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Thomas fits the Patriots' scheme for staying on top

Regardless of how you feel about the New England Patriots relative to past and potentially ongoing videotaping scandals, you have to admire their strategy for staying in front of the competition in a constantly shifting NFL landscape.  It's an approach that combines George Allen's preference for older, more experienced  players and the Raiders' previous Midas touch for turning other teams' throw-aways into star pieces of their perennial playoff puzzle.

As most fans understand, the NFL's infrastructure, from scheduling to the draft, is designed to make it easier for bad teams to improve and harder for good teams to stay that way.  Free agency and the salary cap also has their influences.  But the Patriots have figured out  how to manage their roster by locking in some franchise-types for the long run (Tom Brady being the most obvious example) and essentially "renting" other players for the short term.

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Who would have though that Junior Seau had anything left in the tank after his 2004 and '05 seasons in Miami when he played just 15 games total?  In New England last season at age 38, he went the full 16 games with 73 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions.  Randy Moss' declining production in Oakland was certainly a function of playing on a bad team and having a bad attitude but you could have also reasonably concluded that after nine NFL season, he was on the downside of his career.  So last year, he assaults the record books with 23 TD catches.

The latest one of these rejuvenated players could be Zach Thomas, once a ferocious linebacker for Miami who sat out two-thirds of last season because of concussions and migraines.  In Bill Parcells' new Dolphin world order, Thomas, who will be 35 next season, was expendable.  But in New England, where senior citizen linebackers are welcomed with open arms, Thomas may have found the perfect fit.  Already, the Patriots reportedly offered him a contract.  Thomas will take a look around the league to see what else is available.  New Orleans and Dallas are expected to be on his travel schedule.   But given the stage of his career, it wouldn't be surprising to see Thomas land where he believes his chances of winning a Super Bowl ring were best.

Photo credit: J. Pat Carter/AP

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