All about Asante
Asante Samuel is the talk of the town
Our plan wasnt to file another mailbag until the days leading up to Patriots training camp. But based on the interest in the Asante Samuel situation, here is a shorter version of the bag, which is all Asante, all the time.
Let's say Samuel elects to sit the first 10 weeks (I assume that means the first 10 weeks of the regular season?). What do you think are the chances that on week 11 he's suddenly in the starting lineup? My guess is that his conditioning will not be up to par if he's not working out and playing all that time, so he would ultimately see very limited playing time even by the end of the season. Wouldn't that hurt his prospects of getting a better deal next year?
Jason Rubin, Melrose
A: I think this is an excellent point, and certainly must be part of Samuels consideration when assessing all his options. The idea of showing up in the 10th week is designed to reduce the risk of injuries and put him closer to unrestricted free agency -- but is it worth taking that approach when you might not be putting yourself in the best position to succeed? Ultimately, this is one of the reasons I think Samuel will retrace his steps and decide against sitting out until the 10th week of the season.
OK, Mike, I will hit you with the same question that at least 1,000 others have probably hit you with since 4 p.m. on July 16: What do you think will happen with Asante Samuel?
Steve, Westminster, Vt.
A: I think Samuel will sign the one-year, $7.79 million tender. I believe he will decide that is the best approach for him to ultimately receive the long-term deal he is seeking.
Since the Patriots front office and Asante Samuel were unable to come to terms both sides could live with prior to July 17, could a trade be in the future? What would be the problems that would restrict any attempt to trade Samuel? On the other hand, do your "inside" sources suggest any possibility of Samuel being a Patriot after 2007? Aside from the $450,000 that he would earn each game, are there other inducements that might encourage the disgruntled DB to not hold out? Finally, do the Patriots need to tweak how they handle contracts?
Albert U. Turner, Jr., Smyrna, Ga.
A: A trade is a possibility, but I dont see it going that way. I think it all comes back to the concept of buying low and selling high. In Samuels case, a team that trades for him would be buying an asset at its highest price in the form of paying him the big contract as well as compensating the Patriots with a first-round or second-round draft choice. Because of that, I just dont see too many teams willing to make that deal. On another point, I dont think the negotiation is personal, so I wouldnt rule out Samuel being part of the Patriots after 2007, but if I had to make an educated guess, Id say hell be playing elsewhere in 2008. Another inducement that would encourage Samuel not to hold out would be a promise that the Patriots wont put the franchise tag on him again next year. I dont see the Patriots doing that because they are very careful about setting precedent. As for how the Patriots handle contracts, I think their track record speaks for itself. While they dont always make the right decisions, I think more often than not they are making the right ones.
Why are the Pats still playing this ridiculous game with Samuel? He wants insane money, and some team will gladly give it to him. He's not going to leave a penny on the table. The Pats have no leverage. None. $7.79 million seems HUGE to us, but compare that to $18-$20 million he could receive in a long-term deal and it is obvious he is not going to risk injury and miss his payday. The only thing the Pats can do is franchise him again next year. What does that accomplish? They dropped the ball, misread the market, and allowed Samuel to play himself into a mega-contract at the perfect time. Why compound their mistake by letting this distraction drag into what could be a huge season? Cut their losses, and get a first-round pick next year for him. You don't think some team will part with a first-round pick for a young, proven, cornerback? Please. Seattle gave up a first-rounder for Branch. Do the Pats honestly think they are going to get Samuel to either play for the tender, or reduce his price? It's crazy. Not happening.
A: I appreciate the passion and strong opinions you bring to the forum, Dan. I disagree on a few points, and agree on one point. As for the Patriots playing a ridiculous game, I dont see it that way. I hold both sides accountable for the situation. Yes, I think the Patriots could have been more proactive and upped their proposal. But I also think Samuels camp started exceptionally high, at a point that I dont believe another team would pay him. So we disagree on that one. I also disagree that Samuel will definitely sit out, so he doesnt risk injury and miss his payday. I think he needs to seriously consider that if he shows up in Week 10, hes not putting himself in the best position to succeed, and I say that with the thinking that other clubs can have short memories. If Samuel plays the final six games and looks like an average corner, I dont think his market value will be as high as some think. Im also not convinced, right now, there would be a long line of teams willing to pay Samuel, and pay a first-round draft choice to the Patriots. As for where we agree, I do think the Patriots miscalculated the market back in October when the prices were a lot lower, and Samuel was asking for around $10 million in bonuses. I think I understand why they took that approach they wanted to see more and figured it would be better to be safe than sorry but based on the way the market has shifted those numbers arent even in consideration at this time.
