The New England Patriots have grabbed headlines for a variety of reasons this offseason, ranging from a player undergoing multiple offseason surgeries (tight end Rob Gronkowski), a notable veteran leaving in free agency (wide receiver Wes Welker), and releasing a player facing a murder charge (tight end Aaron Hernandez). If all of that was not enough, the Tim Tebow circus has come to Foxboro, assuming he has a legit chance to make the roster.
The positivity surrounding the “Patriots’ Way” has taken a hit, so the start of training camp this week is likely a welcome event for everyone attached to the franchise. The veteran players that remain will be charged with leading the team forward, but who is the most irreplaceable player for New England this year?
Some people may make an argument for Gronkowski, with the absence of Hernandez and Welker making his return to health vital to the team’s pass offense. But to me this is an easy choice, and quarterback Tom Brady is clearly the most irreplaceable player for the Patriots. In fact, if I were writing this piece prior to any of the last 10 seasons the soon-to-be 36-year old signal caller would fit the bill.
Brady is coming off one of his best seasons in 2012, as he threw for 4,827 yards (second-most in his career) along with 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He will be hard-pressed to repeat that yardage total this year, with four of his top five pass catchers from last season gone and the fifth (Gronkowski) working his way back to full health, but Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and his production should remain top-notch in 2013.
An injury to Brady in any season, like when he went down with a torn left ACL in Week 1 of 2008, would be devastating to New England’s hopes for a deep postseason run. But if he were to miss any time this season, the team’s chances to even make the playoffs would take a significant hit. I would say no player in the NFL, at least this side of Adrian Peterson, has his team’s fortunes this season as tied to his continued health and high level of production as Brady.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.