NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 18, 2013

Prime Targets: Would Belichick ever risk a deal for Larry Fitz?

Would Pats ever risk deal for Larry Fitz to save season?

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

---- — FOXBOROUGH — Some Patriots fans are panicked. Others remain pompous at 2-0.

With nearly 10 days between games, the two sides will clash repeatedly this week on blogs, radio and social media.

Bill Belichick can’t be bothered with whether Tom Brady is a meanie to the rookies over this hiatus. It is mea culpa time for the coach. Admit you made mistakes handling the receivers and go out and rectify.

Yes, there is still time and most importantly, opportunity knocks.

With only Rob Gronkowski’s return imminent and a glut of question marks at the receiver position — when will we see Danny Amendola again, will Kenbrell Thompkins find a way to shake loose from tight man, will Aaron Dobson master the drops, etc. — the onus falls on Belichick.

Salvage the season. Mortgage the future, if needed, and give Tom Brady a chance. Time to make a deal.

So much talk has centered around Brady and Belichick. With the coach’s recent, reported contract extension, the optimists around here have Brady playing to 42, 43, maybe longer.

The bottom line is, he could play forever, but Brady will never be 36 again.

Brady himself said after Thursday night’s “win” that “no-one is coming to the rescue and save the day.”

I say the coach could be the guy.

Belichick, for one of the few times in his days here at New England, doesn’t have draft picks stockpiled. So what. It’s time to exhaust the chips you do have and get some help in here now.

Look at the AFC right now. Yes, you have the Denver Broncos, the best team in the game right now thanks to the addition of Wes Welker, but that’s an old story. As for the other AFC contenders?

New England, figuring both Gronk and Amendola back in the mix, sits in a pack with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee and even San Diego as potential suitors for a spot in the conference title game.

Who’s out there? Who could be available?

With so many teams alive in a balanced, balanced NFL, the pickings are thin. You’re not going out and getting a Julio Jones from Atlanta or A.J. Green from Cincy.

But there are options, and the one that shines brightest is Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. Fitzgerald’s contract is huge, an albatross to a non-contender at an amortized $15 million a year. But at 30 years old, Fitzgerald is a blue-chipper sitting at the top of his game. The only thing missing in his career is a Super Bowl ring. The cash cost/cap hit might offset the asking price, though. Belichick would have to pay, but it would be at a cost of one premier draft pick, not two or three.

Fitzgerald would be the ultimate. How would you like to hit December with him at the lead receiver spot, Amendola at the Welker spot and both the top two rookies fighting for No. 3, with Gronkowski wreaking havoc in the seam. Suddenly, the Pats are true contenders.

With the Patriots not playing Sunday, I had the opportunity to check out Cleveland, long enough to know that Brandon Weeden isn’t leading the Browns to the promised land any time soon. Davone Bess is a veteran that the Browns might part with at around $3 million per year. Cleveland, in grabbing Bess from the Dolphins, basically came for the equivalent of a fifth-round pick.

Bess can play. He’s exceptional in the return game. Wouldn’t you love to see if the Browns would nibble on a third- or fourth-rounder?

Finally, and I hate to chew on what is an already emaciated carcass, but what about talking to the Jags? The name Cecil Shorts III is an intriguing one, considering he caught 55 balls for 979 yards last year with their QB situation.

The Jags are the first “X” on your who won’t make the playoffs slate. Two problems, though: Shorts is young and inexpensive, meaning the Pats would have to pay. He might cost a pair of No. 2s or a 2 and a 3. In that case, he’d better be a difference-maker.

You have to figure, with Brady and what he’s got right now to throw to, all three would make a difference.

Are Belichick and the Pats willing to take the risk? The season probably depends on it.