The New England Patriots may not have made the biggest splash of the off-season in free agency, at least not from a financial perspective, but the addition of Brandon Lloyd is odds on to prove to be the most impactful of all moves made this off-season.
Lloyd joined the Patriots on a three year deal worth $12 million after finishing last season with the St. Louis Rams. At 31 years of age, Lloyd is a nine year veteran who has had five different teams throughout his career. Even though he has never started all 16 games in any of those seasons, Lloyd figures to do so with the Patriots this year.
While with the Denver Broncos in 2010, Lloyd had the best season of his career posting 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. Significantly, Lloyd spent that season working under the then Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was fired by the Broncos after that season before becoming the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.
Even though the Rams' offense struggled, McDaniels returned to the Patriots because of his history with Bill Belichick and the team. McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots during Tom Brady's record-breaking season in 2007.
During his time working with McDaniels since 2009, Brandon Lloyd has tallied 128 receptions, 2,131 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 21 starts. While Lloyd is unlikely to replicate those statistics in New England, he will have a greater effect on the team's overall production.
Last season the Patriots had only one respectable deep threat on their roster in tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez is somewhat of an afterthought in the Patriots offense as he plays in the shadow of Rob Gronkowski. Behind Gronkowski, most teams look to shut down Wes Welker as he tries to work the underneath. Hernandez could be in for a massive year with Lloyd however.
Lloyd is a blazing receiver. He has exceptional pace and will take the top off defenses on a regular basis. His threat alone will help his teammates because he adds another dimension to the offense. It is impossible for teams to double team both Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Lloyd without sacrificing bodies in the pass rush.
While Lloyd's added threat in the matchup game helps everyone, his ability to stretch the defense should free up Hernandez. Hernandez was used in different ways last season, but as the team's best deep threat, he would likely have spent a lot of time clearing out zones for others.
If Hernandez wants a greater work-load this season, the opportunities should be there. Lloyd's threat to go deep should space the defense underneath. Hernandez had 79 receptions for 910 yards last year and seven touchdowns. He likely won't have 79 receptions this season, but could still sweep past his total yards.
As a rookie, Hernandez averaged 12.5 yards per reception. Last year he averaged 11.5 yards per reception. With a more expansive group of receivers outside, Hernandez should see a significant growth in his average per reception. He has the pace and ability to regularly lose defenders in space, with greater experience entering his third season to make him an all around more impactful player.
The Patriots' offense this year has plenty of weapons for Tom Brady. The additions of Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth and the growth of Stevan Ridley should give him enough targets to potentially have a record-breaking year.Chad Clifton comes in for a visit:
Former Green Bay Packers' left tackle Chad Clifton is expected to visit the Patriots this week for a physical. Clifton played 12 seasons with the Packers as the team's blindside protector. He only played six games last year due to injury.
Clifton would provide some much needed veteran depth at tackle. Nate Solder struggled during the team's opening game of the year while Sebastien Vollmer has chronic back issues to handle.Plaxico Burress follows suit:
Despite getting rid of one eccentric receiver already this off-season, the Patriots are entertaining the possibility of bringing in another. The Patriots had an "exploratory" workout with Plaxico Burress this week.
Burress is unlikely to sign with the Patriots as they have plenty of players on the roster, but the evaluation was likely carried out in case the team needs to add a body during the season.