Not long after a report emerged that the Patriots were interested in running back Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers signed him. So here’s the question: Were the Patriots actually interested in Fournette?
The Patriots typically don’t leak interest in a player. If they want him, no one knows about it until they get him. (For example, Cam Newton.)
There’s a good reason for that. Once other teams catch wind of the fact that Bill Belichick is interested in a player, that player instantly becomes more attractive. (For example, Cam Newton.)
The Patriots have avoided that dynamic by making it clear to players and agents that, if word emerges of the team’s interest, the dance instantly will end. So if it’s true that the Patriots were interested in Fournette, the fact that someone leaked it to the media means that the Patriots would have, based on past precedent, pulled the plug.
Perhaps the correct explanation is that the Patriots didn’t express interest, but that Fournette’s camp claimed that the Patriots were interested in order to give the market a goose. If that was the approach, it worked; former Patriots employee Jason Licht swooped in, possibly with a nudge from former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Is it right or wrong to leak that a team is interested when it isn’t? In the end, all’s fair in love, war, and football — and that notion also applies to football contracts.