Jets’ activity no reason to fly off the handle
And so, it begins.
The big, bad New York Jets - you know, the team that has outlasted the Patriots in each of the last two postseasons - made their first big splash in free agency yesterday by re-signing receiver Santonio Holmes.
Then word spread that the Jets were charging as hard as coach Rex Ryan to the snack table for the No. 1 free agent on the market, Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Oh, and just for kicks, the NFL Network reported that old friend Randy Moss was on the Jets’ radar.
Three bold moves, if they happen. You can only imagine what the back pages of the New York tabloids will look like today, and Jets owner Woody Johnson will be loving every headline.
So Patriots fans, naturally, turned a concerned eye toward Foxborough, and what did they hear?
Ah, the sweet sound that Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves the most.
But one that drives some of the fan base crazy.
Where are rumors?
Are the Patriots going to do nothing? The Jets are going to sweep us this year! Pass rush!!! The Yankees got CC Sabathia, so the Sox have to get Cliff Lee! Whoa, whoa, whoa. Settle down. What, re-signing Sammy Morris doesn’t excite you?
Look, we get it. You want a splash. You want somebody to rush the passer. Somebody to stretch the field. Anybody who has a heartbeat and wore a different uniform last season, actually.
Before you tote “Bring Back the Lockout’’ signs to the Patriots’ first training camp practices today, let’s discuss a few things.
Holmes definitely helps the Jets. He’s a top talent, even if he’s one violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy from being suspended for an entire season. It’s a signing the Jets had to make, and give Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum credit for getting it done - and at a cap-friendly rate at that.
But at the moment, these are the other receivers on the Jets’ roster: Jerricho Cotchery, Jeremy Kerley, Scotty McKnight, Patrick Turner, and Logan Payne. Cotchery is a good, underrated player. The talented yet underwhelming Dustin Keller is the only tight end of note.
The rest of the receivers are untested and won’t be causing Belichick to scrap any of his schemes, that’s for sure.
Now, adding Moss would change things. You would have to respect his talent until proven otherwise, even at 34 and after an ineffective - for three teams - 2010 season.
Still, the Patriots know Moss better than anyone. Knock him all over the place early, and then see if he packs it in. And the Patriots probably would be just fine watching from afar as quarterback Mark Sanchez tries to navigate Mount Randy on a daily basis.
The potential addition of Asomugha, however, would be a game-changer. Along with Darrelle Revis, the Jets would have the two best cornerbacks in the game - by far. They’re so good most quarterbacks don’t even throw their way.
According to our friends at FootballOutsiders.com, Asomugha only had 31 passes thrown his way in 14 games last season. Revis had 55 in 13 games.
That kind of blanket coverage on the outside would allow Ryan to blitz at will.
“If they get him, wow,’’ one AFC general manager said of Asomugha last night. “They’d be able to shut down the top two receivers for each team. Take away [Wes] Welker and [Deion] Branch and what does [Tom] Brady have to throw to?’’
Well, the Patriots do have two emerging tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
“I guarantee you that if Rex gets Asomugha, he will beat the [expletive] out of those tight ends on every single down,’’ the GM said. “He won’t let them breathe.’’
Guessing it might be wise for Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to ramp up the conditioning a little bit, just in case.
Belichick knows all of this, and perhaps if the Jets land Asomugha - and the 49ers and Texans also were reported to be involved in the bidding last night - that will make the Patriots more eager to add the vertical threat Ryan mocked them for not having.
Braylon Edwards (Jets) and Steve Smith (Giants) are the top remaining free agent receivers. Steve Smith (Panthers) could be a cap casualty. Vincent Jackson of the Chargers might be available in a trade.
Just don’t expect to hear much before something does happen. The lack of buzz surrounding any potential Patriots moves is very much by design. The Patriots ask players and agents not to say a word about a potential deal, and remind them there could be consequences if they do.
Many teams say the same thing. Not many stay true to their word like the Patriots have in the past, or possess the bling of three Super Bowl rings that Belichick does.
But even if the Patriots stand, uh, pat, fans should not give up on the season.
As much fun as it is for headline writers and sports radio yakkers, the National Football League is not Major League Baseball. And the Jets are not the Yankees, and the Patriots are not the Red Sox.
The best team of 53 - not the starting nine with a rotation and bullpen - is going to win the Super Bowl.
The teams with stability, those that build from within, more often than not win Super Bowls, and the Patriots have that. The two Super Bowl combatants last season, the Packers and Steelers, combined to sign zero expensive free agents.
Same goes for the three Patriots teams that won Super Bowls. The one time the Patriots were the first ones into the free agent pool, in 2007 with linebacker Adalius Thomas, what did that get them?
Certainly not a championship. And that’s what the Patriots are about. Not back pages.
So take a deep breath. It’s going to be a long season.