Patriots

Belichick: ‘I don’t think you can be afraid of free agency’

Belichick: ‘I don’t think you can be afraid of free agency’

FOXBORO – We’ve mentioned – a few thousand times – that the Patriots have a fleet of key free agents up at the end of the 2016 season.

There’s Jamie Collins, Donta Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, Duron Harmon, Martellus Bennett and Logan Ryan. Malcolm Butler, meanwhile, will be a restricted free agent. How does the team maintain its laser-focus on the games of 2016 while knowing that – if these business decisions aren’t addressed – the games of 2017 could look starkly different.

I asked Bill Belichick Friday morning about stealing a glance at the business side of things and planning for the future while the season’s ongoing.

“In general there’s some team planning you can do,” Belichick said after noting the team’s immediate focus is currently on Sunday’s game with the Bills. “Sometimes, if you can work out a contract with a player during the season – we’ve done that with various players – if you can work it out, you work it out. If you can’t, then there’ve been a number of players that we’ve signed – our players – that we signed once free agency has started. Devin [McCourty] to pick a name.

“I don’t think you can be afraid of free agency,” Belichick continued. “It’s not like if a guy gets to free agency you can’t re-sign him. You’re in a competitive market but, you know, you’re in a competitive market anyway.”

There are things that occur now, that could occur this weekend that can drastically impact every plan laid. It’s my impression that the Patriots are slow-playing this free agent class. Waving lucrative extensions in front of players before knowing how they’ll make it through this season and before knowing what their appeal will be on the open market is short-term satisfaction.

It will satisfy the players who want the security and it will squelch hand-wringing that EVERYBODY’S GOING TO LEAVE in the media.

Long-term, it’s risky.

Consider Donta Hightower. He’s got a knee issue that’s kept him down two games. He played three-quarters of the year in 2014 and 2015 and this year isn’t trending better. He brings absolutely everything the Patriots want in a player except the durability. The onus is on them to factor that into any contract offer they extend. Meanwhile, the onus is on Hightower to – if he isn’t getting what he and his agent feel he can command – to find out if another team will give him different terms if the Patriots’ aren’t suitable.

As Belichick pointed out, “These guys know that they have other options depending on who the player is and what the situation is. They have other options but we know there’s only so much money to go around. If you can work it out, then you have that security. If you can’t then you have your options. They have their options, we have our options. That’s professional sports. I don’t think that’s anything revolutionary. I don’t think it’s different than any other pro football team or any other pro team. You see the same in all the other sports.”

In general, the Patriots have shrewd free agent operators. Pulling the ripcord on Darrelle Revis and Wes Welker were two of the tougher calls made in recent years. Both decisions caused howling from the fanbase and predictions of doom from the media. Both were prescient decisions.

Teams splinter when the seasons end. And the second-guessing about the business decisions is inevitable.

“It’s been that way … since we had free agency,” he said. “That’s what it is. That’s the way it is in all sports. Basketball season’s over, you’re talking about a few guys going here, going there, staying with their team, whatever. You’re not gonna be able to get around that. Even if we were to sign a couple of those guys or whatever that is, there’s gonna be a couple of guys that aren’t so you can talk about those. Same thing we come in here Monday after every game. Somebody had production [but media asks], ‘But what about these guys this guy didn’t catch that many passes, this guy didn’t get that many carries.’ There’s always those guys to ask about. There’s no simple answer to it.”

This season, the questions seem even more challenging.  

 

NFL Rumors: Patriots free up millions in cap space from Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez grievances

NFL Rumors: Patriots free up millions in cap space from Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez grievances

The New England Patriots just got whole lot of financial breathing room.

The Patriots have earned a total of $6.25 million in settlements from compensation grievances involving former wide receiver Antonio Brown and ex-tight end Aaron Hernandez, ESPN's Mike Reiss and Field Yates reported Saturday.

New England now has $7.79 million in cap space, per Reiss and Yates, a huge bump from the less than $500,000 in spending money the team had earlier this week.

Brown, who spent less than two weeks with the Patriots last September, filed a grievance against the team in October 2019 following his release seeking to receive his unpaid Week 1 salary, his $1.025 million guaranteed base salary and his $9 million signing bonus.

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The Patriots will pay Brown $5 million as part of the settlement, per Reiss and Yates.

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the Patriots on Hernandez's behalf in October 2013 seeking over $6 million in guaranteed salary. Hernandez was arrested and later convicted for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd and died in prison in April 2017.

New England was up against the cap after squeezing free-agent quarterback Cam Newton in on a one-year contract and inking all of its 2020 NFL Draft picks to rookie deals. With nearly $8 million in cap space, however, the Patriots have more flexibility to bolster their roster via free agency or trade.

Our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran suggested tight end David Njoku could be a strong fit in New England after requesting a trade from the Cleveland Browns, and there are a number of quality free agents still on the market, as well.

Patriots TE Devin Asiasi joins Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry for workouts

Patriots TE Devin Asiasi joins Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry for workouts

Twelve days ago, Cam Newton was still a free agent looking for work.

But ever since he agreed to a one-year contract with the Patriots, he's been very busy trying to get ready for the 2020 season, learning the playbook and developing chemistry with his new receivers.

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In addition to N'Keal Harry, whose workout with Newton was captured on video, rookie tight end Devin Asiasi was also catching passes from New England's new quarterback. Twitter user amirmehrtash15 took pictures with both Asiasi and Newton at the UCLA practice session and posted them in reponse to the Providence Journal's Mark Daniels.

The workout wasn't limited to Patriots, as Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was also in attendance.

Newton trying to fast-track a relationship with his new teammates makes perfect sense. He set up his first practice with Mohamed Sanu on the day he signed his Patriots contract, and in less than two weeks, he's already connected with three of the guys who will be among his top receiving options in 2020.

The Patriots certainly hope all that extra work pays off, as training camps could open as soon as the end of this month once the NFL and NFLPA can finalize preseason dates.