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Thoughts on Fanene

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 21, 2012 07:29 PM

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Obviously it's a huge shock that the Patriots just decided to throw away $3.85 million in a signing bonus and another $100,00 workout bonus by terminating Jonathan Fanene's contract.

I mean, that's just stunning. When is the last time the Patriots just ate a mistake that large before even seeing the guy on the field?

Even Albert Haynesworth didn't wash out that quickly (although the expense was in a draft pick, not contract). And we all know how much rope the Patriots gave Chad Johnson.

By the way, can we officially cross former Bengals off any future free-agent lists? Yikes.

Personnel-wise, this is a blow because you figured a player like Fanene, who was a tackle in this scheme but could play end, would be a pass-rushing force, at least, on passing downs. In a way, it reminds one of when the Patriots lost Myron Pryor in the opener. You just hope there aren't losses such as Mike Wright and Haynesworth upcoming or they'll be back to a 3-4.

In my eyes, it puts more pressure on Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace to not only make the team but be consistent. It opens the door more for Gerard Warren to make the team. And it really opens the door for end/tackle Justin Francis, and possibly Marcus Forston.

Why did Fanene have to be released right now?

As Shalise Manza Young has reported, Fanene was likely dealing with arthritis in one of his knees. That's what we were hearing. The prognosis had to be pretty bad for the Patriots to not even put him on injured reserve and see where he was a year from now.

That leads to two obvious questions: did the Patriots miss something in the original medical exams when they signed Fanene, who has had his share of medical issues during his career? And is Patriots team doctor Thomas Gill, who was let go as medical director of the Red Sox in November, fielding a lot of questions from 1 Patriots Place?

If it's not solely medical, then I couldn't help but think back to a chat I had with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis about Fanene at the owners' meetings in March. Basically, Lewis was skeptical Fanene would work out for the Patriots -- sort of like he was when the Johnson-Patriots story came up.

Here's what I wrote in May:

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was curious about the decision of defensive end Jonathan Fanene to sign, considering Foxborough’s proximity to Boston.

Fanene, said Lewis, is “very small-town. I don’t represent him. Sometimes those guys [agents] should think about that.

“Jon is a very hard-working guy. Prior to his time at Utah, he hadn’t played a lot of football. So it was all new to him. So going to a new team, it’s going to be interesting.

“He’s very hard on himself. He wants to do everything right. He’s very conscientious.

“Last year, because of the lockout, he was an unsigned player, he didn’t hit camp quite ready to go. We had to get Jon in shape and get him going, and he did that.

“He had a baby in late July. So he had a lot of things going on in his life last year, and once we got him signed, it took him a little bit of time.’’

Lewis thinks Fanene will fit well in the Patriots’ two-gap system.

“Jon’s been a good inside rusher because of his effort and energy,’’ Lewis said. “He’s strong. He’ll do well in the New England scheme of playing two-gap.

“He has not done a lot of that. That will be a little different for him. I don’t know what they’re going to ask him to do, but he’ll have to learn to do that a little bit. But he’ll have the strength and ability to do it, yes.’’

At the time, I just chalked up Lewis's comments to some sour grapes for Fanene not taking less to remain with the Bengals.

Now, I'm not quite sure.

But it's not the end of the world. The Patriots will take a $2.025 million cap hit this year, and another $1.925 million next. Last I heard, the Patriots were at about $10.8 million under the cap a few weeks ago.

It's not a huge mistake, but you have to wonder why it happened. Very unlike the Patriots.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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