Sports Outside the Beltway

Patriots Sticking to the Plan

Don Banks believes Pats fans should relax a little as they watch their team release half a dozen big name veterans and yet do nothing in free agency to replace those losses.

Willie McGinest, gone. David Givens, gone. Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham and Andre Davis, gone, gone, gone. Adam Vinatieri? Going, going, almost gone. What in the name of Tully Banta-Cain are the New England Patriots doing in free agency?

Pretty much what they always do, to no great surprise. Sticking to their plan amidst all the hand-wringing by fans and the media. Refusing to break their carefully crafted business model and overpay. Keeping emotion and nostalgia for past successes in check and out of the decision-making process.


McGinest was the first player ever drafted by the Patriots (No. 4 overall in 1994) after Bob Kraft bought the team and started the process of turning around the franchise’s sagging fortunes. McGinest was beloved by the fans, an ideal teammate and locker-room leader, and his signing with Cleveland on Wednesday marks the end of an era in New England. But all of that history didn’t make the Patriots go wobbly in the knees when the building-an-identity Browns — led by head coach Romeo Crennel, the former New England defensive coordinator — offered the 12-year veteran a three-year deal worth $12 million, which includes $6 million of guaranteed money and $8 million in the first two years.

McGinest will turn 35 in December. Paying him as if he were 29 and still in his prime would have been a risk in New England’s estimation. And the Patriots simply don’t take those kind of risks. Never have. Probably never will. So, with regret, they bid the highly respected McGinest adieu, believing they’ve made the right choice, if not the convenient one.

Quite right. Granted, the expanded salary cap took a lot of dumb teams off the hook for past bad decisions. But, in the long run, it makes sense to stick to a budget, stay young, and only pay big money for a select few high impact positions.

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