The Patriots have made a number of free agent signings so far. I think it would be interesting to take a look at each:
MARTIN GRAMATICA: There is nothing to lose with this signing. I have heard media folks poo poo it constantly. They ignore his recent injury, don’t talk about the fact he was a Pro Bowl kicker not that long ago and claim he is “not a cold weather kicker.” Michael Felger wrote last week “As for his bad-weather experience, he was born in Argentina, went to high school in Florida and spent the first six years of his career in Tampa and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, where the Colts signed him to help on kickoffs through the end of 2004.” I heard Dale Arnold repeat the claim today Gramatica “has never been a cold weather kicker.” This seems to be a mantra repeated in the Boston Sports Media without anyone bothering to look up the actual stats.
I did. Martin Gramatica, as near as I can tell, has played in 9 career games in which the temperature dipped below 50 degrees. These were: 10/10/1999 at Green Bay; 11/19/2000 at Chicago; 12/24/2000 at Green Bay; 12/31/2000 at Philadelphia; 12/2/2001 at Cincinnati; 12/16/2001 at Chicago; 1/12/2002 at Philadelphia; 12/29/2002 at Chicago; 12/28/2003 at Tennessee. All these game reports, with game time temperature, are available on the Buccaneers website.
During these games, two of which were playoff games (the two against Philadelphia), Gramatica was 15-18 kicking field goals and 5-5 on extra points. I may have missed a game or two, but I think I got the gist of his record. He can kick in cold weather. Some of these games were in the teens. He was 4-4 in the two Philadelphia playoff games kicking field goals.
I think this is a good signing simply because the Patriots can cut Gramatica if they evaluate he can’t kick anymore. And if he is the Gramatica of early in his career, they have themselves a steal. There is no risk….he didn’t receive a bonus and his salary is non-guaranteed. If they had signed some street free agane from the University of South Florida whose kicked all his life in Florida, would we be subject to sarcastic articles from Jim Donaldson about the signing? No, it would be a one line sentence on the transaction list because everyone would understand its a no-risk signing that doesn’t cost a thing, has potential big upside and is a smart move. Instead, the local media can’t resist the chance to take an illogical cheap shot.
ERIC WARFIELD: Warfield has plenty of starting experience and is a solid corner when his head is on straight. He has had his share of issues and, here as well, the Patriots gave him zero guaranteed money. He will be on a short lease and if he has problems of any kind, he’ll be gone. If he can stay on the straight and narrow, and he’s said the right things so far, he’ll help upgrade the secondary as he is a versatile, physical, above average NFL defensive back.
TEBUCKY JONES: If Jones accepts his role now back with the Patriots, and at this point in his career he likely will, of playing special teams, filling in in the secondary where needed and being a team player, he can help the team. As a special teamer, extra safety, he is a major upgrade over the departed Michael Stone. And he came for the veteran minimum as well. Plus he knows the system. He was always among the best special teamers in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see what he has left.
MEL MITCHELL: This is strictly a special teams signing. The Patriots always make room for these kind of guys, guy who can excel covering kicks, and that should help him stick around the bottom of the roster.
RECHE CALDWELL: This is the one signing I am slightly skeptical of. He is a talented guy who has good size and speed and was highly regarded coming out of college. Yet his production in San Diego was limited. He was off to a good start in 2004 and was San Diego’s leading receiver until he got hurt six games in. Perhaps that would have been his breakout year if he stayed healthy. This year, he was a third receiver. San Diego has one of the most limited passing games in the NFL in terms of throwing to extra receivers, so that may explain some of his low production. He does have talent. But I would not expect him to fill the role of David Givens and instead will be a depth guy. The Patriots need to do more upgrading at this spot.
That is it for now. Perhaps we’ll have another look at any additional signings the Patriots make down the road.