September 25, 2017

Safety in Numbers

By Dan Snapp
[email protected]

Here’s a nice surprise: the Patriots suddenly have a wealth of options at safety.

The return to health of Super Bowl tandem Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson has been the feel-good story of camp, but Bill Belichick said yesterday he’s just as comfortable with third-year pro James Sanders in there:

“Really, I think we’re at the point now where whichever two of those three are in there together, all of the communication is pretty good.”

Mike Reiss has more about Sanders in our Feature of the Day, describing his insatiable drive to improve, and his comfort soliciting pointers from anybody, including the star quarterback.

Laurence Maroney Redshirtless Vigil, Day Two, was the news of the day. Maroney chatted it up with the press, expressing his desire to get back out on the field. Both Dan Shaughnessy and Steve Buckley use the opportunity of a player talking to them to complain about when players don’t talk to them.

It’s Pronounced Leh-KEE-vin
With Le Kevin Smith looking more like a productive cog in the defensive lineman rotation, here’s a helpful mnemonic device to help in pronouncing his name: whenever you say his name, always say “look even” first. As in, “Look, even Le Kevin got a sack today! Good for him!” Once we get that squared away, maybe we can get announcers to remember the silent “K” in Gostkowski.

For all the people who saw the Pats extend Ty Warren and thought, “Why couldn’t they just do that with Deion Branch?” Reiss makes a key discovery: The extension was in addition to his remaining two years, not replacing them. So Warren is locked in for the next seven years. The Patriots tried to do the exact same thing with Branch, but Branch wanted to tear up the last year of his rookie deal.

Look, even Le Kevin knows the best place for one-stop Pats shopping is See? You’ll never mispronounce it again.

Shed your red shirts in the comments area here.


  1. It so important for this team to have a viable third safety. The last couple years they have really suffered when Harrison has been out, and while Hawkins was adequate, having Sanders develop as a true safety will be a nice fallback.

    It’d also be comforting to have a potential replacement for when Rodney calls it a career sometime in the not-too-distant future.

  2. I’m still a little surprised by the Hawkins thing. Was it just the injury, or had others (besides Sanders) surpassed him?

  3. Regarding your little dig at Branch at the end of your post:

    You think Branch wanting to tear up the rest of his deal had something to do with it being worth $3 million total compared to Warren’s $20 million dollar rookie deal? Maybe just a little?

    Picked in the first half of the first round, Warren made twice as much his rookie season than Branch would have made in his first five years, playing out the rest of his contract.

  4. I don’t think Dan was making a dig at Branch, but you do make a valid point K. Warren still took a “hometown” deal here, but he was in a little bit better position to afford it, as well.

  5. Bruce is right; it wasn’t a dig at Branch, or anybody, really. In terms of the situations, the Patriots were doing the same thing with both: offering extensions to existing deals.

    In both cases, the deals offered significant bonuses, but were also below the market price for each player were each to wait until free agency. Warren took it. Branch didn’t.

  6. “Picked in the first half of the first round, Warren made twice as much his rookie season than Branch would have made in his first five years, playing out the rest of his contract.”

    First of all, that isn’t true. Ty Warren’s rookie deal included a $3 million signing bonus and a $765,000 salary. Deion Branch’s rookie deal was for a total of $2.93 million, but incentives he reached brought the total to about $3.5 million. That doesn’t sound like “twice as much” to me.

    If Deion Branch didn’t like it, he shouldn’t have signed it. And maybe he should have been a first round pick like Warren rather than a second round pick. And maybe he should have convinced all those other teams in the first round and earlier in the second round not to pass on him. And maybe…

    You get the point. Then again, maybe you don’t.


  7. If it’s not a dig, then what is it? Am I mistaken in inferring the suggestion that Branch was being less reasonable than Warren for wanting to “tear up the last year of his rookie deal?”

    Anyway, I think you’re understating things when you say “a little better position to afford it.” He was getting paid per year more than Branch would make in five. Heck, Warren was paid Branch’s entire contract’s worth before he ever played a down for the Pats.

    Furthermore, I haven’t done all the math yet, but looking at the numbers it seems like even with Branch getting his too-pricey deal in Seattle, and Warren giving a “hometown” discount, Warren will still end up making more money than Branch over the same period of time.

    I’m not suggesting this is Warren’s or the franchise’s fault, just that we all know + complain about how ridiculous 1st round rookie deals can be, but then expect the guys who missed out on them not to.

  8. First of all, that isn’t true. Ty Warren’s rookie deal included a $3 million signing bonus and a $765,000 salary. Deion Branch’s rookie deal was for a total of $2.93 million, but incentives he reached brought the total to about $3.5 million. That doesn’t sound like “twice as much” to me.

