Fred Taylor is official a Patriot, and New England could use help at that position following a disappointing season from Laurence Maroney. Taylor signed with the team of Friday and expressed his desire to finish his career with the team. The Jaguars released Taylor earlier this month in part because he's been phased out by the younger, more durable Maurice Jones-Drew. The two split carries last year, with Taylor finishing with only 556 yards and a career-low 3.9 yards per carry.
With Taylor now 33 years old, the Jaguars have decided to go in a different direction. Taylor wanted to come back and, according to various reports, would've agreed to accept half of his 2008 salary in '09 -- which would've been roughly $3 million -- but the Jaguars were only prepared to offer $1 or $2 million.
Could Taylor be the answer to the Patriots' woes in the running game? A healthy, confident Maroney would be the better solution since the Patriots invested a first-round draft pick in him in 2006 and have yet to get their money's worth, but he may have worn out his welcome in New England.
Signing Taylor is reminiscent of what the Patriots did in 2004 when they signed Corey Dillon as a two-year stopgap before drafting Maroney. Dillon set a franchise record in rushing in '04 as the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years, but he ultimately deteriorated as he hit his 30s. The downside to signing Taylor is that he's already well into his 30s, which is the point where most running backs begin their decline. He, however, has bucked that trend. Taylor finished 2007 ranked fifth in the AFC in rushing and was a Pro-Bowl alternate -- not bad for a 31-year-old running back.
Perhaps Taylor can plug the hole until the Patriots decide on the long-term future of their running back position. Their backups aren't options beyond the next few years. Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan and Kevin Faulk might not be back together next season, nor are they in their primes.
The irony is the Patriots went into last season with five running backs and a seemingly unlimited pool of depth at that position, yet injuries took their toll early and they suddenly realized the waters weren't so deep after all.
--TE Chris Baker has agreed to a deal with the Patriots, according to NFL.com. Baker was released by the division-rival Jets last week, just five months after signing a three-year contract. However, he was due $9 million in guaranteed money over the remainder of the contract if he was on the roster March 5, and the team has second-year TE Dustin Keller as the starter of the future. Baker caught just 21 passes for 194 yards and no scores last season, while Keller caught 48 passes for 535 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie.
--The Patriots recently hired Chad O'Shea as their new wide receivers coach. O'Shea spent the past three seasons as an offensive assistant/wide receivers coach for the Minnesota Vikings. O'Shea will replace Bill O'Brien, who was promoted to quarterbacks coach.
--Wide receiver Randy Moss is looking forward to seeing Brady back in uniform next year, but isn't taking anything for granted either. Despite reports suggesting Brady is on target to start the season on time, Moss won't believe it until his quarterback is in uniform in Week 1.
"As a football fan, I've always been a fan of Brady's and just to see his injury as a fan, it really hurt," Moss said. "To see him come back as far as he has in his rehab, I'm just waiting to see for myself. I'm not up there as much right now. I do communicate with Tom and know he's doing well, but I can't wait to see him on that field."
--Belichick is intrigued by the linebackers/defensive ends he evaluated at the combine last week. Since they play a 3-4, the Patriots have a habit of turning 4-3 defensive ends into linebackers based on their size and speed, so the week leading up to the draft always makes for an interesting guessing game.
"The 3-4 outside linebacker/4-3 defensive end group, I think it's an interesting group," Belichick said. "I think there are some very talented players there, guys from different backgrounds, guys who have been in coverage, guys who haven't been in coverage, with pass rush ability. The (Brian) Orapkos and (Larry) Englishes, guys like that. That will be part of the process as we go forward, to try to figure out how they would fit in, in our case, to our system."
--The Patriots also shaped up their personnel department, hiring Jason Licht as the director of pro personnel. Licht has an extensive background. He was a personnel executive for the Arizona Cardinals last season en route to their NFC championship and even spent time in the pat with the Patriots as a college scout in 1999. He became the team's national scout two years later and was promoted to assistant director of player personnel following New England's victory in Super Bowl XXXVI.
They Said It: "I was a little depressed just for the fact of the magic that me and Tom had created, man, that was something that was hard to say goodbye to. Just like the snap of a finger, everything was gone." -- Moss on adjusting to life without Brady last season.
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