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Revisiting Gaffney's departure

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the interesting stories this week leading into the Patriots-Redskins game is receiver Jabar Gaffney (link here). The former Patriot and current Redskin has 46 receptions for 665 yards and 3 touchdowns this season. At 31 years old, he's still going strong.

When it comes to Gaffney, there are two aspects that stand out from this perspective.

It's easy to forget now, but the Patriots, in some ways, saved Gaffney's career. He had spent his first four years with the Texans (2002-2005) -- a stretch in which his performance was considered inconsistent -- before moving on to the Eagles in 2006. In a surprise, the Eagles let him go after the '06 preseason.

In early October of that season, a year in which the Patriots were adjusting to life without Deion Branch and in need of receiver help, Gaffney landed in New England. Expectations were low at the time.

It turned out to be a perfect match.

Gaffney became one of quarterback Tom Brady's most reliable targets because of his combination of smarts, versatility and precise route-running. He played all the receiver spots and put together three solid seasons with the team, playing a lot as the third receiver in a three-wide attack.

As I remember it, the Patriots wanted to bring him back in 2009 and offered what they felt what was a competitive free-agent deal for a player in that role. But they were hurt by Josh McDaniels moving on to Denver and implementing the same offensive system. McDaniels upped the ante on Gaffney to a level the Patriots weren't comfortable going.

The No. 3 receiver role isn't what it once was in the Patriots' offense, the team shifting to more multiple tight end sets with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Still, Gaffney would be an upgrade over current No. 3 Chad Ochocinco and would have cost less.

If not for McDaniels' presence in Denver, I believe Gaffney would still be in New England.