In the playoffs, the Patriots burned out quickly, getting blown apart at home by the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, the wild card Jets surprised everyone by making it to the AFC Championship game before bowing out to the Indianapolis Colts.
The two teams seem to continue to be going about their business differently in the offseason.
The Jets, feeling they were on the brink of the Super Bowl, have made a splash and added a few talented players to the mix in an effort to push them over the edge.
Meanwhile the Patriots, as per usual, have not gone out and paid big bucks for any free agents and have sat mostly quiet just bringing back their own players who were out of contract.
Two distinctly different styles, but which is the right way to go about business?
The Jets, who also made a big in-season trade acquiring wide receiver Braylon Edwards, brought in two very sexy names in the NFL: cornerback Antonio Cromartie and running back LaDanian Tomlinson.
Cromartie came to the Jets by trade for a conditional third round pick. He is best recognized for two things: intercepting Peyton Manning three times in Cromartie’s first start, and setting the NFL record for longest play in NFL history when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown.
Cromartie is extremely athletic and the Jets hope that they have the most dangerous cornerback duo in the NFL, pairing him alongside shutdown defender Darrelle Revis.
The Tomlinson move is a little more controversial.
Last season was the first time in Tomlinson’s nine-year career that he failed to reach 1,000 yards (730). He is certainly entering the twilight of his career.
The move looks especially odd when Tomlinson is compared to the player he is replacing, Thomas Jones. Jones rushed for 1,402 yards last season (almost double Tomlinson’s total). Also, the deal that New York signed Tomlinson to is not cheaper than the salary that Jones commanded.
However, the Jets did not want to pay Jones’ $3 million roster bonus. They also may have bought into the trend that running backs go on the decline once they hit 30-years-old.
They might have also felt that Jones, 31, had reached his peak. Rookie Shonn Greene had also taken most of the snaps at running back in the playoffs.
Also Tomlinson still managed to score 12 touchdowns last season, and it may be best for Greene to learn from and split carries with the former MVP, not to mention the excitement a name like Tomlinson has brought to the fan base.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have not given into the rumors of them chasing players like Tomlinson, Julius Peppers, and trading for Greg Olsen. Instead they have sat back, protected their wallet, and just brought back their own key free agents.
The Patriots signed nose tackle Vince Wilfork to a long-term deal, an important and vital piece to the team’s 3-4 base defense.
They also brought back cornerback and interception leader Leigh Bodden, running back Kevin Faulk, linebacker and sack leader Tully Banta-Cain, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, and tendered offensive lineman Logan Mankins and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The only real move the Patriots made in the offseason was filling a vacancy at the tight end position by bringing in Alge Crumpler; a nice, solid addition, but certainly not a top story on ESPN.
Which strategy will prove triumphant though?
The Jets were active, aggressive, and acquired some serious talent.
However, the Washington Redskins have been notorious for doing the same thing; opening the checkbook to bring in the prizes of free agency only to make the playoffs twice in the past 10 seasons.
As for the Patriots, there is something to be said about bringing back key players, making them happy, and keeping some good chemistry amongst the team.
However, these are the same players that got annihilated in the opening round of the playoffs last season. How can a team improve with the same cast of characters while there are obviously holes throughout the lineup?
Early indicators say the Jets have improved their team more. Still, the key word there is not “improved,” but “early.”
There are still a ton of free agents remaining. The draft which can either infuse rosters with young talent or is prime-time for trades to happen, and the second round of cuts/free agency can also add to rosters before the season begins.
Pats fans should remember the story of the tortoise and the hare, how the rabbit got off to a quick start but got tired and rested while the tortoise just kept slowly plugging along, not differentiating what’s always worked for him and wound up winning the race.
That being said, Pats fans should also be leery that it’s just business as usual, not the ownership falling asleep at the wheel.