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 Rob Gronkowski is on an outdated contract.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