In a dizzying display of aggressiveness on the free agent market, the New England Patriots have opened their cafeteria and check books, choosing to strike the market after three days of lurking in the weeds.
Last night word came of impending visits from defensive end John Abraham, formerly of the Falcons and safety Adrian Wilson, cut last week by the Cardinals. Then the Patriots decided to make it an all you can sign buffet, adding former Colt defensive end Dwight Freeney and Steelers’ restricted free agent wide reciever Emmanuel Sanders to the guest list.
To top it off, they even invited Former Bills’ wide receiver Donald Jones to the party, with he and cornerback Kyle Arrington winning the raffle prizes, each given millions of dollars on long term contracts – some of which is coming out of Brandon Lloyd’s pocket, as the receiver has agreed to restructure his contract for less money in order to stay with the Patriots.
The Sanders move is not only sheer brilliance on the part of Belichick, but also a reminder to the professional football world that he is indeed the preeminent leverage junkie in the sport.
Restricted free agents rarely are invited to speak with other teams, let alone sign with them – but as Sanders is just what the doctor ordered in New England, it is expected that the Patriots will go out of their way to offer Sanders an offer he can’t refuse, and one that the cash-strapped Steelers would not be able to match…
…and though Pittsburgh owns the first right of refusal for any offer made to Sanders, it is widely believed that they would not be able to match a New England offer as the Patriots still have plenty of cap space to work with and the Steelers have virtually none.
If the Patriots are able to acquire the speedy wideout, they would owe Pittsburgh their 3rd round selection in this April’s draft – a relatively small price to pay for an explosive deep threat with tons of upside.
And this is how Belichick operates. Whether on the football field or in the board room, he attacks your weaknesses, gets inside your head and then stomps you like a grape. And his boss is an even more savvy business man and his no-nonsense style could be considered abrupt, or just plain ruthless.
This entire free agency period reminds me of Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy in the film Trading Places, towards the end when they team up to exact revenge on filthy-rich brothers who had pitted them against each other to satisfy a twisted wager – waiting in the middle of the Stock Exchange until the correct moment to make their move, becoming rich while putting the brothers on the bread lines.
I can just imagine Belichick standing in his war room like it was some sort of stock exchange in itself, watching all of the “elite” players get overpaid by desperate teams with lots of money and cap space…waiting for the exact moment when those teams reach a point where they realize their leverage is gone, or at least not as prominent as his, and then he strikes.
“Wait for it…wait for it…” Belichick says to Nick Cazario while keeping an eye on the numbers, the Patriots director of player personnel’s rolodex handy and dialing fingers at the ready, then with a sinister grin he turns to Cazario and calmly gives the order: “Now.”
And then all hell breaks loose – but we’ll have to wait a while longer to see how the Sanders situation turns out, as the Steelers have up to seven days to match the Patriots offer, if any.
In the interim, there are several developments taking place around the league, more than just a few with a direct impact on the team:
* Danny Woodhead has agreed to a two year contact with the San Diego Chargers;
* Ed Reed has left Houston without a contract;
* Cornerback Eric Wright has been released by the Bucs, further saturating the market with corners;
* The Dolphins continue their spending spree, signing Brandon Gibson;
* The Jets can’t seem to bribe anyone to join their team;
The Wright release has a Talib feel to it. Talib’s fellow corner in Tampa, Wright also got nailed for using PED’s last season and was suspended – which voided the guaranteed money on his 2013 contract. Wright appealed the case and was denied relief from an arbitrator and subsequently handed his walking papers.
How Talib fits into this is that with Wright further saturating the market and weakening further an already under-priced cornerback market, it gives more leverage to Belichick in negotiations with Talib. If they really wanted to press the issue with Talib, they could bring Wright in for a cup of coffee.
As for Reed, it’s clear that he’s not shown enough interest in New England to warrant holding out some cap space to try and sign him – though it could be that Belichick is practicing patience with that situation and could very well strike when the time is right.