Following his chat with reporters at the Super Bowl, Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited with the “Felger and Mazz” show on Boston sports radio 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday afternoon, and answered a question that's been on the minds of New England fans ever since the loss to the Broncos in the AFC title game: With Tom Brady's window closing, does Kraft feel any urgency to “load up” in the next couple of seasons to give the team its best chance to win another title while his Hall of Fame quarterback is still in his prime?
Kraft was sympathetic to that opinion, considering the Patriots' last Super Bowl victory was nearly a decade ago, but his stance was clear. His Patriots team has reached at least the conference title game in nine of his 20 years as owner, so why change strategies now?
“We're trying to manage our resources as wisely as we can and be as aggressive as we can, but make sure every year we are putting ourselves in a position to win,” he said.
In other words, sacrificing future success for a potentially better chance in the short term is not how he prefers to build an NFL team. There are just too many variables out of his control, injuries being the most significant.
“There's so many things that happen. I don't ever believe in selling your soul for a bowl of [porridge],” Kraft said. “We want to be in the running and do whatever we can to be the best we can be.“
Show co-host Mike Felger cited the 2012 Baltimore Ravens as a team that loaded up and went on to win the Super Bowl.
“Let's talk about that for a minute,” Kraft responded. “Baltimore beat us in the [AFC] Championship Game last year and won the Super Bowl. What happened to them this year? Did they make the playoffs?”
For the record, the Ravens finished 8-8 in 2013 and out of the playoffs.
Kraft was asked: But don't you want another championship?
“Nothing is more important to me personally than winning as many championships as we can win while the good Lord lets me be on this planet,” he said.
So isn't it worth giving up a little in the future to give the team the best chance at one more title?
“You can load up and do whatever you want and you don't know what's going to happen,” Kraft said. “There are things happening way beyond your control. There are injuries that happen. God forbid anyone on our team get injured.
“When we started the season, we had some offensive weapons that were pretty powerful and defensive weapons. And look what happened -- less than half the season in, we probably lost five or six of the top players on our roster.
“I think a better strategy [than loading up] is to try to be solid and be able to compete year in and year out.”
In an interview with a group of reporters earlier, Kraft said he'd like to see the team re-sign key free agents Aqib Talib and Julian Edelman. On the radio show, Kraft said he'd like to see the Patriots sign as many of the team's free agents as possible, but acknowledged the realities of the salary cap.
“It's not like we have unlimited funding,” Kraft said. “[Talib] wasn't on the field a lot of the time since he's been with us. It's a balance, of us balancing all that out and what is he worth. I think he's happy here and would like to be here. We're happy with him and we'd like to have him here. Now it's just about doing business, and that's our intent.”
The Patriots' salary-cap situation for 2014 is a bit of a moving target because the NFL has yet to set the actual cap (projections have it ranging from $123 million to $128 million). We know the Patriots have $128 million committed to their cap for 2014, but they will get a $4.1 million credit because that is the amount they are rolling over from 2013.
Unless they make some cuts or do some restructuring, they don't presently have a lot of wiggle room.
“We have to try to sustain success by managing as wisely as we can. That's not dependent on any one player because no one knows what's going to happen,” Kraft said. “We are always spending to the cap. Because certain incentives might not come in, if we don't spend to the cap we're going to carry it over and we're going maximize the dollars we are able to spend. It's the matter of how you commit them that really counts.”
Roster depth, he said, is as important as anything due to the unpredictability of injuries. He cited the three defensive linemen who were undrafted free agents who ended up playing key roles toward the end of the season.
“The bottom third of your roster is so important. We'll have to go through a lot of soul-searching over the next few months and come up with the best solution,” he said.