Last week, I came up with five ways for the Patriots to improve in 2009, (click link to read) http://bleacherreport.com/articles/126016-5-ways-for-the-patriots-to-improve-in-09.
In that article, amidst some criticism, I suggested that the Patriots must take a look at some top veteran halfbacks, including Jacksonville's Fred Taylor.
Mere hours after free agency opened, the Patriots announced that the 11-year veteran would be joining the team as a free agent. Terms of the contract have not been announced yet.
Sure this deal doesn't have the financial impact of Albert Haynesworth's 100 million dollar contract with the Redskins, or the drama of the Colts releasing "Cowboy" Marvin Harrison, but the signing of Fred Taylor greatly improves an already impressive running attack.
Last season, starting running back Laurence Maroney had an injury plagued season, only seeing action briefly at the beginning of the season, while quickly being overshadowed by Sammy Morris and the First Down Machine Kevin Faulk.
However, the injury bug bit the Patriots hard last year, and halfway through the season, Maroney, Morris, and Lamont Jordan were all out with injuries, leaving an undrafted rookie by the name of Benjarvus-Green Ellis to pick up the slack.
Adding Taylor will minimize injuries to other backs such as Morris and Jordan, who is a free agent, and will probably be elsewhere in 09.
Taylor also brings veteran leadership to the team, a borderline Hall of Famer, with Hall of Fame credentials, Taylor is familiar sharing the load with other backs. Remember for the last few seasons, he split time with Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. He will be a mentor of sorts to the younger halfbacks, and will hopefully light a fire under the underachieving Maroney.
Last season, Taylor ran the ball 143 times for 556 yards and a touchdown, his lowest totals since an injury-riddled 2001 campaign. Taylor however, is only two years removed from a 1200 yard season, so there is little doubt in my mind that he could amass 800-1000 yards this year, depending on how many touches he gets.
Lastly, signing with the Patriots gives Taylor the opportunity to put the stamp on his Hall of Fame resume with a Super Bowl ring. The Patriots are undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy this season, and Taylor, much like Corey Dillon in 2004, can help this team reach the summit of the league once again.
This signing is also the first major personnell move of the post Scott Pioli era, proving that the Patriots still know how to wheel and deal, and with the draft coming up soon and a quarterback by the name of Matt Cassel as an asset, rest assured there will be more of that to come.
UPDATE: The Patriots have reportedly reached an agreement with former Jets TE Chris Baker, another upgrade that I recommended in last weeks article. Stay tuned Pats fans, something tells me we're not done yet, with the Pats focusing on Leigh Bodden.