Patriots' model pays off for them, if not for players


Patriots' model pays off for them, if not for players

Chandler Jones delivered a soft jab to the Patriots on Wednesday, telling Tom Pelissero of USA Today that the Patriots are “not known for really paying guys over there.”

Now, we could unfurl the list of Patriots who have been given top-of-market deals through the years. Or we could be honest about it. Jones is right.

The Patriots are renowned for value contracts. Look at the landscape right now. Their starting corners are making $2.2 million between them (Pro Bowler Malcolm Butler at $600,000, Logan Ryan at $1.6 million). Their two young linebackers – Pro Bowler Jamie Collins and the outstanding Donta Hightower – are making $918,000 and $7.7 million respectively. Rob Gronkowski is on an outdated contract. Tom Brady is making a cool million. Julian Edelman is going to retire without having made money commensurate with his NFL resume.

And even while the Patriots are obviously working to bring some of those contracts in line with what those young players deserve, that doesn’t erase the fact that Jones was traded in large part because something had to give financially.

Short of spraying the entire defense with a cash-loaded firehose, it wasn’t going to work. Butler, Ryan, Collins, Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Duron Harmon are all up at the end of the year.

Butler, Collins and Hightower would be justified seeking deals that pay them in the top five at their positions (I say top five because deals become obsolete real fast these days: see Gronkowski, Rob). I wouldn’t bet against Sheard getting to the same level. And Ryan should be paid a competitive wage for a starting, established NFL corner.

You can’t pay them all. So you try to get something for them before they flee for greener pastures and fatter bank accounts.

Which is why Jones is a Cardinal. He was the most tradeable asset for the Patriots. He’s an edge rusher. He’s a former first-rounder who’s got all the physical attributes a team wants. He’s a Pro Bowler. He’s got a Super Bowl ring. The Patriots are deep at the edge position. His shirtless, shoeless episode at the Foxboro Police station right before the team’s first playoff game hinted that perhaps he wasn’t always in bed by 8 p.m., fully hydrated and ready to attack tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he had a dozen sacks or more in Arizona.

There is absolutely nothing inaccurate about what Jones said when viewed through a players’ lens. There are about a dozen more appetizing places to land than New England if you want to get fat, rich and happy.

A player signs or sticks with the Patriots and accepts a little less than he could make elsewhere because the team success counterbalances the possibility that the player could get paid more elsewhere.

If you’re Darrelle Revis, you come here to chase a ring, rehab your rep and get the hell out of Dodge. If you’re Devin McCourty, you listen to the pitches elsewhere then -- with the money in places like Philly or New York being just about equal -- decide to stay where they have proven they know what they’re doing.

If you’re Rob Gronkowski or Jerod Mayo, you take the long-term security of a lengthy deal offered before free agency. It’s a deal could be outdated if you play until it’s conclusion at a high level. Gronk is experiencing that right now. Mayo suffered injuries before the conclusion of his contract. It cuts both ways.

There is kicking and screaming. Since 2010, we’ve seen it with Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins and Wes Welker. There are also guys in the middle class that get bumps and deals that seem too lucrative for their roles. Patrick Chung got one. He’s been brilliant. Marcus Cannon’s gotten one. He’s not.

Chandler Jones will sign a contract in excess of $50 million this offseason. There’s a good chance Hightower, Collins and Butler could, too. But all that money won’t be coming from the Patriots. It can’t. Unless the team wants to deviate from a business model that’s worked better than any other franchise for nearly two decades

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."