The Hot List: Five free agents to forget
|03.04.10 at 1:29 am ET|
With free agency set to begin at the end of the week and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions, we’re going to take a look at the best and worst of Bill Belichick’s forays into free agency with the Patriots. To start us off, here are five instances where Belichick would love to ask for a mulligan.
5. Wide receiver Joey Galloway — signed as a free agent on March 19, 2009
A veteran receiver, it was believed this 14-year veteran — who had over 10,000 career receiving yards prior to the start of the 2009 season — could provide a complementary outsid
e threat for Randy Moss. The Patriots had lost No. 3 wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in the offseason, and it was believed either Galloway or Greg Lewis could fill his shoes.
Lewis was cut shortly before the season started, but Galloway struggled from the jump to pick up New England’s complex passing game. The low point was a Sept. 27 win over Atlanta, where Brady was visibly angry with his receiving corps — a group that included Galloway — after a series of miscues. Galloway ended up playing in just three games, and had seven catches for 67 yards. He would later tell ESPN Radio that it just wasn’t a good fit.
“I had a different idea of what I was going there to do,” he said. “I thought that I was going there to be the third receiver. I thought I was going there to help them stretch the field to go vertical, and once I got there, that just wasn’t the case. The third receiver in New England doesn’t a large role in much of the offense, and that’s in practice, that’s on game day.”
4. Defensive lineman Steve Martin — signed as an unrestricted free agent on April 3, 2002
The Patriots struggled to stop the run in 2001, yielding 1,855 rushing yards and 4.3 yards per carry over the course of the season. Enter Martin, a defensive tackle of some renown who had done a serviceable job clogging up the middle for several seasons, including Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Kansas City and the Jets. (In 2001, he had 57 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks, a career-high in both departments.)
But Martin was a colossal failure on a number of levels. He had problems picking up the New England defense — the Patriots allowed 4.7 yards per carry that year. But perhaps his most egregious sin was the fact that talked constantly to anyone who would listen. That included coaches, teammates and the media, who he courted on a daily basis. It didn’t matter the topic — Martin always seemed to have an opinion, and constantly shared it with the reporters. Fed up with things, Belichick cut him shortly before Christmas.
3. Wide receiver Donald Hayes — signed by the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent on March 12, 2002
The one thing that was missing from the 2001 New England receiving corps was a receiver with length, and it was believed the 6-foot-4 Hayes could fill the bill. In 2001, Hayes had 52 catches for 597 yards with Carolina, and it was believed he could be the perfect addition to a smallish receiving corps stocked with pass-catchers who all topped out at 5-foot-10.
It started promisingly enough — he had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in the season opener — but that was the high-water mark for Hayes in New England. In 12 total games — one start — he had just 12 catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. (It was later revealed he had a learning disability.) He never played in another NFL game again.
2. Linebacker Adalius Thomas — signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 3, 2007
When it comes to expectations vs. overall production, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Thomas deserves a spot near the top of this list. Thomas was billed as the perfect fit for Belichick’s system, a versatile defender who had played all over the field and had been successful doing so. His Patriots’ career started with a bang — his interception return for a touchdown against the Chargers in Week 2 of the 2007 season was an epic display of a football player at the height of his powers. There were also plenty of big moments over the rest of that season, including Super Bowl XLII, where he was consistently the single best defensive player New England had on the field that night against the Giants.
But an arm injury midway through the 2008 season left him ineffective the rest of the way. And the 2009 season was one of the most forgettable in recent memory — a healthy scratch, a dispute with Belichick and a distinct dropoff in speed have appeared to sour things so badly that it appears to be a foregone conclusion that the Patriots will cut him or trade him before the start of the 2010 season.
1. Linebacker Monty Beisel — signed as an unrestricted free agent on April 14, 2005
Asked to step in after the sudden retirement of Ted Johnson and the stroke suffered by Tedy Bruschi following Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots added Beisel and fellow veteran Chad Brown at linebacker to start the season in hopes they could replace them.
Brown struggled but managed to maintain a sense of good humor about the whole thing, engaging with the media about his situation on a number of occasions. That wasn’t the case with Beisel. He started the first five games of the season, but after Bruschi returned midway through the season, he saw his playing time cut drastically, starting just one game the rest of the way and finishing the year with 47 tackles and a sack. (He made more headlines off the field, where he engaged in an infamous off-field run-in with a reporter in the locker room.) He was cut before the start of the 2006 season.
To his credit, he has managed to bounce back nicely, finding a job as a linebacker/special teamer in Arizona, becoming became the first player in NFL history to score a game-winning touchdown in overtime by returning a blocked punt in 2008 and eventually helping the Cardinals reach Super Bowl XLIII.
Honorable mention: Cornerback Deltha O’Neal, defensive back Victor Green, tight end Cam Cleeland, linebacker Chad Brown.
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