Any doubts that the NFL is the center of the sports universe have been dispelled this week.

Just ask anyone who follows Twitter.

In the middle of March Madness, in the midst of spring training, as NBA and NHL teams start to position themselves for playoff positions, the NFL has absolutely dominated Twitter, the quick-hit social network.

On Monday, as Peyton Manning was announcing his intentions to become a Denver Bronco, bringing an end to Tebowmania in the Mile High City, the NFL controlled eight of the 10 worldwide Twitter trends.

On Wednesday, as news of Sean Payton’s suspension for the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program and Tim Tebow’s trade/no-trade/trade to the New York Jets hit Twitter, the NFL had between six and eight of the 10 trends, depending on the time of day.

Offseason? Slow news day? No such thing in the NFL anymore.

And while the Twittersphere was exploding, the New England Patriots quietly went about their business.

Yes, Wednesday was a tough day as reliable running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed with Cincinnati and defensive end Mark Anderson took his career-saving 10 sacks to Buffalo.

But the Patriots have been busy as well, locking up some of their key free agents and bringing some experienced players into the fold.

Of the team’s 20 free agents, the Patriots re-signed three: wide receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater, linebacker Tracy White and center Dan Connolly. They also tagged wide receiver Wes Welker as the team’s franchise player, hoping to sign him to a long-term contract, as they’ve done with franchise players in the past.

Then they’ve dipped into the free-agent pool to stir up some interesting names:

Robert Gallery, an offensive lineman with a nasty streak, the second overall pick in the 2004 draft; Brandon Lloyd, a wide receiver who has averaged 74 catches the last two seasons; Anthony Gonzalez, an injury-prone receiver who, when healthy, is a dependable target; Donte Stallworth, wide receiver in his second term with the Pats; Marquice Cole, a special-teams ace from the rival Jets; Daniel Fells, a blocking tight end; Jonathan Fanene, a stout defensive lineman from Cincinnati; Will Allen, once considered a shutdown cornerback for the Dolphins; Steve Gregory, a safety from San Diego.

It’s obvious that the Patriots are trying to build a deeper, more talented team.

Gallery’s acquisition is intriguing. The Patriots have always had interest in him because he came out of Iowa, which is coached by Bill Belichick’s buddy — and former UMaine coach — Kirk Ferentz.

Left guard Logan Mankins has reportedly undergone ACL surgery and may not be ready for training camp. Right guard Brian Waters is considering retirement. Gallery, drafted as a left tackle, can also play guard so he provides security at two spots on the offensive line.

Lloyd gives the Patriots a deep receiving threat, something they’ve lacked since Randy Moss departed. He had 70 catches with the Rams and Broncos last year. He and Gonzalez have sure hands and Stallworth is an interesting pickup.

He certainly adds depth to a position that was weak last year. And the signing of Fells may indicate that tight end Aaron Hernandez will spend more time on the outside.

Deion Branch is a free agent who has said he wants to retire as a Patriot, but at what price? Chad Ochocinco — a huge disappointment in his one season with New England — may be fighting for a roster spot.

Allen, Gregory and Cole bring experience to a secondary that had little at the end of last year.

Fanene and Trevor Scott, signed from Oakland, add depth to the defensive line.

The big question facing the Patriots is how to replace Green-Ellis at running back. The top three replacements are Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, not exactly fear-inducing to any defense.

The Patriots will either have to find someone else in free agency — (Michael Bush, Cedric Benson, Tim Hightower?) — pick up a back in the draft or trade for one (the Patriots have four picks in the first two rounds).

Most likely, it’ll be a quick, quiet announcement.

You see, that’s the Patriot Way, even if they don’t trend on Twitter.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH