Monday, January 28, 2008

Drafting Quality or Quantity

I have taken my first paid sick day in years today, and I am not sure if I am enjoying it, although it is nice to have paid time off for just feeling like crap as well as avoiding giving this bug to everyone else in the office. I just know that my head is stuffed, so I don't have too many interesting things to say about current events. However I was talking with my dad a couple of days ago concerning what we think the Patriots will do in the Super Bowl (win it) and what they'll do in the draft. He believes that the Patriots are looking to trade down to avoid the cap implications, while I think there is a decent contigent chance of the Patriots stayng put and selecting someone that they believe could give them a Richard Seymour level of performance.

The Patriots currently are projected to be about $10 million dollars beneath the 2008 salary cap limit. The Patriots can significantly increase their cap space if they release wide receivers Dante Stallworth and/or Kelly Washington as well as extend linebacker Rooselvelt Colvin. Those three moves would add an extra ten million or so in cap room at minimal on the field loss presuming the Patriots are able to resign Jabar Gaffney as a downgraded Stallworth substitute.

They have two major free agents in Randy Moss and Asante Samuals who if they decide to sign with other teams can easily command five to seven year deals for forty to sixty million dollars including fifteen to twenty million in guaranteed money. I think the Patriots are more likely to come to an extension agreement with Moss rather than Samuals. Other free agents include LB Tedi Bruschi, CB Randall Gay, FS Eugene Wilson, LB Junior Seau, and WRs Troy Brown and Jabar Gaffney.

I think if the Patriots are unable to sign both Moss and Samuals, and see Bruschi and Seau retire, then the Patriots will be very tempted to embark upon a high quantity draft strategy of seeking to make at least five picks in the top 96 instead of the current four picks in the top 96. Rookies outside of Top 10 draft picks are cheaper in their first year than most JAG veteran free agents, so the Patriots would see a probable decline in aggregate talent but at significantly lower costs which would allow them to shift resources elswewhere. The top tier talent that should be available at #7 is very tempting but the Patriots would need to refill multiple holes very quickly.

If the Patriots are able to sign Moss or Samuals to a long term deal, their cap situation becomes a bit tighter. At that point the Patriots are not lacking in top end talkent; instead they are lacking a little bit in depth but veteran depth can be easily reconstituted at affordable prices. This is even more true if either Seau or Bruschi come back for at least another year.

If the Patriots have three million in cap space for a high level rookie AND believe their assessments that such a rookie is draftable at #7, then I think the Patriots would like to grab a difference maker that their projected trend of success will not cheaply offer tham again in the near future. Multi-time Super Bowl champions should not be able to draft Richard Seymours, LaDamian Tomlinsons or Larry Fitzgeralds in the top of the first round. In future years, the Patriots are drafting in the late 20s to #32 again if they perform near their own trend, so the opportunity cost of the chance of restocking the talent base with a young and comparatively cheap superior player is very high.

So the rich will get even richer if Moss or Samuals re-signs and the Patriots take a top tier OLB, CB or OT at #7 +/- 3 or the Patriots take a mini-reloading phase and reconstitute the long term salary cap balance that has served the team well by trading down and picking up a couple of extra picks either in 2008 or 2009.

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