EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 19, 2012

Sound Pats philosophy: Load the gun

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

There simply isn't much uproar, coming off a Super Bowl-losing season. Well, maybe just a murmur.

But anyone angered by the New England Patriots' free-agency silence early last week has to be satisfied this morning.

Bill Belichick stockpiled more weapons for Tom Brady's career stretch run — a sound strategy if there ever was one — over the weekend, snagging Indy's Anthony Gonzalez and the well-traveled Brandon Lloyd.

Gonzalez and Lloyd, a pair of proven pass-catchers, join Wes Welker — at least for this year — and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as top options for Brady.

Talk about an instant upgrade over Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco for Brady to work with. Both vets could also be back, as Ochocinco remains under contract, but the fact that each would be waging battle for the 4 or 5 receiver spots, instead of the 2 or 3, has to make Brady and most Pats fans ecstatic.

Lloyd's deal is reported by NFL.com to be three years for $12 million, while the oft-injured Gonzalez is much more of a bargain basement-type deal.

Either way, it's help for Brady, who at 35, has had to deal with limited weapons much of the time since 2005.

It's not your money. Fear not about cap space. And remember, the Patriots again have a stockpile of draft picks to build strength in the trenches and find help on an often exploited defense.

Lloyd hadn't even agreed to the deal before at least one Boston football writer dug into his past to find whether or not he was a good person. Remember, New England is the sixth home in Lloyd's 10 pro seasons.

No longer a kid at 30, Lloyd has produced best under one person, Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The key number is 16 TDs in 27 games. New England has desperately needed an outside guy to score since Randy Moss spiralled his way out of here.

At his best, he's a professional pass-catcher, and the Pats paid him like one. The three-year deal won't peave an already agitated Wes Welker. It won't prevent this team from locking down a Gronkowski and/or a Hernandez for the long-term if they so choose.

Gonzalez qualifies as another one of those guys Belichick has seen plenty of. He likes what he's seen, and why not take the low-risk chance. He has played a mere 11 games in the past three seasons, with a litany of injuries dampening his resume.

Load the gun. It's a strategy that Belichick needed to employ back in 2005-06 but chose not to.

As long as Brady's around, it's sound advice.

Tebow to Pats?

With the nation waiting on Peyton Manning's precious decision, rumors hopped up this week that Tim Tebow might be headed to New England of all places.

Two quick thoughts on Tebow, and then one on Manning.

First, wouldn't you love the Pats to take a shot at grooming the former Florida great to replace Brady, using him to run red-zone option and the like? If anyone could make Tebow an NFL thrower, it would be Brady, who made himself an all-time legend through hard work and repetition.

Second, it will never happen, because as much at Belichick might pay — in draft picks — Jacksonville has to give more.

As for Manning, I found the reception from Boston sports-talk stations pretty laughable.

Callers lashing out about Manning's manhood, or lack thereof. One other prominent drive host opining that he would take the "comfortable" spot where winning wasn't expected. And then, of course, how Manning "feared" facing Belichick's 31st-rated defense twice a year, so he wouldn't go to Miami.

Tennessee is the "comfortable" choice, they say, where he's not expected to win. On the other hand, maybe he's looking for a greater challenge, to show he could take a team from nothing to greatness.

San Francisco is the place he'll never go according to the critics, because all that team needs is a real QB to win it. Maybe he just won't go because it will look like he's cherry-picking the place he has to win.

Myself, I hope he goes to Denver. Because when "the other Manning" goes 5-11 with a team Tim Tebow won a playoff game with, it will make all the "Timmy T" haters swallow just one more bite of crow.