OK, I like Adam Vinatieri. He is a hall-of-fame kicker, but the media (print, TV, radio) need to face facts: Vinatieri had no intention of returning to New England. He had made it clear that he wanted to kick in a dome or warm weather (and when you went to South Dakota State you have that right!) and wanted guaranteed money as well as being the highest paid kicker in football. Vinatieri reminds me of Johnny Damon: he is worth a lot of money, but not THAT much.

To hear the media tell it, the Patriots should abandon the plan they have used over the past six years that has resulted in three Super Bowl victories. Right, Dan Snyder is still spending like a drunken sailor, so we should copy him. The Colts have no problem spending crazy money on a kicker and their #2 and #3 wide receivers while their most important player on offense walks away to Arizona. Tennessee threw insane money at David Givens and the Patriots are ridiculed for not matching the deal. Remember, Detroit blew the Patriots offer out of the water for Damien Woody and look how that has worked out for the respective teams.

I am not going to say anything as stupid as saying that Bill Belichick (and Scott Pioli for that matter, although it is amazing how much heat Belichick deflects away from him) has a prefect record in signing and not signing players; however, history tells us he has been right more often than not. Yes, Chad Brown was not as smart as Belichick believed; Monty Beisel is not yet the player he will be after another year learning the defense; Donald Hayes, Andre Davis, and Bethel Johnson could not catch a cold in New England, and Duane Starks, Chad Scott, and Ty Poole were injured too much to ever be effective in New England. Yet, Brady over Bledsoe; Mike Vrabel from the scrapheap; drafting Ellis Hobbs; building a young, strong, quick, disruptive defensive line through the draft (Richard Seymour, Big Daddy Vince Wilfork, and the quiet man: Ty Warren) has paid and will continue to pay huge dividends over time; rebuilding the offensive line around whozthats and whatsits every year and allowing the team to build depth at other positions and fill gaps in the roster; and letting Lawyer Milloy go and having Rodney Harrison on-board at a bargain basement price are all moves that have cemented his genius.

I do not like losing these players, but just because everyone else in the NFL has gone mad does not mean the model franchise should join in the Bacchanal frenzy. The name of the game is value, and there will plenty to find in the six months before the first game of the season. Like with the Johnny Damon situation, the Red Sox had time to find his replacement, just as the Patriots have plenty of time and options available to fill out their roster and compete for the Super Bowl.

My opinion? I believe the Patriots will take a two-level approach to replacing Vinatieri. They will have a CFL/NFL Europe/Arena kicker in camp along with a drafted or undrafted free agent. In addition, I believe they will scoop up either Paul Edinger (anyone remember that 56 yard game winner with less than ten seconds left last year? I bet the Patriots staff does) or, more likely, Olindo Mare if he becomes available which is looking likely. A veteran kicker coming in at under $2 million a year and a practice squad kicker to eventually replace him. Sounds like a solid, Belichickian plan to me.

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OK, is Bronson Arroyo really that stupid, or did he want out of Boston? I thought he was dumb when he was hanging out at Northeastern University keg parties and the pictures worked their way onto the internet, but what does he expect when he signs a deal giving up arbitration at below market cost that only makes him more tradable? He must have realized that his deal did nothing but line-up his ticket out of town. Arroyo, who could not crack the Pittsburgh rotation at its weakest while they were losing 100+ games four years ago, has a world series ring, and is now in line to go from being bumped to the bullpen to being the number one starter in Cincinnati (unless you believe Eric Milton, who killed my fantasy baseball team in April and May last year before I gave up on him, is the number one starter). Oh yeah, anyone that doubts how good the Red Sox starting rotation is right now can just remember this when the team flirts with 100 victories.

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