Pats come up huge after first weekend of free agency
Posted: Sunday March 4, 2007 6:04PM; Updated: Sunday March 4, 2007 6:04PM
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as an interesting and, at times, wacky first weekend of free agency comes to a close ...
Given its need at linebacker and the available options it had to upgrade that key position this offseason, I applaud New England for boldly targeted Adalius Thomas, whose signing Saturday in Foxboro was to me the shrewdest of the nascent free-agent shopping season thus far.
In landing Thomas, the Patriots, the team that values versatility more than anyone in the NFL, have added to their ranks the most versatile defender in the league. In a phrase that is wildly over-used, integrating Thomas' skills as a play-making 3-4 strong side linebacker to the Patriots' well-schooled 3-4 defense appears to be the proverbial "perfect fit'' of talent to scheme.
Over and above his football value, Thomas, a seven-year NFL veteran, is one of the more articulate, intelligent and intuitive players in the league today. In reporting a story on his remarkable ability to play all over the field for Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, I had a chance to talk to Thomas after practice one day early in Baltimore's training camp last summer, and came away immensely impressed by both how he comports himself and his ability to keep his athletic fame in perspective.
Simply put, Thomas remains in the prime of his NFL career and should be a difference-maker for New England for several years to come. And he's definitely the type of player -- both on and off the field -- that the Patriots traditionally covet, with their rather selective vision of a team-first approach to all things. His arrival, combined with New England having two first-round picks in April's draft, means the Patriots' creaky 2006 linebacking corps should be restored to one of the strengths of the team.
But all of that said, excited Patriots fans should keep a couple caveats in mind as Thomas embarks on his career in New England: First off, this is free agency, and for every hit in that high-profile part of the talent acquisition game, there are at least two misses that occur. And if you don't believe us, just ask any follower of the Redskins, who have won many NFL offseason titles only to fail miserably when the games begin being played and the likes of Adam Archuleta, Trung Canidate or Jeremiah Trotter underachieve.
Even the mighty Patriots themselves have had their swings and misses in free agency, or have you quickly forgotten the days of Monty Beisel, Chad Brown and Duane Starks?
And secondly, there is the ex-Ravens factor to ponder, as others this weekend have already pointed out. What do the names of Starks, Edgerton Hartwell, Jamie Sharper, Anthony Weaver, Kim Herring, Gary Baxter, Keith Washington, Lional Dalton and Rob Burnett all have in common? They were all once productive members of Baltimore's defense this decade, but upon leaving the Ravens via free agency, none of them ever enjoyed the same individual success as they did while wearing purple and black.
Will Thomas be the latest member of that "Whatever-happened-to'' club? The Patriots obviously don't think so, and if I had to put my dollar down one way or another, neither do I. Still, sometimes the perfect fits don't quite fit, and free agency remains an exercise that includes guaranteed money, but no real guarantee of success.
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