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Patriots March Madness

<p>The Patriots have been busy working out their off-season priorities and making moves to get things in order. With the NFL owner meetings in Hawaii including consideration for additional rules changes, all has not been quiet on the home front.</p><p>Christopher Shepard, <I>&quot;The Impaler,&quot;</I> recaps recent events coming from New England. You can reach him <a href="" target="_blank">in the forums</a>.</p>

Patriots March Madness
By Christopher Shepard

Bruschi Hires Agent Brad Blank

Media speculation regarding the health and playing future of Tedy Bruschi has reached an all time high – and apparently was the impetus for hiring Boston based sports agent, Brad Blank this week. On Wednesday it was reported that media scrutiny had become so intense a Boston news helicopter was seen flying over Bruschi’s North Attleboro, MA home.

According to Blank, as reported by the Boston Globe, Bruschi is considering sitting out the 2005 season, but declined to comment on anything else. Regardless of whether Bruschi’s career is over or on hiatus has yet to be determined, but the appearance of Blank cannot be regarded as positive news for Patriots Nation.

Bruschi suffered a mild stroke three days after playing in the NFL’s Pro Bowl in February. It was widely reported that Bruschi suffered from a hole in his heart that may have been the cause of the stroke. Bruschi was scheduled to undergo surgery in Arizona to repair the hole in his heart last week.

For the heart and soul of the Patriots and Patriots Nation, these signs are not a good omen. Nor does it spell the likelihood of Bruschi’s return to the Patriots next year. And Bruschi understandably does not want to talk about his health. He doesn’t even want his agent discussing it. On the surface an agent representing an NFL player is normal and would hardly raise an eyebrow - except in Bruschi’s case. Bruschi has acted as his own agent since his rookie year in 1996 and now for the first time has hired and agent to speak for him.

Bruschi had successfully negotiated his own contract last year that was reportedly worth $9.1 million over four years. This includes a $3.5 million signing bonus and up to $1 million dollars in incentives.

Bruschi is no babe in the woods when it comes to contract negotiations. However, now there are more than negotiations at stake. Of crucial importance is whether his stroke, happened as a result of playing in the NFL or if the stroke was brought on by a congenital heart defect. The lexicon affects his contract status and how the Patriots address Bruschi’s injury.

If Bruschi is placed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) then the Patriots will have to honor his contract. However, if it is discovered that Bruschi’s injury resulted from a congenital birth defect and not from an approved NFL injury and Bruschi retires the team will not have to honor his substantial contract. The way Bruschi’s injury is listed could make all the warm fuzzy feeling between Patriots brass and one of the most beloved Patriots linebackers a thing of the past. But working these issues out will have to fall on the shoulders of Bruschi’s new agent Brad Blank and he is not talking.

LB Don Davis Re-signed

Bruschi’s injury might have influenced Don Davis’, a nine-year pro and an unrestricted free agent, re-signing with the New England Patriots on Wednesday. The terms of his contract were undisclosed. However, in 2003, Davis earned a base salary of $335,000 with a signing bonus of $325,000 for a total of $682,000.

Over the course of his career, Davis has found work as a starter and nickel back but has made his name in special teams play. In 2003, Davis notched a career high 24 special teams tackles, the second most on the Patriots squad. Last year, given the plethora of injuries on the Patriots Defense, Davis was used as a gunner and safety at times due to his excellent coverage skills.

While this re-signing certainly fills a need in the Patriots Linebacker and special teams corps, Davis is certainly not the replacement for injured Tedy Bruschi. Davis has played in 37 games in his two years on the Patriots. The Jets originally drafted Davis in 1995. Davis started for the St. Louis Rams against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Patriots Scouting Crowder, Thurman

Now that LB Tedy Bruschi’s status for next year is uncertain, the Patriots have some immediate needs at Linebacker. They are considering two of the strongest linebackers in an overall weak linebacker class; Odell Thurman, GA and Channing Crowder, FL.

Patriots’ scouts went down to Georgia Pro Day on March 23 looking for a LB to deal. Of specific interest is Bulldog Junior linebacker Odell Thurman. He had a personal workout with not only the Patriots but with the Rams and Packers as well. One negative factor for Thurman is his Wonderlic IQ score of 12.

A more likely replacement might be Florida’s ILB, Crowder. At 6'3" 250lbs Channing Crowder, Junior, FL, is the total package with questions. He has excellent instincts, speed, athleticism and is a team leader. But he also brings emotional baggage and weak knees. Crowder has also been a very tough player and is not afraid to play hurt.

Crowders’ Wonderlic score of 30 on the test shows that he has the brains to play on a complicated Belichick coached team. Wonderlic IQ scores do not always predict accurately a player’s success in the NFL. For instance, Philladelphia QB, Donovan McNabb took it twice and scored a 12 and 16.

The Patriots are more likely to get Thurman if they pursue him than Crowder who is expected to be drafted in the first round while Thurman most likely would be a 2nd or 3rd round draftee.

Despite his off field antics, Channing Crowder is a better LB, he's smarter and younger than Thurman. But Thurman is considered a major run stopper so the Patriots would do well with either linebacker if Bruschi does not return in 2005. However, Thurman’s performance in the NFL Combines has caused his stock rise – which is why the Patriots are interested in the first place.

Where are they now?

The Lions showed the money to Damien Woody on Friday. The ex-Patriots Pro Bowl center is expected to receive approximately $13.7 million in the first three years of his contract and an $8.25 million signing bonus. When Woody was originally signed with the Patriots in 2001 his base salary was $275K and he received a $775K signing bonus. His last year with the Patriots in 2003, Woody earned a little over $2 million in salary and incentives.

Other Stories: 15 Minutes with Jarvis Green :: 15 Minutes with Randall Gay

Have a bone to pick, want some more insights, just want to talk football odds? You can reach Chris Shepard in the forums, under the screenname: christheimpaler.

If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original story as well as links to others at Patriots Insider
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