Bill Belichick, Patriots are out of the elite quarterback business

Bill Belichick, Patriots are out of the elite quarterback business

There’s one of those “JUST PAY THE MAN!” uprisings going on around Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott.

Since last summer, the Cowboys have been trying to hammer something out with this very good player. But even though they’ve worked out fat deals with Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper (six years, $90M for Elliott with $50M guaranteed; 5-100-60 for Cooper), they haven’t gotten it done with Prescott.

Last week, Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones reiterated that they’re trying to pay Prescott (who is currently on the franchise tag at $31.4M).

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Speaking to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Jones said, “We’ve tried to pay him, and he has to accept what we want to pay him. But the deal’s got to be right for Dak, it’s gotta be right for us. As you know, the salary cap makes this a zero-sum game for owners. This is not something where Jerry and myself are trying to save money so the Cowboys can make more money for the Jones family. …

“There’s all sorts of analytics out there that show if your quarterback takes up too big a percentage of your salary cap, it decreases your chances to win,” Jones said. “We’re just trying to figure out the right fit.”

Naturally, pointing out there’s a finite amount of money ($198M is the 2020 cap number) to spread across the entire roster was somehow inflammatory to some.

The argument voiced boiled down to this: “It’s Dak’s turn, he should get the biggest deal like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson and so many others did before him. It’s not his problem that it’s a zero-sum game. Just be a better GM.”

And this is why the Patriots — despite the love, appreciation and well-deserved reverence they have for Tom Brady — aren’t unhappy to be out of the franchise quarterback business for a while.

The position is a money pit. And the return teams get when they allocate too much to that position makes it practically impossible to build a balanced roster.

Not only was Stephen Jones dead-on, Robert Kraft articulated the same sentiment seven years ago.

Speaking to Peter King in March of 2013 after Brady signed a team-friendly extension, Kraft said, "I was just trying to stay ahead of the curve. If we were going to have to pay him elite-quarterback money and have elite-quarterback cap numbers, I just didn't think we would be able to build a team. We don't want to have a team where we're paying 18 to 20 percent to a player on the cap. I wanted to do something elegant that would work for everybody.”

Worked pretty well. The Patriots played in seven straight AFC Championships, went to four Super Bowls and won three Lombardis after Brady signed that deal.

As you may have heard, there was significant wrangling by Brady beginning in early 2017 for a deal that would pay him more and ensure he’d end his career as a Patriot. In the end, he got neither and now he’s a Buccaneer.

From 2011 through 2019, Brady took up 11, 6.6, 11.2, 11.1, 9.8, 8.9, 8.4, 12.3 and 11.4 percent of the Patriots salary cap.

The highest percentage of the cap Brady ever took up was 13.6 in 2006 when he had a cap hit of $13M. That was the only time Brady was over 13 percent of the cap. Contrast that to Peyton Manning who, it should be pointed out, came into the league as the No. 1 overall pick and not the 199th. Manning took up more than 13 percent of his team’s cap eight times. Manning took up 20.5 percent of the Colts' cap in 2003.

The year the Colts won a Super Bowl (2006), he took up 10.4 percent of the cap. The year he threw a pick-six to Tracy Porter of the Saints in the final game (2009) he took up 17.9 percent of the cap.

Remember the rallying cry in 2012 as Joe Flacco moonballed his way to a championship? It was like Dak’s now. “Pay the man!” The year the Ravens won it, Flacco consumed 6.6 percent of the cap. In his last three years with the Ravens, he took up 14.5, 14.7 and 14 percent of the cap. Last year, the Steelers put 13.9 percent of their cap into 37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger. He played one game. He’ll take up 12 percent this year at 38 years old and apparently in the same approximate shape as a dangerous cleanup hitter on a slow-pitch softball team.

And people in New England think the Patriots are going to be in the market for Aaron Rodgers if and when he gets phased out in Green Bay?

Come on. Are we not paying attention even a little?

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These were all the $20M or more cap hits in 2019 (in order): Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Brady, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Alex Smith and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Of the 15, Brady, Rodgers, Cousins, Brees, Garoppolo and Wilson were the only ones to take playoff snaps. That’s one-third.

Will it be harder for the Patriots to win on any given Sunday in 2020 with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback and not Tom Brady? Sure.

What about in 2021 when Brady’s money is off the books and the team has an eye-popping amount of cap space? It will probably still be harder.

But they will have far more money to shop for new players and extend the ones on their roster that they want to keep than they would have if Brady were taking up $30M. As it currently stands, the Patriots are 30th in the NFL in cap space allocated to quarterbacks. Had Brady been re-signed for even $20M after March 17, it would have been a $33.5M cap hit because of the dead money — third highest in the NFL.

You can’t live like that. Can you live without it? The Patriots would be the last team in the league to tell you they can’t.

Think about it, for 20 years they had a sixth-round pick at quarterback and they went to nine Super Bowls. In the lone year he was hurt, a seventh-round pick (Matt Cassel) won 11 games. The year he was suspended, Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo combined to go 3-1 with Brady out.

This is the party line Belichick is currently adopting. It’s got merit. To a point.

In my opinion it severely underrepresents the human safety net Brady’s been for the past 15 seasons and ignores the fact that 2008 represented a five-game dropoff against an awful schedule and that Jimmy G. couldn’t make it through six quarters in 2016 without getting hurt, but hey … we’ll find out.

The more important takeaway from Belichick saying, “We’ve done it before…” is that the organization has complete confidence in its ability to win football games with competent quarterbacks. And it has complete confidence it can create competency if the tools are present.

That’s why all this talk about Andy Dalton or Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers has been so much blissfully ignorant hot air belched into the no-sports void.

No thanks. The Patriots can just pin a NENA sign on the front door at Patriots Place.

No Elites Need Apply.

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

The New England Patriots brought one of their undrafted rookies back into the fold on Wednesday.

Isaiah Zuber, a wide receiver out of Mississippi State, reportedly has been re-signed after being cut by the team a week ago.

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Zuber played three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Mississippi State for his senior season, in which he tallied 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old's best college season came during his junior year, when he had 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season so far -- including WR Marqise Lee -- thus opening up roster spots for the undrafted free agents who initially were cut. Fellow UDFA receiver Will Hastings also was re-signed by the team shortly after being released.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)