Pats painted into corner: But Samuel solutions remain workable
By Albert Breer/Metrowest Daily News/ Patriots Notebook
Sunday, April 8, 2007
The mantra in Asante Samuel stat’s camp for the past month-and-a-half, was “everything is good.”
And now, clearly, it’s not.
But really, was it ever?
In the days leading up to the franchise tagging of Samuel, according to a source close to the player, the Patriots cornerback let people around him know that he wouldn’t be happy if the team slapped him with that designation. That was following comments near season’s end that he wanted to hit the open market.
And yet, when the Patriots pulled the trigger, Samuel’s camp suggested he was fine with it. His father, Jasper, said “We expected them to want to franchise him.”
Then in mid-March, weeks after the tag came down, Samuel acknowledged that much himself. “I talked to them right before they did it,” he said. “And under the circumstances, no, I’m not upset about it at all.”
Read between the lines, and you can see the hedging. Consider his father’s comments last month that Samuel “just wants the team to come up to par, to what’s expected at that level. He likes playing for the Patriots, and he likes the organization. But he also wants to be compensated.”
Meanwhile, Asante Samuel refused to rule out a holdout.
What it all says is that he was playing the good soldier because he took the team’s word in good faith.
Then, he sat and watched as the Patriots forked over $20 million in guarantees to Adalius Thomas. And put more and more money into other newcomers.
Eventually, the “Where’s mine?” questions crept into his head, and it became too much to bear.
So Samuel spoke out to the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter last week, saying he’s “not happy anymore,” adding that if the team doesn’t come to the plate with something more substantial, he’ll ask for a trade.
Three things can prevent it from reaching that point:
Samuel agrees to the one-year tender at $7.79 million.
It’s clearly not what he wants and almost certainly would take a promise that the team wouldn’t franchise him again in 2008.
In talking to Schefter, Samuel made it clear he’s willing to sit out, rather than play under the tender and get franchised again. An agreement would buy the team a year to develop other players at the position - bracing for his departure - and mirror the deal the Bills struck with Nate Clements last spring.
Samuel and the Patriots come to a long-term deal.
This, of course, is what both sides want. But the terms of such a deal are where things get sticky.
Samuel and his agent, Alonzo Shavers, are on record as saying that Clements’ deal, worth $80 million over eight years with a $22 millionguarantee, is a barometer for negotiations. He might be willing to come in under that. But you better believe he’ll want more than the $16 million guaranteed (part of a 5-year, $33 million deal) reaped by Dre’ Bly, who’ll be Denver’s No. 2 corner and is nearly four years older than Samuel.
The Patroits remove the franchise tag and set Samuel free.
The benefit here for the team is minimal. There’s still enough cap space floating around the league for Samuel to cash in, and the brain trust must know - after the Deion Branch fiasco - that some team will spend.
It’d be a bit far to go to prove a point and would leave the Pats relying on a lot of injury-risk players at corner.
But the Patriots have to be careful here.
Like Branch, Samuel initially kept his mouth shut and trusted that a fair deal was in the works. The difference is that, unlike Branch, Samuel didn’t have to get permission to find his worth.
He’s already gone out and found just how deep the gulf is between the numbers the Patriots have offered and those that other teams are willing to pay. Because of that, and because of the likelihood that there’s someone willing to come close to what Clements got, the Patriots’ assessment of his worth becomes irrelevant in the eyes of Samuel’s camp. What matters now is his market value.
Where those figures lie, no one is saying. But if they’re more than what the Pats are willing to spend, then the solution becomes easy:
Tell him he won’t be franchised in ’08, sign him to the tender and draft a defensive back with either the 24th or 28th pick to develop behind him. Either that, or just trade him to a team willing to spend and get value for him while you still can.
In either case, that’ll give the Patriots time to find a replacement. In doing so, as we all learned through the Branch dealings, the team could prevent a potentially great season from being reduced to merely a good one.
Landry on list?
The rumored trade with the Redskins, which would likely ship the 28th pick and Samuel to the ‘Skins for the sixth overall pick, might be out of character for the Patriots.
But it also could bring an impact player who’d be ready to start the opener on Sept. 9. His name is LaRon Landry.
With Rodney Harrison’s injury troubles over the past two years, the Pats have gone through long stretches without a premier safety for the first time since Lawyer Milloy joined the team in 1996. Landry could be the next one, a 6-foot-1, 213-pounder who ran a 4.35 at the combine and played his first two years at LSU under Belichick confidant Nick Saban.
Getting the sixth pick would move the Patriots ahead of the Falcons, who are eyeing Landry with their No. 8 pick. Of course, there’s a lot of projecting there, but it’s worth a thought. . . .
I assume that there is a trade on the table now. As a Redskins fan, I would be willing to fork out the money to get him. Harrel or Tyler would be available at 28, and we would get a very solidified backfield with the addition of Samuel.