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In Shark Contrast – Week 5

Welcome to Week 5 of In Shark Contrast.  While normally we would prefer to bring you the opinions, ideas and thoughts of two equally opinionated fantasy writers, Jim Bukowski and James Elvins.  This week only Elvins has shown up for work.  Apparently, Da Bears’ humiliating loss to the Giants last Sunday night and the reality that the Bears won’t be the first team to go 19-0 has forced Bukowski into seclusion.  Hopefully we’ll be able to locate him by next week.  In the meantime, James Elvins brings you much to digest in regards to the recent Randy Moss trade. 

 

Well, the good news is the sun still came up this morning, players still went to practice, my breakfast didn’t metamorphose into some kind of Gozerian demon (where are Stantz, Spengler, Zedmore and Venkeman when you need them?). So I’m also going to speculate that the world of fantasy football didn’t implode either?

It did change in subtle ways, but it was more the gentle shift of grinding tectonic plates rather than a tsunami of epic proportions (because tsunamis come in different sizes?!)

Here’s what I saw.

I saw a relatively consistent but aging stud wide receiver whose contract was expiring moving to a team in desperate need.

A lot has been made of people saying, “But, it doesn’t make sense.” I say it does.

Let me break it down into two chunks for those that disagree – 2011 and 2010.

2011

Currently the Patriots are at $132.5 million in salary for the season (give or take $2 milionl)

The cap limit for previous years were:

 


Year

NFL Salary Cap Limit ($)

Increase from previous year

2011
?? million +?? million

2010
Uncapped N/A

2009
$127 million +$9 million

2008
$116.7 million +$7.7 million

2007
$109 million +$7 million

2006
$102 million** **An increase from $94.5 mill – New CBA

2005
$85.5million +$5 million

With Randy Moss gone they are now $6.1 million better off and inside the 2009 cap limit at $126.4 million.

Why be inside the 2009 limit? This year is uncapped. True, but 2011 might not be.

In 2011, the Patriots have to find the money for
two first-round picks,
two second-round picks and
two third-round picks as well as the later picks. I’m fairly confident that the rookie pay scale will be a part of the new agreement – as it’s one of the few points both sides agree on currently – but the Patriots aren’t an organization that has built its success on operating on “best case scenario” and “wishful thinking” for one thing. The other is that while we won’t see the extreme and sickening opulence and extravagance in terms of contracts of years gone by, high round draft picks will still be paid a fair amount of change. As such the Moss trade has all but secured most of their signatures even before cap space is considered.

They still haven’t as yet decided whether too much water has passed under the bridge with regards to elite left guard Logan Mankins and re-signing him, as well as Matt Light and not forgetting Wes Welker‘s contract looming on the horizon.

The Patriots are a team that
always looks to the future. It’s why they traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. When you have contracts looming the size of Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady (as they did when they traded Seymour), you make sure you can pay the tab before you order your meal. It was a deal that also gives them the Raiders’ 2011 first-round draft pick. Anyone know what the over/under might be on it being a Top 5 pick for the Patriots? Can you imagine what they could do with that?!

So that’s the guarantee they can pay two more essential players plus a Top 5 (in all likelihood) first rounder next year to go with the one they already have and the extra pick in Rounds 2 and 3 as well? I don’t think that’s being short-sighted or not having the best interests of the franchise at heart. Far from it. Especially when most media outlets are citing Moss’ contract extension requests at $10 million per year!

So that’s “a part” of the reason, but not all of the reasoning behind the trade. Let’s look at 2010.

2010

In 2010, thus far if you look at how New England is operating and the passing splits, I predicted toward the end of this article in June that:

“The twin tight end set is coming – be warned, be wary of it.”

As well as suggesting that the wily, old rascal known as Bill Belichick could make a shift in offensive strategy to it. Now you are seeing it in action. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating, as the song goes …

Its success so far this season as being another nail in Moss’ coffin, so to speak, along with his age, his contract expiring and the offensive shift.

Moss’ statline also isn’t telling the whole story.

Did you know he’s leading the league in drops right now (five)? Or that in all of Brady’s 122 passing attempts only 22 have been targeting Moss? Or that of those only only nine have been caught? That’s not the Moss of old.

I think Belichick has seen hints of it enough to know that he cashes in his chip right… now… There is no way the Patriots and Bob Kraft will sign off on a $10 million per year contract for a 34-year-old player whose skills and physicals are on the wane.

Looking ahead? The passing splits to date already give us a large clue as to what is going to happen in New England. While Belichick is impersonating Doc Brown I think we’ll see Marty “Aaron Hernandez“ McFly going back to the future to 1978 (for more information on hernandez, see here)when then Detroit tight end coach Belichick implemented the first twin tight end set. For Dave Hill, read an even more talented Hernandez, with an even better offense and one of the league’s great quarterbacks.

For what it’s worth? Hill made the pro-bowl for 2 consecutive seasons whilst Belichick was there. he never did previously and never did again when Big Bill left.

Currently, Brady is completing 75 percent of his throws and is up higher than 350 yards and five touchdowns when throwing in the twin set.

So just like Belichick did when he dragged the NFL kicking and screaming into the shotgun era in the pros, he’s doing exactly the same thing with bringing the twin tight end formation back into vogue. Although, with the prevalence of 3-4 defenses in the division (Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets all use it or a variation of it) and with Moss about to give them diminishing returns with a stellar contract request, he might’ve had little choice. Just as well it was a bumper class of tight end this year and New England (as always) had a healthy abundance of picks to utilize.

Brandon Tate will be the optional deep threat. Wes Welker will remain the slot guy, but it’s Hernandez that is the key to all
of this. With Rob Gronkowski anchoring the line and being the occasional passing threat, it leaves the mobile and soft-handed Hernandez to roam the field and cause matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.

I’m keeping an eye on Taylor Price, the ex-Bobcat rookie out of Ohio. If Tate struggles, or goes down with his third ACL injury in two seasons, then Price will be the guy who takes up the remaining slack. After having had a very impressive camp only to suffer an injury and just now be on the cusp of a return to fitness. I actually like Price alot as a player and i don’t think it’s unfeasible to discount that he could displace Tate on skill alone at some point once has grasped the nuances of a Pro system. Ultimately his return is a small factor in the grand scheme in things, but it’s yet another reason (depth) why the Patriots are comfortable with being able to let Moss go while they can still control what they get and to whom he goes to.

What poor, old Julian Edelman’s role is in all of this is anyone’s guess. The Kent State prodigy broke all of Joshua Cribbs’ records for passing, receiving, returning, rushing, etc. He did it all. I was hoping he would featured in the Kevin Faulk role – and might yet, he’s currently recovering from an injury – but Danny Woodhead is doing an admirable job and he’ll have to fight to reclaim the role there or face the even more daunting prospect of trying to displace Welker. He’s capable of either, but likely only to achieve one.  So for the here-and-now he’s a speculative stash at best.

Belichick doesn’t need to beat defenses down the field anymore – why should he? – not when he has the ability to beat them anywhere over the middle with any number of different permutations and irrespective of whether the defence has been stretched vertically or not.

Expect them to trade, draft or acquire another running back in next year’s draft, because aside from one or two defensive pieces, that’s all the Patriots are short of for a complete team.

That’s not something which a lot of other franchises can claim.

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