Losing Colvin Is Not A Good Thing

The Patriots' thinning, aging corps of a linebackers -- the real heart of any good 3-4 front -- got a bit thinner Feb. 26 when the team parted ways with veteran outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.

Coming off a season in which he ended the year on injured reserve with a foot injury, and due to carry a $7.6 million cap number in 2008, the combination of injuries, high salary and less-than-elite production forced New England to sever ties with a guy who started 39 of the 61 games he played in during his five years with the Patriots.

Colvin joined the Patriots as a premier free agent in the spring of 2002. He was the first real big free agent splash of the Bill Belichick era in New England. He joined team coming off back-to-back 10.5-sack seasons with the Bears.

After recording a sack in each of his first two games in New England in 2003, a serious hip injury sidelined Colvin for the rest of the season. While he returned to play in all 16 games the next season for the Super Bowl champs, he never returned to the double-digit sack production he'd reached in two of his first four NFL seasons in Chicago. He did lead the Patriots with seven sacks in 2005 and 8.5 in 2006. In his five seasons in New England he recorded 203 totals tackles, 26.5 sacks, one interception, eight passes defensed, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

While the nine-year veteran out of Purdue made some big plays in his time with the Patriots and was a consistent starter, it wasn't enough to warrant the dollars his free-agent contract called for moving forward. By cutting Colvin prior to the start of the new league year, New England will save $5.5 million against the 2008 cap that would have been his base salary, although the team will still carry a hit of more than $2 million in "dead" money.

The loss of Colvin (the team also released injured 2007 seventh-round draft pick Oscar Lua Feb. 26) left the Patriots with six linebackers under contract heading into free agency. That list includes returning starters in All-Pro Mike Vrabel, 2007 free-agent prize Adalius Thomas, veteran Tedy Bruschi, young reserves Eric Alexander and Pierre Woods and recently-signed T.J. Slaughter. Junior Seau is scheduled to hit free agency. But Seau is expected to retire or return to New England for one last run at another possible Super Bowl title. The team has also reportedly reached a deal with veteran special team free-agent-to-be Larry Izzo, although the deal has not be made official and he's nothing more than a special teams ace anyway.

Even if the 38-year-old Seau does return for his 19th seasons, New England clearly has huge needs at linebacker heading into both free agency and the draft. The team has not been willing to delve into the linebacker crop early in the draft in the Belichick era, not taking one on the first day in his eight years overseeing the draft. Sooner or later this spring the team will have to add both top-end talent and maybe some youthful depth with starting potential to the core of its 3-4 front.

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