FOXBOROUGH — Brian Waters may not be at Gillette Stadium helping the Patriots prepare for the Baltimore Ravens, but it isn’t because New England didn’t make a significant effort to try to get the veteran guard to rejoin the team.
During training camp, the Patriots offered Waters $4 million to play this season, a last-ditch enticement to a player who would certainly be a valued member of the offensive line.
That amount is nearly triple the $1.4 million base salary that Waters is currently under contract to make for 2012, and would make him the second-highest-paid player on the line, behind Logan Mankins.
It is another example of how the Patriots have gone above and beyond trying to appease Waters, who was named to the Pro Bowl last year, his first with the team.
As the Globe has previously reported, when Waters initially signed his two-year deal last September, he and Bill Belichick had an agreement that Waters would not have to take part in any offseason work or a good deal of training camp so that he could spend as much time as possible in his native Texas, where he lives with his wife and five children.
That agreement isn’t something that’s going to be publicized, because it’s preferential treatment for a veteran player.
But the Patriots fully expected that Waters would show up before the first regular-season game.
He has long since been placed on the reserve/did not report list, which means he does not count toward the 53-man roster.
His name has been stripped off what had been his locker stall, and the number he wore last year, 54, has been given to rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Earlier this year, Waters and the Patriots agreed to a modified contract structure for this season that was to drop his base salary to the veteran minimum for a player with 10-plus years experience but offer per-game bonuses that would have brought him at least to — and likely above — the $1.4 million he was originally slated to make.
Waters has been durable in his career, making the chances good that he would have earned all of the money, but the deal also protected the Patriots in case he were injured. Such a change in salary cannot occur without the player agreeing to it.
Waters has not been with the Patriots since their loss in Super Bowl XLVI, after which he said he might retire. And despite the team allowing him to remain at home for as long as he needed and trying to soften the blow of his being away with a big raise when it appeared he was hesitant to return, he still has not reported.
It is unclear whether New England is fining Waters, which it can do under the collective bargaining agreement.
Waters apparently isn’t set to retire; he just wants to play closer to home.
And Houston, a very good team with a need for a top-level guard, has been floated as a possibility. However, New England is very unlikely to release Waters and allow him to sign with the Texans, one of the strongest teams in the AFC.
The Ravens offense has received quite a bit of attention this year, but this team is still defined by its defensive stars, starting with ageless linebacker Ray Lewis.
Even though defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left to become head coach of the Colts and former Patriots linebackers coach Dean Pees has ascended to the coordinator position, Tom Brady knows the talent is still there.
“I have a lot of respect for Dean,” said Brady. “He was a great coach here and he’s got those guys playing well. He’s been in that system and he knows those players and they’ve got a lot of playmakers and I think he’s great at using those guys and really doing what they do best.
“Ray is a big-time playmaker, Ed Reed is, Haloti [Ngata], Lardarius Webb has turned into one of the best corners in the league.
“I think Dean does a great job of putting guys in positions where they’re able to make those plays, and it’s not so scheme-oriented where sometimes Ray is out of a play — Ray’s in every play. I’m sure that’s just the way he wants it, too.”
A tipping point?
Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said on a radio talk show Wednesday that the Patriots were tipping off their offensive plays during last Sunday’s game against Arizona.
Speaking on Arizona Sports 620, Horton said, “We knew that whenever [Aaron] Hernandez was in tight, it was going to be a run, so we had a run check. But when he got hurt, it screwed that up because they went to three wide receivers.
“When they did, and what we figured out real quick, was whenever Tom Brady was under the center, they were going to run the ball and whenever he was in the shotgun, they were going to pass the ball.” Continued...