It seems that many players, fans and media personnel don't understand or like to talk about the fact that the NFL is a corporation. It is a single entity. This being the case, what do you think is the reason that the NFL established the "dreaded" franchise tag. I believe that it is to make sure that players are forced to stay loyal -- so fans will stay loyal -- and money keeps coming in. What are your thoughts on this? When you look at it this way, there really isn't any other team that Asante can play for. The NFL has put this clause in and I feel that it is actually a very good thing since it will ensure that there is no Yankee organization in the NFL. To me, buying a championship is what really ruins the fun. Comments?
Barry, Ridgecrest Calif.
A: A couple thoughts on this one, Barry. I think were covering more than the franchise issue with this question. I believe the idea that there is no Yankee organization in the NFL ensuring that a team cant buy a championship is more specific to the salary cap than the franchise tag. As for why there is a franchise tag, my belief is that it was initially created so teams had another avenue to keep their stars. Earlier this year, linebacker Mike Vrabel had some interesting things to say about the franchise tag. Vrabel is one of the Patriots player representatives, and he noted that if players wanted to eliminate the franchise tag, they would probably have to give up another year before hitting free agency. Based on the small number of players who are annually affected by the franchise tag and the large number of players who earn more money because of their ability to hit the unrestricted free-agent market after four years he didnt see the franchise tag going away.
Now that the deadline for Asante Samuel to sign a long-term deal with the Pats has gone, I am curious about the negotiating process. As fans on the outside all we see are the headline that he has been tagged, the occasional blurb that negotiations are not going well, and then the disappointment that the deadline has passed. But what is really going on? Is there a daily back and forth, offer/counter-offer process going on right up until the end or does one side submit something that the other side sits on for 3 weeks before responding? From the time he was tagged until the deadline, a full five months passed. It seems to me that in five months anyone should be able to work out a deal if there was a deal to be worked. Congress negotiates international trade agreements in less time.
John Storta Jr. Concord, N.C.
A: Every negotiation is different, and you bring up an interesting point. From my experience, when you have tw sides committed to reaching a deal and not starting from too far away with their initial offers, there are usually more frequent exchanges of proposals. But in the case of Samuel, I think the sides were so far apart with their most recent proposals that negotiations never got to that point. My hunch is that Samuels side was more aggressive in recent months, but that the Patriots were content to hold the line because the gap between them was so significant.
The probability of no deal with Samuel always seemed high to me. Why did the Pats not pursue Oliver in the supplemental draft both as insurance and because I understand he is a rare gem in this draft. In fact, Sports Illustrated has applauded the Chargers' picking him and are even more impressed by their overall depth at cornerback.
A: I thought Oliver would have been a good pickup for the Patriots, as we discussed in last weeks mailbag. I dont know why the team didnt make a play for him. My assumption is that they might have been willing to part with a later-round pick (5-7), but it never got to that point because the Chargers jumped in before them (fourth round).
The playoffs this year for the Patriots are a virtual lock with or without Samuel. My question is this: If Asante Samuel shows up in week 10 does he have to play in any playoff games to gain an accrued season? If not, why would the Patriots play him during the regular season at all? It would get the team used to him playing, only to have him gone for the most important games of the year. Not only that, but if he played well it might even increase his asking price for the next year, something I'm sure the Patriots don't want to do. If he plays from Day 1, I think you can count on him for the playoffs, but if he starts at week 11 what's the advantage for the Patriots if he's not going to play during the playoffs?
Joe Cheney, South Burlington, Vt.
A: A couple of things here, Joe. If Samuel shows up in Week 10, as long as he signed his tender and is on the Patriots roster, he would start earning credit toward an accrued season. He doesnt necessarily have to play to earn credit toward an accrued season. As for the issue of playing him vs. not playing him, I think the Patriots would play him if they felt it gave them the best chance to win. I dont think the team would hold him back based on the fact that if Samuel plays well, his asking price could go up.
By time this e-mail is answered my question may already have an answer. But with the inability of the organization and Samuel's reps unable to come to a long-term deal, and the option of holding out is put into action, do you see New England possibly picking up a free agent DB or released player during training camp to try and bolster the depth in the secondary? And I am aware that their first options are to let their guys play and see who can contribute with their acquisitions between rookies and free agents that they have signed during the offseason.
Brandon, Warwick, R.I.
A: Yes, I do think the Patriots will at least be aggressive in exploring possibilities at cornerback, assuming Samuel doesnt show up. Yet as is the case at many positions at this time of year, the options arent plentiful.
Seeing we couldn't get a deal done with Asante, how about a trade with Chicago? Samuel and Colvin for Briggs and Vasher. It would make sense seeing Colvin had his best years playing with Urlacher, just like Briggs has. What do you think?
Jonathan Simons, Hudson, N.Y.
A: I dont think the Bears would do this deal, Jonathan, because they just paid Vasher $14 million in bonuses. So to walk away from that at this point wouldnt be good business for them.