Does a team need to make blockbuster moves in order to win a championship?
The Boston Celtics made big moves in 2007 and won the NBA title, but the Miami Heat did the same thing last year and got crushed by a Dallas Mavericks team that had most of their roster intact for years without winning.
The Boston Bruins brought in a few acquisitions last season that seemed like minor moves at the time, yet proved to be enough to win the Stanley Cup. In contrast, the Philadelphia Eagles made a series of big-time moves and didn't even make the playoffs last year.
At the end of the day, the basic truths are as follows: There is no formula for winning. There is no dollar amount that equates to a banner. There is no specific player who will undoubtedly swing fate in your direction.
A guy like J.J. Barea can completely stifle a superstar like LeBron James. The Bruins can win a Stanley Cup with a bunch of misfits on their roster. Tom Brady can be the 199th pick in the draft and become arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, and the Giants can be out of the playoffs until late in the season and then somehow win the Super Bowl.
Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul were arguably the four most important players on the Giants last season. None of those guys were new. Some of them simply seemed new because they finally had their breakout season.
Cruz, Nicks and Pierre-Paul weren't massive offseason acquisitions for 2011. Rather, they were "non acquisitions" who were already there, yet suddenly became elite superstars who played at a high enough level to totally swing the season in their favor.
Similar to what Cruz and Nicks did for the Giants, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez did for the Patriots. They exploded from seemingly out of oblivion and altered the entire face of New England's offense. It was the sort of explosion one would assume was the result of an offseason blockbuster trade, almost like bringing the football counterparts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to New England.
Yet neither Gronkowski nor Hernandez were the result of a blockbuster offseason move. They were just sitting there on the Patriots roster, waiting for their moment to shine. No drama, no muss, no fuss, no blockbuster trade scenario or marquee pickup from the free agency pool. They were just waiting to become who they were born to be.
So what's the point? Simply this: If the Patriots don't acquire Mario Williams or Vincent Jackson or any other marquee free agent, we can still win with our core group of guys. The key objective is for our young players to blossom into their full potential in 2012. We need our "non acquisitions" to play like they're new weapons from the result of a non-existant blockbuster deal.
The Patriots have a list of players who still haven't had their breakout season yet. Most notable among them are Danny Woodhead (28), Julian Edelman (25), Sterling Moore (22), Stevan Ridley (23), Marcus Cannon (23), Matthew Slater (26), Ras-I Dowling (23) and Shane Vereen (23).
Any of these guys can be the breakout studs of 2012. There's no telling who it'll be.
Maybe it'll be Patrick Chung. Amazingly, Chung is only 24. To hear him speak, you'd think he was a wise veteran in the latter part of his career. He only played half of the 2011 season and still managed to show glimpses of being the second-coming of Rodney Harrison.
Woodhead and Edelman are two interesting guys to watch. Both seem to be plagued by a lack of confidence. I only say that because 2011 should've been the breakout year for both of them.
This is especially true for Woodhead, whom I would've easily pegged in 2010 as an upcoming superstar. Both Woodhead and Edelman are likely to break out in 2012, but they need to gain the confidence that swelled Gronkowski and Cruz to such lofty heights in 2011.
I'm all in favor of bringing Reggie Wayne to New England. I'm in favor of chasing Mike Wallace or Pierre Garcon. I'm in favor of going after a lot of free agents out there on the market. But I also know that a big-time acquisition isn't totally necessary. We already have a list of players on our team who haven't blossomed yet, which makes them potential superstars in 2012.
So if you feel yourself getting a little antsy because the Patriots aren't making any big moves this offseason, just keep in mind that the next great Patriot may already be on our roster.