    My bad. I suppose Warren’s $3.25 million dollar option bonus that he would receive in year two doesn’t count. I should have said that Warren made twice as much in guaranteed money than Branch would make in his entire deal — unless you feel like arguing over the possibility that a 1st round pick would be cut after his rookie season.

    As for the “if Branch didn’t like it, he didn’t have to sign it” argument: please. When the league receives special exceptions from antitrust laws that allow them to force new hires to negotiate a salary without being competed for by the 32 supposedly independently competing franchises, that argument becomes more than a little absurd.

  9. Yes, you’re mistaken.

    The criticism levied at management was that they weren’t willing to do with Branch what they were willing to do with Warren. I’m arguing they did do the same with both (albeit a year earlier in Warren’s case).

    I don’t blame Branch for wanting to tear up his rookie deal. That’s his right. He could either accept their offer or not accept it.

  10. jamesgarnerisgod says:

    Great piece by Reiss, and I loved the detail about No. 36 learning from O-T-I-S.

    On this board, and in recent columns, I’ve noticed less talk than I expected about Adalius Thomas — which I think is a great thing, ironically. The Pats pick up a beast, an elite linebacker who can seemingly do it all, and even he’s not the story every day? Looks like we’ve got a TEAM, everybody!

  11. Oh, so now we’re supposed to feel bad for Branch for being in profession he can make millions in and NOT ONLY THAT, but should pass legislation for his benefit? If that isn’t the most idiotic, stupid, assinine argument on his behalf I have ever heard, I don’t know what is. Give me a break. Poor Deion, victim of the antitrust laws? My God, I have never heard anything more stupid even out of the mouths of an ‘EEI host.

    The system is the system. Deion didn’t have to play professional football. The laws are the laws (and completely irrelevent to this issue). But last time I checked, the contract he signed was binding and he made millions under it. He simply chose not to honor it. Had the Pats wanted to, they probably could have gotten an order in court for specific performance ORDERING to honor the contract. No professional sports team has tried that tact yet. But then it would become a contempt of court issue. One of these days, some team will on these holdouts…which despite the drumbeat of idiots who don’t understand the law, ARE NOT within a person’s legal rights. Its just that no team has gotten as hardball as it conceivably could yet.


  12. By the way, once again you screwed up your facts. It seems to be a habit with people who don’t know what the hell they are talking about. The $3.25 million option the spring of ’04 was for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. So, it changed the deal from a 4 year deal to a 6 year deal.

    So, your statement “unless you feel like arguing over the possibility that a 1st round pick would be cut after his rookie season” was completely based on facts you didn’t research. The Pats would not have had to “cut” Warren if they didn’t pick up the option. It was for years 5 and 6. Not year 2. So, yes, it is completely conceivable they could have felt he didn’t show enough in year one to add 2 years to the deal and wait to see what happens in years 2-4. So, no, the money was NOT guaranteed as you claim. So your revised statement still sucks as does your argument. Why don’t you just retract it? And by the way, how about a little research if you make any other off base claims?


  13. You’ve clearly misunderstood. I’m not suggesting any legislation be passed for Branch’s benefit — I’m just reminding you that the NFL exists because of legislation passed on its behalf that exempted it from antitrust laws that bind almost every other business in the country. You are aware that the NFL draft would otherwise be illegal collusion, right?

    Furthermore, you’re aware that the NFL was losing the watershed cases in the early 90s that lead to the owners conceding free agency to the players in order to prevent further lawsuits, right?

    What you appear entirely unaware of, however, is that Branch’s contract in no way compels his participation w/ the Patriots, only established how much he gets paid for it. He was completely within his legal rights to hold out for as long as he wanted to. The NFL CBA clearly establishes the parameters for hold outs, including the fines he’d pay for skipping training camp, and when he’d have to come back in order to accrue a year towards his pension — you’ve heard about the whole “week 10” thing, right?

    So, it kind of turns out that your whole bit about the Pats getting a “court order” is entirely fiction. It’s a nice story, though. Almost as inventive about the one where one guy gets paid ~$40 million over the same time period, but one is called greedy and selfish for it, and the other lauded for being a team player.

  14. Thanks Judge Knids, but he was not within his legal rights, had the Patriots elected to pursue this…which as I said no team has….to hold out. The “week 10 thing” has to do with credited years, its not a provision to provide for holdouts, nor is the fines. Again, a ludicrous argument. Turn in your BBO card immediately, I would suggest.

    Nice of you to ignore your continued misstatements, unless there is another idiotic post coming.


  15. Sorry, Greg, but that’s the way the CBA works. Players can’t be sued for not reporting to the team — they just don’t get paid. If they want an accredited year towards free agency and their pension, they must report within the first 10 weeks. Once they do, the team can either put them on the roster, cut them, or suspend them and deal with the inevitable grievance.

