Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have done it again with the Brandon Lloyd signing. On a day in which everyone will point to Trevor Scott or Anthony Gonzalez as the next genius Belichickian signing, the reality is that the bigger name this time is the biggest steal.
While it was known that Lloyd was willing to take less money to sign for the Patriots, nobody in their wildest dreams would have imagined that Lloyd was willing to take as little as he did.
Lloyd's deal is for three years at $12 million in total. It is unclear what number is guaranteed, but even if all $12 million of it is, then the Patriots have still signed Lloyd at probably half of what he could have gotten elsewhere.
Even though he is a 30-year-old receiver, with only one season where he really dominated the league's receiving charts (2010 when he led every receiver with 1,448 yards with 11 touchdowns), Lloyd is one of the better starting receivers in the NFL.
While Lloyd's production over his career can be used against him in negotiations, the reality is he has never had a quarterback capable of getting the best out of him. Prior to playing with Kyle Orton in Denver, Lloyd had never started consistently with a decent NFL quarterback.
Most of his career starts are spread out between the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers as he played the first five seasons of his career with those franchises. In San Francisco, Lloyd was part of the preluding teams to the Alex Smith era as well as featuring during his rookie season when he threw only one touchdown to 11 interceptions.
In Washington, he was around for the start of the Jason Campbell era. Campbell, despite showing a lot in Oakland last year, was never able to fully take over in Washington and even if he had, he didn't have the arm strength to really get the best out of Lloyd.
You see that's the thing with Lloyd, he has been undervalued throughout his career because he has never been in the right situation to shine. Situations are vital for wide receivers more than anyone else because of their complete dependance on their quarterback.
Now that he has landed in New England, however, there is no reason for him not to repeat his performances of 2010.
While the Patriots have stolen Lloyd from a financial perspective, they have also stolen him because his value to them is greater than most teams. In the Patriots offense, Lloyd will be indefensible.
Playing with Josh McDaniels again is huge for Lloyd, but playing with Tom Brady and Co. is an even greater victory for the veteran receiver.
The Patriots offense is completely based on matchups. Belichick has built the group by investing heavily in offensive linemen while acquiring versatile players who are difficult to define or designate a position to.
With Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the backfield, the Patriots have a committee of versatile runners and receivers even without BenJarvus Green-Ellis who is a free agent. Woodhead, Ridley and Vereen are only complementary pieces, however, as the real reason Lloyd will dominate in New England is because of the other receivers around him.
As explained in this article, a receiver with speed is the worst possible thing defenses could see being added to the Patriots offense.
Because Wes Welker dominates as a possession receiver working the underneath coverages, stretching the field and forcing defenses to respect Lloyd's deep threat is a two-fold improvement to the offense. Lloyd adds the deep ball dimension, but also creates more space for Welker to work in.
You could manage last season without doubling Welker because the team had no deep threat, but this year his average per reception will drastically rise because of Lloyd's presence. Therefore, reducing Welker's impact will only be possible with a double-team.
The next problem is: How can you double-team Welker with Gronkowski and Hernandez in the offense?
You simply can't. Gronkowski and Hernandez are not tight ends or receivers. They are hybrids. You can cover tight ends with linebackers or safeties. You can cover receivers with cornerbacks. You cannot cover Hernandez or Gronkowski with anyone.
If you double-teamed Gronkowski last year, Brady beat you with Hernandez. If you double-teamed Hernandez last year, Brady beat you with Gronkowski. This year, he will be able to beat you with Lloyd as well.
Considering that Chad Ochocinco also should now have a new comfort level within the offense, and in turn actually be a productive receiver once again, how is anyone going to match up to Brady's receiving corp?
Of course, rushing Brady is the obvious game plan, but rushing Brady is going to be very difficult also. You won't be able to blitz Brady next year. He has too many weapons.
Against the Patriots, teams are forced to show their hand in either a base or nickel defense because of the matchup issues with the team's receivers/hybrids.
If you line up in a nickel defense, as most do, Brady will establish the run with his running backs and force you to stop it without an extra lineman/linebacker on the field. It's the reasoning behind the team's unusual decision to repeatedly run the ball at the end of the New York Jets playoff game a few years ago.
Establishing the run obviously makes pass-rushers hesitant while you cannot play single coverage against the Patriots' weapons, so blitzing isn't an option. Unless you have elite pass-rushers spread across the field, i.e. like the New York Giants, then you have no chance of outwitting the Patriots offense.
This year, even if you do have those All-Pro type of defensive linemen, it may not even be enough.
Brandon Lloyd is the best free-agent signing of the 2012 offseason. No addition from here on out will change that either.
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