Free agency has started and as usual the Patriots have not done much in the beginning stages. The Pats have a lot of key free agents out there and at some point they must do something about them. However for the moment, they are pretty much staying put and letting everything else play out.
The one thing the Patriots have done so far is they placed a low round tender on tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Basically this means that the Pats will have to pay him $1.323 million next year if he is still on the team. Another team has the chance to match this offer and if they do they will have to give the Patriots a 5th round draft pick as compensation for Hoomanawanui. I really like this move for the Pats, it is not “flashy” like some of the big moves made today but it is a solid and very smart move. ‘Hooman’ played very well in 2012 as a backup to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronk and Hernandez both missed significant time last year and Hooman did his best to help the Pats overcome their injuries. Hoomanawanui is a very good blocker, both in the running game and in pass protection. It was obvious when he came in the game that the Pats were able to run the football much better than if it were just Hernandez or just Gronkowski. Later in the season Hoomanawanui made a lot of plays catching the ball as well as in weeks 15 and 16 he totaled 3 catches for 87 yards. Gronkowski and Hernandez have both shown that they are a little injury prone throughout their career and if they happen to miss some time in 2013, then the Pats have a solid replacement in Hoomanawanui. If another team swoops in and signs Hoomanawanui then the Pats get solid compensation as they will receive a 5th round draft pick.
Donald Thomas was signed by the Colts today and I think this move hurts the Pats more than people may think. Logan Mankins is one of the toughest offensive lineman in the NFL. However last year he missed a significant amount of time due to injury but because of Thomas’ great play on the inside the Pats offense hardly missed a beat. If Mankins goes down or any of the Pats interior lineman go down in 2013 then they will not have such a reliable backup plan, as Thomas is now gone. I think that this forces the Pats to maybe put some focus on the offensive line in free agency and the draft to try and get some depth on the inside. They are extremely thin as of right now and that could come back to bite them in 2013.
Overall a quiet day so far for the Patriots, but this is normal. In general the teams that spend a lot of money on the first day of free agency are the ones that have it backfire on them later in the season. A popular saying in the NFL is ‘winners in March are losers in January and February’.