An old-fashioned tampering battle over Caserio for the Patriots and Texans

An old-fashioned tampering battle over Caserio for the Patriots and Texans

Hey, maybe the Texans didn’t tamper with Nick Caserio.

I mean, they couldn’t be so naïve as to think firing their general manager last Friday – a day after former Patriots chaplain and current Texans VP of Player Development Jack Easterby was at the Patriots ring ceremony – then requesting permission to speak with Caserio about the vacancy wasn’t going to set off alarm bells, could they?

And they – meaning Easterby, Texans coach Bill O’Brien and Texans owner Cal McNair – couldn’t have believed the request to yank Caserio wasn’t going to be met with A) resistance and B) suspicion. So, I’m prone to giving them the benefit of the doubt that they couldn’t so blatantly telegraph their intentions and not expect some fallout.

Because if they did tamper and the investigation the Patriots have requested the league to begin into L’Affaire Caserio uncovers evidence, there’s a simple old saying that applies.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Patriots history dating back to 1996 is littered with proof that, when the Patriots – and that means both Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick – believe their employees are being pilfered outside the rules, they are going to take action.

It happened in 1997 when Bill Parcells negotiated his exit from the Patriots to join the Jets kicking off the so-called Border War. And Belichick’s return to New England from New York in 2000 was every bit as messy and led to a Cold War between Big Bill and Little Bill that took a few years to thaw.

The agitation with Eric Mangini when he went to the Jets after the 2005 season was rooted in the belief Mangini was trying to convince Patriots assistants and players to join him in New York while he was still a member of the Patriots coaching staff.

The irritation that flowed from that led to a tit-for-tat snitching contest between the two teams over video personnel and that ballooned into SpyGate which, less than a decade later, may have indirectly birthed Deflategate.

Now the Patriots have seen all manner of employees light out for the territories over the past few years. Matt Patricia went to the Lions. Josh McDaniels nearly went to the Colts. Brian Flores went to the Dolphins. Assistants and front-office personnel have accompanied them. They’ve seen former coaches – after stops elsewhere – land in head jobs in other cities and tap Patriots players as free agents and executives to join them.

But those occasions at least came during the period when people were moving around anyway – after the season and before the draft. For the Texans to fire a seemingly capable GM in Brian Gaine in June and expect they could extract Caserio seems like it was a little too bold a maneuver for the Patriots to merely shrug at.

So here we are.

And now the Patriots are going to fight against O’Brien and Easterby who reportedly has gained “juice” within the Texans organization since being hired by Gaine. 

Easterby is, according to Houston Chronicle writer John McLain, going to be involved in the interviews to replace Gaine. The Patriots seem to believe he – or someone with the Texans – has already been involved in more than that.

The bone over which the two franchises will now fight – Caserio – finds himself in an uncomfortable position. I don’t know if  I’ve encountered a more principled, ego-free, honest, hardworking executive with the Patriots than Caserio in the time I’ve covered the team.

But it takes two to tango and if Easterby or O’Brien made inquiries to Caserio or Caserio’s agent prior to the Texans canning Gaine and Caserio indicated he was game for a change then we have a sticky situation for one of Belichick’s most loyal and valuable lieutenants to deal with.

The turnover on the Patriots staff in the past few years has been massive. And the Patriots have done what they could when they could to stem it by either blocking requested interviews as they did with Caserio and director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort or convincing coaches like McDaniels to stay.

Where do things go from here?

Well, Caserio – who still hasn’t been granted permission to interview – could stay and the Texans (if found “guilty”) could still be penalized.

Or the Patriots could let Caserio go, deal with a pretty important loss and take whatever compensation Houston is forced to give.

Or there could be a fight after the tampering charge is resolved as to whether or not Caserio already was a high-level employee of the Patriots and is therefore ineligible to leave as he’s under contract.

One thing that’s guaranteed to come from this? Hard feelings.


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Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

“We’re chasing a dynasty.”

That’s how Patrick Mahomes closed his ode of gratitude after signing the richest contract in pro sports history.

Of course you are, Patrick. You and everyone else.

But are you chasing “a” dynasty? Do you just want to be mentioned along with the Packers, Steelers, Niners, Cowboys and Patriots, the only dynasties of the Super Bowl era?

Or are you using chasing as in following? As in the dynasty that came immediately before you? Specifically, New England. The only dynasty of the salary cap era.

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Because if you’re chasing the Patriots, modelling yourself after the Patriots, thinking you and the Chiefs might be the Patriots and go to four Super Bowls in one decade and five in the next, you and your team just made a fundamental mistake. You went “pig at the trough.”

That phrase is one I heard from key folks in the Patriots organization several times in the early 2000s. Tom Brady? Not a pig at the trough when it came to contract time. Peyton Manning? Pig at the trough.

What difference does it make?

Without a piggish quarterback, you can still go 11-5 because there’s talent all over the roster. The Patriots did that in 2008. But when you have to feed and feed and feed that position? The roster gets so thin elsewhere that – without the quarterback – a team might go, say, 2-14 after nine straight seasons of double-digit wins as the Colts did in 2011 without Manning.

This isn’t to say that the Chiefs did the wrong thing in signing Mahomes. Business-wise, they win. And Mahomes wins as well. But lack of funds because of fat cap hits will inevitably make the on-field product suffer and make the chase for a dynasty that much harder.

You can’t blame the Hunt family.

Mahomes is the most important and impactful player in the NFL.

What he authored in the 2019 playoffs is unprecedented - erasing a 24-0 deficit and winning 51-31 in the Divisional Playoffs, going on a 35-7 run in the AFCCG to erase a 10-point deficit then score 21 unanswered in the fourth to erase another 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl. All that coming after the AFCCG nut punch from the Patriots at Kansas City when Mahomes did all he could in the second half to resuscitate KC but came up short because the Chiefs defense sucked.

