- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Four years later, we can now close the book on the much-debated 2009 trade between the Patriots and Chiefs. In the deal, the Patriots traded quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel for a 2009 second-round draft choice that was used to select safety Patrick Chung (34th overall). The final verdict: Neither team won. Although Vrabel was slowing down and had a high cap figure, the Patriots still could have benefited from his presence in 2009 (fractured locker room) and perhaps in 2010. Also, Chung couldn't get on the field in the 2012 AFC Championship Game despite a clean bill of health and is likely to be playing elsewhere next season. As for the Chiefs, the investment in Cassel -- the most important part of the deal on either side, given the importance of the position and contract they gave him -- never paid off. One could argue that's what ultimately cost general manager Scott Pioli his job as Chiefs general manager after four seasons.
2a. Is there a more dysfunctional organization than the Jets? On the day that John Idzik was introduced as general manager Thursday, the big story was how cornerback Darrelle Revis was speechless that the team is apparently open to trading him. A more decisive response from the Jets, even without committing to Revis, could have eliminated the hubbub. Instead, the Jets' brass fell back on the "talking point" that everyone was being evaluated. From this viewpoint, it was another situation in which the aggressive media was dictating the agenda, which makes one question if the Jets are any closer to getting their act together.
2b. As for the Jets' decision to potentially trade Revis, it makes no sense to me. Salary-cap issues or not, Revis is the type of player to build around, not trade. I would think all 31 other teams would be interested if Revis was indeed shopped, including the Patriots, but it would be a long shot for him to land here. Maybe I'm giving the Jets too much credit, but one would think they'd at least try to keep him out of the division if they do make the unthinkable decision to trade him.
3. After quarterback Tom Brady ($9.5 million), defensive lineman Vince Wilfork ($6.5 million) and offensive lineman Logan Mankins ($5.75 million), any guesses as to which Patriots player has the fourth-highest base salary for 2013? If you said kicker Stephen Gostkowski ($2.5 million), you nailed it. In 2006, when Adam Vinatieri's base salary was rising to around $3 million with a possible franchise tag, that's when the Patriots decided to move on and the Colts signed Vinatieri as a free agent. Obviously, the salary cap/market is higher seven years later, and Gostkowski's leg is still one of the strongest in the NFL, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, for a team as economically conscious as the Patriots are, I'll be interested to see if they bring a young kicker (think Robbie Gould in 2005) to camp in an insurance policy/competition type setup.
4. One Super Bowl XLVII storyline from each team that interests me most from a Patriots perspective: Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees and how much, if at all, he lives with the costly blitz call that left 5-foot-9 cornerback Ellis Hobbs one-on-one in the end zone with 6-foot-5 receiver Plaxico Burress on the fourth-quarter, game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII. Does that linger at all in his mind as he prepares to coach in another Super Bowl? I'd also be curious about Pees' thoughts on Josh McDaniels after reading Adam Schefter's "10 Spot" story about how Pees apparently thought he was going to be McDaniels' defensive coordinator with the Broncos in 2009, only to have the opportunity pulled away from him at the last moment. On the 49ers' side, it's straight up Randy Moss. Does he think he has another season left in him or would he retire if the 49ers win? And how much does his rocky post-Patriots experience give him a greater appreciation, if at all, for this moment?
5. This stat caught the eye from Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert: 70 percent of the players voted to the Pro Bowl are picked in the first three rounds of the draft. It's a good reminder that depth can be built in a lot of different areas, but the best way to add top-end talent to a roster is to draft it early and develop it. Got to hit those early picks.
6. It has been noted in the past that Patriots coach Bill Belichick endured the drain of losing top coaches -- Charlie Weis to Notre Dame in 2005, Romeo Crennel to Cleveland in 2005, Eric Mangini to the Jets in 2006, and Josh McDaniels to Denver in 2009 -- which taxed him in certain areas to develop replacements. Broncos coach John Fox is dealing with something similar the past two years, with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen landing in Oakland as head coach in 2012, and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy departing to become Chargers head coach in 2013. That's a tough double strike, especially when considering the coordinators are in the same division and Fox's Broncos have to compete against them twice each season. I think that dynamic makes it tougher because those coaches know Fox's personnel better from sharing the same locker room with them.
7. After Patriots linebackers coach Pepper Johnson was passed over for the defensive coordinator job in favor of Matt Patricia, I wonder if he would be a legitimate possibility for either coordinator post in New Orleans or Philadelphia. When I read that both clubs were leaning toward 3-4 defenses if possible, and considered some of the connections/respect between those organizations and the Patriots, that was one of the first thoughts that came to mind. Johnson has said in the past that he'd like to be a coordinator, and it doesn't look like that opportunity is in the cards here in New England.
8. Toronto Argonauts general manager Jim Barker was probably overstating it a bit when he said the Patriots picked up a first-round type caliber player in former Southern Cal/Argonauts defensive lineman Armond Armstead without using a first-round pick. When it comes to Armstead, the biggest takeaway from this perspective is that he's more than the standard "futures" signing. He has more upside as long as the medical component isn't an issue and should be part of the team's 2013 roster.
9. Former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson, who has played the past three seasons with the Browns, is a free agent this offseason. Now 32 and entering his 10th NFL season, he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, although he's not thinking about retirement just yet. Watson played all but three games for the Browns over the past three seasons, and when assessing his production (averaging 51 receptions per season), one must also consider the Browns' struggles at quarterback. With new Browns general manager Mike Lombardi having some strong ties to Bill Belichick and the Patriots, perhaps he'll identify Watson as a keeper the way the Patriots did when making Watson a first-round selection in 2004 (32nd overall). Either way, Watson shouldn't have trouble finding a home in 2013.
10. Here's something to consider from a Patriots perspective when it comes to rooting interest in Super Bowl XLVII: If the Ravens win, it puts New England in play to possibly be part of the NFL's 2013 season-opening game, which is traditionally held on the Thursday of opening weekend and hosted by the Super Bowl winner. It's a tough spot to be the visitor in that type of situation. The Patriots are scheduled to play the Ravens on the road next season and would look like a prime candidate to be picked. The other teams the Ravens are scheduled to host in 2013: Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Jets, Texans, Packers and Vikings.