I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know about the ongoing saga of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Boston Globe newspaper. Kraft has allegedly been extorting the newspaper for years and it’s gotten to the point where the Globe is now suing him. If the allegations are true, this is a huge story. But I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer about what exactly has been going on between the two men.
After a couple of years on the sideline, Bill Belichick will finally return to the field on Saturday when the New England Patriots kick off the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. To add to the hype, the Patriots will be attempting to become just the 9th team in NFL history to repeat as Super Bowl champs, and the first since the 2007-08 New York Giants.
At a time when the Patriots are simultaneously defending their Superbowl title and looking to build on it, Bill Belichick is once again on the hot seat after his comments about Robert Kraft. (As always, the gang at the Third Rail is here to offer up their perspective on Belichick’s recent comments.)
Bill Belichick entered the offseason with a lengthy list of needs to fill and more money than ever before. Despite his reputation as a bargain hunter, he strayed from the road and showed no reluctance in using Robert Kraft’s financial resources to address critical roster gaps.
Belichick, on the other hand, still has a job to do.
With Week 1 fast approaching, he’s been given more evidence that it’s now time to ask his employer for a costly favor.
This offseason, Bill Belichick spent an unprecedented amount of Robert Kraft’s money.
Belichick signed a staggering amount of veterans to multi-year contracts after seeing Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory. Of course, his brazen attitude cost the Kraft family a significant sum of money.
The New England Patriots reportedly paid a league-record $159.6 million in guaranteed money on free agents, according to ESPN. Soon after free agency started, Belichick’s employer mentioned the team’s unusually costly buying binge.
“In my 27 years as a business owner, I’ve never had to come up with that much money,” Kraft told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “We’re not in this for the sake of being in business. We’re in this for the long haul.”
“I remember we always made fun of the clubs who spent a lot of money in the offseason,” he later said. So we all know there’s no such thing as a promise, and I’m well aware of that.”
On paper, Belichick’s aggressive free-agent approach improved the Patriots significantly. Hunter Henry (three years, $37.5 million) and Jonnu Smith (four years, $50 million) should help stabilize the tight end position. Nelson Agholor ($22 million over two years) and Kendrick Bourne ($15 million over three years) have the route-running skills and speed to succeed in New England’s timing-based passing offense. With the signings of Matthew Judon (four years, $56 million), Davon Godchaux (two years, $15 million), and Kyle Van Noy (two years, $12 million), the defense has certainly improved.
However, after spending an unprecedented amount of money in free agency, the Patriots still have a significant void in their lineup that will need another investment from the Krafts.
Belichick just received further proof that it’s time to beg his boss for a costly favor.
During training camp and preseason play, Bill Belichick has seen the Patriots’ backup cornerbacks struggle. | Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images
Despite going 3-0 throughout the preseason, the Patriots’ weaknesses were revealed. The team’s weak cornerback depth was evident in both practice and game scenarios.
And it’s for this reason that Belichick has to ask Kraft for a costly favor.
With Stephon Gilmore pushing for a raise, the Patriots have spent the whole summer with J.C. Jackson and a group of untested prospects. Although Jackson continues to shine, the Patriots lack a clear-cut alternative at the other boundary corner position. Joejuan Williams, a 2020 second-round selection, and Michael Jackson Sr., a 2019 fifth-round pick, both struggle with consistency and do not seem to be starting-caliber players at this time. On Sunday, the latter was badly defeated by the New York Giants, which should have given Belichick even more proof that it’s time to deal with his most successful defensive player.
Does this imply that Gilmore should be given a multi-year contract extension?
Should the Patriots find a way to bring him back to work before the start of Week 1?
Belichick has already spent a record amount of money on guys who have never played for the Patriots. Why cut corners with someone who has personally assisted you in winning a Super Bowl ring? Why take the chance of having an apparent weakness in an otherwise championship-caliber defense at the start of the season?
It may go against Belichick’s tendency to move on from older veterans, but not having Gilmore at right corner would be a huge loss for the Patriots. He has to persuade Kraft to approve another football-related expenditure, putting an end to a stalemate that should have been settled long ago.
If Stephon Gilmore isn’t in the lineup, New England’s Super Bowl aspirations may be dashed.
“Is it worth it to lose your best player [for half the season] in order to win the negotiation?”
Albert Breer discusses why he thinks the #Patriots’ contract talks with Stephon Gilmore have been hampered by their inaction. pic.twitter.com/9NWkAg7ZG3
30 August 2021 NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston)
The Patriots badly need Gilmore in the lineup, even if he can’t repeat his spectacular 2019 season. He possesses the height, length, and technique to shut down No. 1 receivers, if he stays healthy. Outside of J.C. Jackson, no one else on the roster possesses that ability, and even the talented upcoming free agent has to face concerns about whether he deserves to be paid as a No. 1 corner.
If Gilmore isn’t available, Belichick will have to go farther down the depth chart. The Patriots shouldn’t feel comfortable depending on Jalen Mills or Marlon Williams on the perimeter after what happened in the preseason. It would be a reach to consider Shaun Wade, a recent trade acquisition, as a drop-in replacement for a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Simply said, New England must bite the bullet and do whatever it takes to make Gilmore happy. To dominate opposition attacks, the front seven has more than enough skill and depth. At safety, the secondary seems to be well-stocked, with Jonathan Jones and Jackson providing the squad with two rock-solid corners.
However, having a healthy, motivated version of Stephon Gilmore on the Patriots’ road to a Super Bowl victory in 2021 is essential.
We’ll soon find out how much Bill Belichick loves his No. 1 corner as Week 1 approaches.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics. Spotrac provided all contract information.
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