Having Mahomes sewn up for a dozen years makes their already-skyrocketing asset that much more valuable.  

Consider this: according to Forbes, the Chiefs were the 28th most valuable franchise in the NFL with a total value of $986 million in 2011. By 2018, they were 24th in the league worth $2.1 billion and last September they were still 24th worth $2.3 billion. That will likely rise to nearly $3 billion when Forbes' new list comes out given the Super Bowl win and the presence of Mahomes, which will bring in way more revenue over the next 12 years than the $503 million they pay him.

The Chiefs made the deal as easy-to-swallow as they could in the first two years. Plus, the so-called “guarantee mechanisms” give the Chiefs an escape hatch they can use basically every year.

As for Mahomes, what’s he going to do, turn down a half-billion? Take the money and run, especially since the NFL could be approaching a bit of a recession.

The cap is going down in 2021 because local revenues are going to suffer with the pandemic. The changing media landscape, the financial fallout networks may experience because of COVID-19 and the fact this season may not deliver the same product the networks signed up for all may serve to diminish the next TV deal. The wrangling over how to deal with the drops has just begun.

So the deal is good for the Hunts and it's good for Mahomes.

But the cap hits begin getting big in 2022 ($31.5 million) and they are around $40 million for the next five seasons after that before ballooning to $60 million. If the NFL spreads out the revenue loss and cap decline it’s going to realize this season over a three-year period to soften the blow, the cap is not going to rise at the anticipated level.

And that’s not that good for the football team. Right now, defensive end Chris Jones is playing on a $16 million franchise tag and is pissed about it. Travis Kelce will make about $9 million the next two years as the best tight end in football. The Chiefs have six players this year with cap hits over $15 million. They can do that because Mahomes is a bargain with a $5.3 million cap hit.

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“If the Kansas City Chiefs can keep all the players together, we’re going to be a dynasty,” Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins said on Tuesday. Yeah, well, about that.

It’s virtually impossible to keep all the players together when A) one guy is making a huge percentage of the cap and B) your team starts getting pilfered because it plays well every year.

There will be pooh-poohing about Mahomes’ cap percentage and insistence on TV and gambling money rolling into the coffers. Again, post-pandemic, I don’t see the cap rebounding that quickly.

And if the cap gets to $225 million by the time Mahomes starts seeing his $40 million hits beginning in 2023? That’s 17.7 percent of the cap.

Tom Brady’s highest cap percentage in the past decade was 12.2 percent in 2018. His average cap hit since 2011 was 9.8 percent.

Brady’s willingness to take less for so long enabled the Patriots to pay Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Stephon Gilmore, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Donta’ Hightower really well (ever notice how many of the fat deals are on defense for Bill Belichick?). And it also allowed them to make sure the so-called middle class was squared away too.

By the end of it, when Belichick blanched at every Brady request to give him a bump, it was obvious the head coach was dying to be unburdened of a big-ticket quarterback.

We’ve gone over this at length already this offseason. And the benefit of Brady allowing himself to be lowballed was annually highlighted at Super Bowl time by national media.

People (Mike Felger) want to pretend the cap isn’t real. It is. You can ignore it. You can delay it. But eventually bills come due as they have for the Patriots this year.

New England’s stay in cap hell should be short. Meanwhile, a team like the Ravens who will now have Lamar Jackson using the Mahomes contract as a comp? Hell is on the horizon. Same for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Teams like the Rams, Raiders, and Eagles are already in hell now or approaching it next year having paid maybe really good but maybe not first-round picks like Jared Goff, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz huge amounts.

Mahomes is a unicorn. We can all agree on that. But his contract is going to be an albatross.

DeAngelo Hall calls himself 'greedy knucklehead' for not joining Patriots in 2009

DeAngelo Hall calls himself 'greedy knucklehead' for not joining Patriots in 2009

DeAngelo Hall was one of the top cornerbacks of his era and earned a lot of money and individual accolades, including three Pro Bowl selections. One thing missing from Hall's résumé is a Super Bowl ring, and that might not have been the case if he joined the New England Patriots in the middle of his career.

Hall isn't shy about saying one of the biggest regrets of his career was re-signing with the Washington Redskins instead of joining the Patriots in free agency after the 2008 season.

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"When I signed to play half the season with Washington in 2008, there was a line in my contract that said the team could not franchise tag me that next season. I remember negotiations for a new deal with Washington weren't going well, and there were other teams in the picture, including New England," Hall said, per an article posted Tuesday. "At that time, players didn't take short-term deals, but Randy Moss had just signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Patriots. I couldn't believe it.

"In my own contract discussions with the Pats, I recall Bill Belichick telling me they couldn't give me the contract Moss signed. Being a young and greedy knucklehead, I chose to stay in Washington on a long-term deal (six years, $54 million), which ultimately had me making the same per-year salary as Moss. Over a few million, I could've changed my legacy by being part of that dynasty. That was on the table for me, and I wish I would've made the decision to take less money and play for Belichick."

Hall played for the Redskins through the end of the 2017 season before retiring. The Redskins made two playoff appearances in that span -- NFC Wild Card Round losses in 2012 and 2015. The Patriots, over that same span, played in four Super Bowls and won two. New England's active playoff appearance streak of 11 seasons began in 2009, and it's the longest such streak in league history.

There's no guarantee Hall would've won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. They didn't win another Lombardi Trophy until Year 5 of Hall's six-year extension with the Redskins. But Hall definitely would've been a nice upgrade for the Patriots defense in the second half of his career.