Also included were the available financial figures for each player’s deal, which prompted conversation that we took notice of in the comments section of the piece.
Three players in particular -- Brian Hoyer, Steve Gregory and Matthew Slater -- had deals that stood out to commenters, and here’s some added insight into why the deals may have been constructed how they were:
BRIAN HOYER: 1-YEAR, $1.92 MILLION
Brian Hoyer still appears to have a hold on the top reserve role.
The Hoyer contract is the easiest to figure, because it’s a byproduct of the salary-cap structure. Hoyer, 26, was a restricted free agent tendered at the second-round level. That meant that a team could have signed him to an offer sheet, which the Patriots would have had seven days to match or subsequently receive a second-round pick in exchange. The value of the tender contract is pre-determined by the salary cap, rendering his $1.92 million contract a fixed price. While some may feel that’s a lot of money to pay a player who may not see the field at all in 2012, the value of dependable backup quarterbacks has arguably never been higher. Insurance for Tom Brady is critical, and although 2011 draft choice Ryan Mallett has shown promise, Hoyer still appears to have a hold on the top reserve role.
STEVE GREGORY: 3-YEARS, $7.05 MILLION
It’s still too soon to project starting lineups for the Patriots, and surely that is the case in the secondary, where it would appear that the rotation of players who will regularly contribute is fluid. But whether he aligns as a starter or reserve, Gregory has value on the roster for the Patriots. As the NFL has shifted towards a league increasingly reliant on passing offenses, the need for defenses to play sub-package personnel has grown. Gregory could find himself as a starter alongside Patrick Chung (who would figure to once again play a starting role this season), or as an integral reserve when the Patriots alter their defensive personnel. Beyond his defensive contributions, Gregory should factor on special teams, an area in which he was strong with the Chargers. When examining the figures on this contract, the overall impact of Gregory must be taken into account, not just the number of games that he starts.
MATTHEW SLATER: 3-YEARS, $5.4 MILLION
Matthew Slater is the Patriots' top special teams player, and a captain of the unit.
The Patriots are loaded at wide receiver, but perhaps it’s best to evaluate Slater outside of the context of his listed position. Slater has just one career catch, and has been used more as a blocker than a receiver on offense, but is the Patriots' top special teams player, and a captain of the unit. Paying him an average of $1.8 million may seem like steep money for a special teamer, but consider that a similar special teams standout – Kassim Osgood – earned a free-agent contract worth more than $2.2 million per season from Jacksonville in 2010 (Osgood was recently released before the final year of the deal). Moreover, the Patriots’ investment in Slater stands as an endorsement for players going about their job the way that Belichick and the entire franchise wants. Slater is selfless, a hard-worker, a leader, and a player who does whatever his coaches ask of him (including playing some safety in 2011). Retaining those types of players at a contract that bears minimal risk on the cap both in the short and long-term is sound business.