Arrellbee & AzPatsFan, you both make very compelling cases for sticking to the current course, and who could argue with the Pats success. I will try to respond to both of you but will likely fail on both accounts.

    I was trying to say that the by adding a good to great player at anyone posiion but specifically for the Pats at WR, CB and ILB can elevate the entire group. These players cost money. The players the Patriots have chased but not landed include Mason, Walker, Branch (not really a FA), Law, etc. It is not like they are adverse to exploring these options it just seems like they don't do enough to sign them and in the end this hurts the team and potentially could cost them.

    Time will tell and we can't rewrite history, I trust BB and SP but sometimes think that the one or two players they don't get ultimately make a difference in how far they go in the play-offs.

    Go Pats and thanks again for your great responses.

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2006
  12. arrellbee

    arrellbee Rookie

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    I think you make a very important point that I think a lot of folks kind of overlook or don't stop to think about.

    While it is obvious that even Belichick and Pioli can't always tell for sure whether a player will work out, I would give them a little more credit than you mention in terms of having a knack of finding those possibilities that other teams seem to overlook. Reinforcing that is the fact that we seldom pay big dollars and if other teams saw the value, most would probably outbid us. Their ability to evaluate seems pretty noteworthy.

    And the other thing that I think folks overlook a little bit is that if the players just aren't out there at reasonable prices in a given off season, Belichick and Pioli's keen talent at evaluating isn't going to manufacture a player that isn't there - and it might be a season without any outstanding free agent pickups.
  13. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan On the Roster

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    Good Point. Why don't others do it? Its the old proverb in action.

    "the harder I work, the luckier I get..."

    There is another reason too. Scott and Bill are looking for roster additions for 26-53 and beyond. They reserve lots of cap space exclusively for them; not as an afterthought. Lots of these "bring ins" are competing for just that, the 26-53+ and judged a success if they do. Its a bonanza when they turn out to be more than that.
  14. arrellbee

    arrellbee Rookie

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    I'm not sure I was clear enough in agreeing about the fact that signing a free agent at a higher price certainly has a chance of enhancing a team. And that might certainly have been the case this year also for the Pats

    Your phrase "don't do enough to sign them" is exactly equivalent to "signing them for a higher price".

    But it IS still a risk and absolutely a tradeoff as I went thru ad nauseum. They could have signed somebody by sacrificing the other side of the tradeoff and the risk is still there that the player might not have contributed (for any of the many reasons).

    Until I see another team succeed with the approach of hiring higher priced players (for even one year while sacrificing the future), I guess I will swallow and embrace BB/SP approach (proven with superbowls) - as much as I, too, would like to have one or two new shiny toys to be excited about.

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