Friday, March 10, 2006


OK, free agency for the NFL will begin at 12:01 am on Saturday. Why is everyone so upset about Adam Vinatieri testing the free agency waters? Like Johnny Damon, he knows it is his last chance to score the big contract. I do not hold it against him. Let him go out, determine his value, and the Patriots will decide what he is worth paying. Plain & simple. As great as he is, he is still only a kicker.

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Following up on my blurb about the Truth and his resurgence, Bill Simmons (aka the Boston Sports Guy) churns out a nice article, in almost a Simmons flashback (i.e. very few references to crappy television shows that no one watched in the seventies or movies that no one cared about in the eighties and no one cares about now. One or two is fine, every other sentence is a bit much) writing about the Celtics, Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge, and his Dad. Nice to see he still has the touch (and has come around to supporting Danny Ainge FINALLY):

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Just in case anyone cares, the Helmet-Headed One, Mel Kiper Jr., has the Patriots picking Ashton Youboty at 21, an underclassman cornerback from Ohio State. A potential big time cornerback, Youboty would be a development. I do not think Belichick is a big fan of development projects, often preferring to draft players who can step right in and play. When I think of Bill Belichick and his development projects, I think of undrafted free agents or picking up young veterans from the scrap heap, not drafting them. Of course, if my last developmental draft pick was Bethel Johnson, I would be a bit gun-shy myself.

More on Youboty: He began the season as the nickel corner before moving to the starting line-up after an injury to the starter. Once entrenched, there was no replacing Youboty who immediately showed his top-level skills. He has good size (almost six feet tall) and great hands. As a sophomore, he shut down top receiver Braylon Edwards of Michigan. In doing some research on him, I can see why Kiper had him slotted to New England: he reminds me of another Ellis Hobbs, except bigger. Youboty is a ball-hawk corner and is physical against the run.

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First, the NFL Labor Agreement.

Anyone who is not in favor of the NFL agreement is either a masochist or a doddering fool, which explains why the Bengals (the Brown family) and Ralph Wilson (Bills owner) voted against it. While it was surprising to see the Patriots aligned with the Jets (after all the bad blood between the franchises with the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick situations in the past), I am ecstatic that the agreement was brokered and both the owners and players can prosper in the future. Most importantly, it is great news for the fans as teams can afford to keep their own free agents and the quality of the game will not decline in a no-cap era.

The immediate ramifications for the Patriots are they have the resources to not only retain the free agents they want to keep around, but they can get a deal done with Richard Seymour and Deion Branch before they hit the open market. David Givens is going to find a team to overpay him, just as David Patten did two years ago in free agency. I say he has earned it. For his role on the team, he is not going to be justified receiving $10 million upfront and a huge contract. Givens worked his ass off to get in this position, and I think he will cash out and get his money. The Patriots will find someone else at a better price. No hard feelings.

Willie McGinest and Troy Brown are going to be interesting cases. There are enough Belichick protegees out there that they could be lured away with the promise of one last big cash grab. For their sakes, I hope they stay in New England simply because there are too few players who spend their entire career in one place. It may not seem important at the time, but think about Dwight Evans in an Orioles uniform and Bobby Orr skating for the Chicago Blackhawks. It means so much more to the region, the fan base, and their legacy when a player can retire with much pomp and circumstance for their one tam.

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Second, the Celtics really do exist.

Amazing to believe, but people are going to have to give Danny Ainge credit whether they want to or not. The Celtics are young, exciting, and about one player away from being a major force in the coming seasons. A four-man rotation of Ryan Gomes, Big Perk, Big Al, and Raef LaFrentz at the 4 and 5 spots looks really promising right now. A fifth big guy to bang around down low (and NOT the Kandi-Man) would have this group ready to take on the big boys. With Wally and Paul at the 2 and 3 spots, there is not much need for too much behind them other than Tony Allen to play some defense and Gerald Green to develop into an instant offensive force off the bench. Point guard is the issue as Delonte West and Orien Greene are basically rookies and the position needs time. The right veteran (NOT Dan Dickau) could help stabilize this position enough for the team to start stealing some of these close losses to good teams.

Also, it is amazing to watch Paul Pierce as he matures into the offensive weapon, all-around player, and team leader he always had the potential to become. With the shadow of Antoine gone, and the manic Ricky Davis game, Pierce looks comfortable for the first time on the court.

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Finally, the too-little, too late Bruins swing a deal.

The message has been received. As we long suspected, the season is over. All I can say is that at least they got something in return for Sergei Samsonov, as I for one tired of waiting for him to contribute ANYTHING to the team. Horrible defense, uninspired play on the ice, repeated injuries: what a waste. Like with Jumbo Joe: It is the end of an error.

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