There’s been a lot talk recently about the release of LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego and, just today, Brian Westbrook in Philly. The obvious question people are asking is, “Where will LT/Westbrook play this season?” There has already been talk on the Patriots message boards about the possibility of the Patriots trying to sign LT, and I’m sure talk will soon start about acquiring Brian Westbrook. As big as the names are, these players are not a fit or worth sinking a few million dollars into for the New England Patriots. Here’s why:First off, the money needed to sign either player would not fit into the Patriots’ pay scheme, especially with a host of their own players to re-sign. Both LT and Westbrook were released because their teams were not willing to pay them what their contract called for, and neither player was willing to renegotiate a smaller deal. That’s one thing that bothers me about LT. If he loved San Diego as much as he said he did and didn’t want to leave, why didn’t he even consider renegotiating? For all that’s said about how great LT is, I’ve wondered a long time if that was a bit if a stretch. I was on the “LT is a great guy” bandwagon for a while until the Pats/Chargers playoff game in 2006 and LT’s subsequent comments.
Next, and most important, is the age of each player. Both LT and Brian Westbrook are 30 years old, which is generally the age at which running backs tend to decline. Both are coming off down years and an injury-plagued recent history. LT has most definitely lost a step, declining in total rushing yards and yards per carry every year since 2006. This past season, he averaged a meager 3.3 YPC. Westbrook has never played a full 16-game regular season and this past season he had two concussions. There is no telling how effective he will be this season or future seasons. Besides, the Patriots already have enough over-30 RBs: Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, and presumably Kevin Faulk (if/when he is re-signed). Neither of these backs bring anything new to the table, as neither are the dynamic players they used to be.
The Patriots need to continue the youth movement that started last year on defense. The offense needs a youth infusion as well, especially seeing as though Laurence Maroney just hasn’t worked out at RB, nor have any of their recent draft choices for the wide-out position (the jury’s still out on Brandon Tate). One name to keep in mind in the free agent market is the other Chargers RB, Darren Sproles. Sproles, while a restricted free agent, will not be tendered by San Diego because of the cost involved. That means that he’ll be out on the open market if he’s not re-signed before March 5. Sproles has a ton of value as a fast back in the mold of Kevin Faulk, only faster. Can you picture Sproles working the excellent screen game that the Pats like to employ, or running out of passing formations through big holes? He’s also an excellent kick returner, another soft spot for the Pats last year. I strongly believe that there is a 0% chance LT or Brian Westbrook sign with New England, and it’s because of the youth movement currently in full swing.