    In other words, you’re entirely full of it. So much so, that it seems kind of ridiculous of you to then turn around and quibble over how likely it was that the Pats would void the last two years of a 1st round picks contract after his rookie year to get out of a $3.25 million option bonus. He could have gone on the IR in training camp, and still gotten that money.

  16. Sorry, you’re wrong counsel. Send me a case cite and I’d be glad to look at it. Fact is, you don’t have one and are just talking on assumptions you have in your head for no reason at all (certainly not actual research). I’m full of it? You are about as full of it as can be. Got caught twice on incredibly inaccurate statements, just throw absolute crap about a CBA out there with not a single citation as if you are actually qualified to know (you’re not). And then try to cover up two inaccurate statements by refusing to acknowledge you were full of shit. I remind you, you claimed that Warren would have to be “cut after his rookie season” if they didn’t pick up the option. Isn’t that your direct quote? Isn’t that exactly what you claimed? Are you even capable of acknowledge how full of shit and wrong you were when you type that. What about the earlier wrong statement? Or will you continue to move the goal posts in order to avoid admitting you were wrong?


  17. And since you asked, yes it is possible the Pats would not have picked up Warren’s years 5 and 6 after his rookie year. At least when it was being signed, that was a possibility. He could have blown out his ACL. He could have proven not a fit, a slow learner, whatever. And if I was his agent, I certainly wouldn’t commit malpractice (which is exactly what it would be) by advising him it was “guaranteed” in any way, shape or form. I guess you don’t have a problem throwing out opinions which in fact would be malpractice in the real legal world.


    Here are two articles on how the new CBA affects the amount of money which teams can fine players under contract who hold out. They both discuss the increase in the maximum fine that a franchise is allowed to levy against a player who does not report. Clearly, this falls into the category of establishing provisions for holdouts. The SI article also discusses the team’s options after the fines cease, which is to recoup some of the player’s signing bonus.

    So, looks like I’m not the one who turned out to be full of it, Greg. You should really just admit right now that you were talking out your a** when you started going off about the Pats getting a court order against Branch, and allow us to get back on point.

    Of course, you’d rather continue to quibble over the details of the $6.25 million in bonuses that Ty Warren received in his rookie deal, and what would induce a team to not pick up a 2 year option after a 1st round pick’s rookie season.

    Why? What exactly do you think you’re achieving by nitpicking about these things, when the facts are still that Warren’s contract paid him $6.25 million in bonus money and $20 million over six years, and Branch’s paid him $3 million over all five years.

    Does my being wrong about the details of the option bonus mean that it make those figures any less lopsided? Does it make it make sense that people are praising Warren and calling Branch greedy for wanting to make the same amount of money over the same period of time?

    I don’t think it accomplishes either.

  19. For the most part you guys have kept this relatively civil. Let’s try and keep it that way. Thanks. Good debate.

  20. Mr. Moneybags says:

    well done Greg

    The Pats could have also gone after a portion of Branch’s signing bonus, and possibly any roster bonuses, after all the precedent has been set that when a player does not uphold their contract the team can get part of that bonus back.

    Unless someone wants to argue the Ricky Williams and Barry Sanders cases never happened.

  21. I’m aware the CBA provides for fines. So that is your “proof” it overrides federal contract law? Give me a break. Sports Illustrated and ESPN articles that don’t even address the issue at hand? Laughable.

    Show me the section of the CBA that says the Lions could recoup part of the Barry Sanders’ signing bonus if he retires prior to the end of his deal? Hint: It wasn’t in there. Yet they did. There were provisions for retirement and signing bonuses though. How were the Lions able to make a novel argument? Don’t worry, I know you can’t answer that.

    There is plenty of legal precedent a contract can be enforced through specific performance in federal courts. I’m not willing to say its 100% guaranteed win (saying this are guaranteed is pretty foolish), but its a solid legal idea. No team has tried it, but some day they might. Mostly they haven’t for a variety of non-legal reasons (PR, keeping players happy, burning bridges, etc.) But its NOT because the CBA prohibits enforcing contracts through the seeking of that remedy (which is a remedy in most contractual disputes).

    Congratulations, after numerous posts and almost an entire day of being proven wrong, you finally somewhat conceded you were completely full of shit in describing Warren’s initial contract and the details of it in follow up posts. Couched in very self-serving terms, but backed into a corner, you’ve made progress. Now take a long hard look in the mirror and realize you don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about, legally, when discussing the CBA. It won’t kill you. Its obvious anyways. Citing SI and ESPN won’t help. And then maybe we can have a decent debate about something less assinine than your initial post on this matter.


  22. I don’t get the point of comparing Branch’s Seattle deal and Warren’s new deal with the Pats. They are not comparable football players. Warren is much, much better. If anything, these two players could be used as examples of why contracts for first rounders are not “ridiculous.”

