At some point, the “Patriot Way” gave way to bargain shopping.
With coach Bill Belichick unconcerned about job security, he could instead chase his legacy by taking chances on talented players who are available on the cheap, whether in free agency, via the draft, or by trade.
Most of the players who arrived via that mindset had red flags from their off-field exploits. Some, like offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (cancer) and tight end Jake Ballard (ACL), came at a low price because of health issues.
Whatever the nature of the risk, at a certain point Belichick has decided the potential reward outweighs the possibility of pissing away a draft pick.
The latest example is cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, whom Belichick gave a lifeline in round seven, roughly a week after the second-round prospect was arrested for assaulting a police officer. Sure, Dennard was convicted. But his 30-day sentence would be served after the 2013 season, and more importantly he quickly became a contributor.
But now Dennard is in trouble again, arrested for suspicion of DUI. His failure to take advantage of the union-provided hotline for a ride home or the NFL money he earns to simply call a cab becomes even more stupid because Dennard has seen the career, and the life, of a teammate implode over the past three weeks.
The most obvious question is whether the Patriots will cut him with the same speed they dumped Hernandez. Though the Hernandez precedent technically applies only to employees arrested in connection with a murder, any arrest in the fumes of the Hernandez fiasco could be grounds for immediate termination.
It’s further proof that the Patriots need to reconsider whether the cost of a risk gone bad is more than the low-round pick used to acquire the player. The problem is that, if the Patriots don’t take a chance on a guy with red flags, someone else will. And that team could end up better for it.
Owner Robert Kraft could be getting to the point where he’d rather have a little less talent if that means having a lot less of a potential headache. And if Belichick isn’t on board with that, things could get even more interesting in New England.