In a three-part segment leading into the start of training camp, we examine the expectations for the Patriots' free agent acquisitions, rookies, and veterans this season.

The only one left to talk about is the veterans, so let us get started.

We are [yet again] going to use a different grading scale, this time based on the accomplishments and disappointments of previous players throughout their careers.

Obviously Tom Brady should be the highest standard, but since he was used in our previous article, let us use someone different.


1 Troy Brown: Mr. Patriot is the highest ranking Patriots player [outside of Brady] from recent memory in my book. The man did it all, and helped the Patriots win all three of their Super Bowls. He was everything you ask for in a Patriots player. He was a leader, he did whatever he could to help the team win, even if it meant playing defense. He was clutch, and he put up very nice statistics.

2 Mark Anderson: Was Anderson great? No, but he was very good last season for the Patriots. He posted 10 sacks in the regular season, along with another 2.5 in the postseason. I put him here at No. 2 because while he was awesome, his stint was too short in New England. He never reached his full potential here, and that keeps him out of that “great” category.

3 Ty Warren: Ty Warren was taken in the first round (13thoverall) of the Draft by the Patriots in 2003. He was supposed to be a stud and he… well, he was good, but that was it. Just good. His best outing came in 2006 when he posted seven sacks, and he had another strong year in 2007, but he was never quite the stud he was supposed to be. Was he a good player? Sure, but did he live up to expectations? I personally do not think so.

4 Brandon Meriweather: Meriweather was supposed to be the answer for the Patriots at safety, and he proved that he could play in 2009 when he was offered a spot in the Pro Bowl, and then again in 2010 when he went for the second straight year. But Meriweather played a little “dirty” sometimes, and his off the field actions cost him in the end. He was cut before the 2011 season started. Meriweather could have been great player for the Patriots, but in the end he was only a disappointment.

5 Adalius Thomas: Who could forget this bust? After several monster seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Thomas signed a five-year, $35 million contract heading in to the 2007 season. After a subpar outing that year [only 6.5 sacks in ’07, as opposed to 11 in Baltimore the previous year], Thomas never truly recovered and fell apart. He is no longer in the NFL. Wasted money? Absolutely.

Now that we have our rating system down, let us get to the players.

Tom Brady:
Fan expectations: Troy Brown
What they should be: Troy Brown

Analysis: Brady is coming off of one of his greatest seasons yet, and there is no sign of him slowing down. Still hungry for the Super Bowl title that has eluded him for seven years, Brady looked sharp in his first day at training camp – in “midseason form,” according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss. Not only that, but he has a bunch of new toys to play with. The acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Daniel Graham and Visanthe Shiancoe can only make this offense better. There is no doubt that Brady is in for another monster season.

Wes Welker:
Fan expectations: Troy Brown
What they should be: Troy Brown / Mark Anderson

Analysis: People may expect another 1,500-yard season from Welker, but that is expecting too much. Expecting 100 catches is okay, but expecting another year like last is not. Defenses will be better after a full offseason, and the Patriots have more weapons this year. That combination means that numbers should be down this year. It might not be in a bad way, but they should be down. A campaign of 110 catches and 1,100 yards seems like the absolute BEST possible scenario.

Rob Gronkowski:
Fan expecatations: Troy Brown
What they should be: Mark Anderson

Analysis: Gronk was a beast last year. Plain and simple. He had the best season ever by a tight end, and he has another year under his belt. Sounds like a recipe for success, right? Well, maybe. He is coming off of major ankle surgery, and there are more targets for Brady to pass to this year. I am not saying Gronk will not be the best tight end in the league, I am merely saying that his numbers should drop. Expect 10 touchdowns at least, but 17? Do not count on it.

Aaron Hernandez:
Fan expectations: Mark Anderson
What they should be: Troy Brown

Analysis: I have been saying that receivers numbers will drop because of all the new targets and because defenses will be better. Hernandez is definitely an exception to that theory. Think about it – Hernandez, arguably the third best tight end in the league, will be going up against teams fourth best defensive back (behind Welker, Gronkowski, and Lloyd).

That sounds like a huge mismatch. He also must be a bit irritated that Gronk is making nearly $10 million over the next two years while he is not even making $1M. He is playing for an extension, whether he wants to say it or not. If he can stay healthy all season long, I expect Hernandez to catch close to 100 passes for well over 1,000 yards.

Devin McCourty:
Fan expectations: Brandon Meriweather/ Ty Warren
What they should be: Mark Anderson

Analysis: McCourty should return to Pro Bowl form this year, and the reason I say this is because he has time to get in shape. McCourty was very out-of-shape last season, especially in the beginning, but now he is looking for something to prove. We all know his potential, now it is time to utilize it. I think he will have a great year, and if he plays as well as he is capable of then he could be in consideration for a return trip to Hawaii.

Patrick Chung:
Fan expectations: Mark Anderson
What they should be: Ty Warren

Analysis: People expect a big year from Chung. He is healthy, he is the anchor of that secondary, he is playing for a contract and he can hit hard. But can he really stay healthy for an entire season? He has yet to prove he can in his three-year career, and that could really hurt this secondary. If he can stay on the field I’ll put him in the Anderson category, but if not then I am afraid we may be in for a slight disappointment. He has the skill, now he has to show it off for ALL 16 games.