  23. Greg, I don’t disagree that a team could attempt that lawsuit, but I don’t see it working. As you know, specific performance is a rare award in contract situations.

    It’s possible, and there’s an argument in terms of services Branch could provide being similar to an artist being commissioned for a painting that he/she refuses to do. Or a high powered lawyer being hired and then farming out work to an underling or associate when the client wanted THAT lawyer. Those kinds of situations in personal services can result in specific performance but it’d be very rare I think.

    Courts in general aren’t particularly enamored with the idea of forcing people to work, or preventing people from working. It’s why noncompete agreements are usually torn apart. I’d like to see a team try to make the arguments, but I don’t think it’d fly.

  24. I don’t think its granted rarely for any other reason other than its not often requested. Lets face facts, by the time something reaches the lawsuit stage, the relationship has deteriorated pretty badly. Doesn’t mean a court won’t order it if requested. And there are plenty of examples where that has occurred, its just that when someone files suit, more often than not at that point they want money. And perhaps the Pats or some other team could consider that angle against a holdout player as well. I see at least some possibility there as well.

  25. Ok, this is the last bit of my time I waste on this topic. It’s obvious from your last response that you won’t accept clear reported evidence that the CBA addresses the issue of holdouts, and provides guidelines for each party’s recourses in their event.

    It’s also clear that you don’t quite understand what the very nature of what collective bargaining agreement is. Of course a CBA overrides parts of federal contract law — or rather, more accurately, it preempts them. That’s the whole point — it establishes a legal structure entirely alien to the natural laws that govern labor. The draft, the franchise tag, limits as to the lengths of rookie contracts, etc, all of these things are constructs of the CBA, in which both parties have given up certain legal rights to establish an agreement that is the first arbiter in all contractual disputes.

    And this CBA clearly elucidates the various penalties a team is allowed to levy against players under contract who do not report. (And yes, this does include guidelines for when a team can go to court to recoup a players’ signing bonus.) A franchise can no more decide to bypass these procedures than a player can decide to sue the team to get out of the the franchise tag.

    So just come off it, Greg: you clearly were caught making stuff up about the Patriots’ getting a court order to compel Branch to report, and you’re trying to cover it up with nothing but bluster and cheap rhetoric. You keep asking me for proof of things, but have yourself provided zero evidence to back up your own wild claims.

    As for your hilarious attempt at condescension at the end of your post about my making progress — please, go back to my very first response to your nitpicking about Warren’s option bonus. Read the first sentence. It says “My bad.” I readily admitted to lumping all the guaranteed money into the signing bonus. So clearly, between the two of us, I’m not the one who has a problem admitting when he’s made a mistake. You, on the other hand, seem to think that if you come up with as many different ways to insist I’m wrong as you can, eventually it will be true.

    It won’t. You’re wrong, I’m right, and you haven’t offered a single shred of evidence that suggests otherwise.

    But here’s the thing — I don’t really care. It’s still entirely irrelevant to the point of my initial post, which is that Warren was extending a contract that would pay him $20 million to Branch’s $3 million, and that this needs to be taken into consideration when we praise Warren for giving a “hometown discount,” and condemn Branch for being greedy.

    Your entire farce about the Patriots blowing up the CBA to compel Branch to show up and play — an idea so ridiculously impractical in execution that you should be embarrassed to have brought it up in the first place — was nothing more than an attempt on your part to duck my point.

  26. Regarding the team’s option to recoup some of Branch’s signing bonus if he held out:

    It would hardly have been worth it. Branch’s signing bonus was a fraction over $1 million, and Branch had played out four years of his contract. That Pats, at most, could have recovered ~$200,000.

  27. Box Score says:

    I am just very disappointed that Dan opted not to go with the more traditional “SAFETY DANCE” headline.

  28. Me too.

  29. Whatever, I’m done with you. The CBA does not override the contract itself. Its almost too ridiculous to respond to. But you are beyond help. By the way, when you said “my bad” you followed it up with another claim that was wrong and not researched. A pattern for you. You simply don’t have a clue, but you are right about one thing, its pointless to argue any further because you are arguing about an area you obviously have no background in and its two days old now. You couldn’t even address the Sanders argument despite myself and another poster bringing it up. The tactics are familiar if the name is not. Move the goalposts, don’t address the issues and pretend you know what you’re talking about in an area you have obviously have zero background and expertise in. Its pointless. Have a nice day.


  30. And by the way, there absolutely positively was NOT any provision of the CBA about recouping a signing bonus at the time the Lions did it to Sanders. You simply made that up out of thing air. Please cite the chapter and subsection you are referring to. It didn’t exist. You know it. I know it and so does everyone else. I realize its an inconvenient fact for your original claims and its not surprising you didn’t address it (other than briefly making something up as your response)

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