The Patriots have signed 14 free agents this offseason who were established veterans that played for another team last year: safety Steve Gregory (Chargers), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (Colts), defensive back Marquice Cole (Jets), defensive end Trevor Scott (Raiders), tight end Daniel Fells (Broncos), wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (Rams), defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene (Bengals), offensive lineman Robert Gallery (Raiders), cornerback Will Allen (Dolphins), wide receiver Donte Stallworth (Redskins), fullback Tony Fiammetta (Cowboys), fullback Spencer Larsen (Broncos), linebacker Bobby Carpenter (Lions) and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney (Redskins).
Only four of them — Fells, Fanene, Larsen and Carpenter — came from 2011 playoff teams. Others have seen their respective organizations go through some difficult times. And to be fair, while the Raiders and Bengals haven't exactly been model franchises over the last decade, each team is on its way up, which is particularly the case in Cincinnati.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have been as consistent as any team in professional sports since 2001. The credentials don't need to be listed, and their reputation around the league is discussed in every single locker room.
"When you see something that works for a long time, as it has here, you kind of admire it a little bit," said Allen, who hoped to sign with the Patriots last September before returning to Miami. "I'm grateful to be here, and I'm just trying to work as hard as I can right now to put myself in the best position to help this team."
Fanene, who spent his first seven seasons with the Bengals, was asked about the cultural differences between the two environments. Even though Fanene hadn't even experienced three full weeks of offseason workouts at that point, his response was telling.
"There was a lot, but I'm just going to pick out one thing," Fanene said. "I see guys focused more, not just in the workout, but everything we do out here is more like a team effort. Guys really welcomed me inside the locker room. It's not about all of the talking, the media, TV stuff, but it's more hardworking and just do your job."
Allen hadn't seen an offseason routine with so much intensity since his time at Syracuse.
"It's been great," Allen said last month. "It just reminds me of college and what it's about as far as trying to get in shape to play at the level that you need to play at this game. I think [strength and conditioning] coach Harold [Nash] does an excellent job. He's been kicking my butt for the last week and a half, so I'm excited about that."
It's May, so the cliche is the same in all 32 locker rooms. Every team, at this point, has a chance to win Super Bowl XLVII. And hey, that's true, as the NFL's structure is more conducive for surprising year-to-year turnarounds than any professional sport in the country.
The reality, though, is certain teams just don't have the capability to function that way. While the Patriots have gone seven consecutive seasons without winning a Super Bowl, they've fielded teams that were good enough to compete for one nearly each of those years, and their new batch of free agents were enticed by that notion.
"It's a winning organization," Gregory said. "Obviously, everyone's goal in the NFL is to win a Super Bowl, and I know that this gives me a great opportunity to do that."
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