- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Passing along some thoughts on the news from colleague Mike Reiss that the Patriots have agreed to terms with defensive end Rob Ninkovich on an extension that will keep him around through the 2016 season.
1. Locking up a core defender. Statistics don't tell the whole story for Ninkovich, whose presence is felt both on the field and in the locker room as a veteran leader. But he's evolved into one of the team's most reliable defenders, providing a pass-rush presence (team-leading eight sacks last season) with a knack for always being in the right place at the right time. He's a capable run defender and an end-of-the-line player who has versatility to play from both a stand-up alignment and three-point stance. Both he and Chandler Jones are under contract through 2016.
2. Take on the terms. The deal includes more than $8 million of guaranteed money, which is, in our estimation, more than fair compensation for a player of Ninkovich's stature. Contracts are always difficult to fully assess without a complete breakdown of the terms, but this looks like a deal that mutually benefits both sides.
3. Not how you arrive. One of the underlying aspects to the deal is that Ninkovich was signed by the team in early August of 2009, a time in which many presumed he was simply a camp body. That has turned out to be far from the case, as Ninkovich has found a home and turned into an impact player. This is both a credit to Ninkovich's determination to improve and a feather in the cap of the Patriots' personnel staff for uncovering this "diamond in the rough."
4. Cap update. One of the questions often posed by readers is: Why are the Patriots preserving cap space as the regular season is underway? The answer is to give the team flexibility to make moves such as this one, as the new money given to Ninkovich will cut into the team's current cap space. That's a worthwhile investment and good reason to be patient with available money. Prior to the Ninkovich deal becoming official, the Patriots have $7.148 in cap space.