Bill Belichick is a man of opposing adjectives. He continually fields championship-caliber teams that are exciting to watch, yet he’s the most boring man in football.
During the offseason–and particularly this offseason–he seems to take pride in reclamation projects, accumulating the talented but malcontent scrap other teams are willing to discard at minimal cost to turn it into his own treasure. This makes Belichick some kind of football humanitarian, until his cold, ruthless approach leads to the quick abandonment of those same scrap heap players. We saw this with Randy Moss last year when Moss’ attitude became too much for Belichick’s conformist locker room to bear.
In his Sunday Blitz column Dan Pompei of the National Football Post cited a league executive who said that “one or both” of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Hayesworth–the Patriots’ primary post-lockout acquisitions–could be released before the end of training camp. We highlighted the report earlier today, and here we are writing about it again because it’s just so damn crazy, even by Belichickian player-handling standards.
To be clear, we’re not doubting Pompei. We’re sure his source actually said what he reported. We just think his “front office man” is crazy.
Let the record show the statement by said crazy man.
Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth might not be long for New England. One day before this story came out by my guy Mike Reiss, one NFL executive familiar with the Patriots ways told me he believes one or both of the big name acquisitions will be cut before the season starts. The front office man thinks coach Bill Belichick will use the controversial players to help control and send a message to his locker room.
Nothing Belichick and the Patriots do with their roster is shocking at this point, but this would be pretty damn close.
Both players signed off on re-worked contracts last week, with Haynesworth’s incentive-laden deal specifically tailored to suit his talent on the field, and looming character issues in the locker room. Haynesworth is scheduled to make $1.5 million this season, and the Patriots aren’t committed to any bonus payment. From strictly a financial standpoint, this makes the crazy ramblings of the crazy front office man more plausible in reference to Haynesworth.
From a personnel perspective, the absurdity grows, especially when we hear tales of the growing relationship between Haynesworth and his position coach Pepper Johnson. Bailing on the high reward associated with that minimal risk so early is foolish given the little practice Haynesworth has received after missing time early in training camp. The Patriots acquired fortification on the defensive line in the form of Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter, providing fallback options if the Haynesworth experiment fails. But the departure of Ty Warren still leaves a hole in the middle, a hole that Haynesworth will ideally fill.
Ochocinco is another matter. His Patriots contract was also restructured to minimize risk, but unlike Haynesworth he’s receiving a signing bonus. Cutting the Twitter-addicted wideout before the regular season means the Patriots will have paid $4.75 million for a month-long tryout. The cut would come at a time when the Patriots’ usually deep wide receiver corps is being hampered by training camp injuries, with Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, and Julian Edelmen all missing time. Those injuries have prompted the Patriots to reportedly consider throwing a lifeline to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
This is a veteran team that’s well-versed in the marching routine required to keep Belichick’s army moving forward. Cutting two recently acquired players slated to play significant roles to send some kind of a message would be an exercise in wayward dictatorship.
The message received by the team and future free agents would be that the opportunity to prove your worth in New England is fleeting at best.