The New England Patriots have done it again. The Patriots have brought in a disgruntled all-pro talent from a struggling team for relatively nothing.
The last time the Patriots signed a player this way the team followed with a perfect regular season and appearance in the Super Bowl. The player in question that time was none other than Randy Moss.
Moss had lost his way in Oakland and left Al Davis' disrupted franchise for a fourth round pick. That fourth round pick turned into a record breaking season in 2007 as Moss hauled in 23 of Tom Brady's 50 touchdown passes.
Moss was rejuvenated by the strong locker room and talented offense that he had lacked in Oakland. He eventually left the team last season in controversial circumstances. Nonetheless the low risk high reward deal definitely paid off for the Patriots.
In many ways, the Albert Haynesworth deal is very similar. Haynesworth signed a $100 million dollar contract with the Washington Redskins in 2009 after imposing his will on offensive lines in Tennessee for a few years.
Similarly to the Raiders after signing Moss, the Redskins were not a very good team. In fact they changed their head coach after Haynesworth's first season.
While Moss was disgruntled in Oakland because of how bad the team was around him, this is not Haynesworth's issue. Albert Haynesworth is motivated by money, not football. Bill Belichick can get the best out of any talented player that loves football. He did so with Randy Moss and Corey Dillon before him, but getting the best out of Albert Haynesworth is going to be a much greater challenge.
A challenge that I don't see them overcoming.
The most difficult obstacle with Haynesworth first and foremost is the fact that he is not fully committed to football. He has been in the league for nine seasons and for all but his rookie season he has had the talent to totally dominate every game that he has played in.
These expectations of him may be unfair because all players struggle with consistency at some point but when you look at his career you see that it is simply lazines or a lack of determination that holds him back. Haynesworth's two best seasons came in 2007 and 2008, or in other words his last two seasons in Tennessee.
In 2007 he posted six sacks and 32 tackles in only 12 starts.
In 2008 he posted 8.5 sacks and 41 tackles in 14 games. More importantly that year he made sure that the Titans couldn't re-sign him and allow him to hit free agency.
It is no coincidence that he went from nine sacks in five years to 14.5 sacks in the two years before he could become a free agent. Haynesworth timed it perfectly and signed a seven year deal in Washington for $100 million.
He somewhat escaped blame for underwhelming performances during his first season as the team overall was poor but his lack of effort on the field was eye catching.
Then Mike Shanahan became the team's head coach and Jim Haslett changed the defensive scheme from 4-3—the system Haynesworth gets sacks in—to a 3-4—a system that asks it's defensive line to be team orientated and not look for personal statistics.
Haynesworth was not bothered by this development at first but as soon as he collected a massive check for his offseason bonus, he made it clear that he didn't want to play for the Redskins.
What followed was ugly and a standoff that showed Haynesworth off to be a money motivated, self indulged amateur. He repeatedly failed his conditioning test ahead of training camp and his effort on the field was pathetic.
He only played in eight games and didn't start a single game.
Unlike Randy Moss, Haynesworth doesn't seem bothered about winning Super Bowls or breaking records on the field. Football is a job to Albert Haynesworth, a process through which he acquires his vast wealth. He has no passion to play or help his teammates. He is an atypical Bellichick addition.
Another significant difference between the two deals is that Haynesworth doesn't fit the Patriots scheme. While schemes and systems can be changed, it would be a major shock if the Patriots would change their whole defensive ideology for a guy like Haynesworth.
Bill Belichick is a defensive genius who knows what he is doing but he may have been overstating his own ability to manage players and fallen for Haynesworth's unique talent in the process.
At best Albert Haynesworth will be a very good role player for the Patriots who can act as a rusher in nickel sets or the team could even incorporate some 4-3 sets to take advantage of his skill set. However at $5 million for the coming season he does not come without risks.
Haynesworth was a major problem in the Redskins locker room last year and some players, including veteran leaders of the team, willingly called him out to the media. Probably the most respected Redskin, London Fletcher, said "I want teammates who I can depend on, who I can count on ... he's shown he can't be depended on."
This kind of problem won't be accepted in New England. Managing Haynesworth's ego will be one thing, managing what he evokes from his piers will be another problem.
One thing is for certain, Albert Haynesworth in Boston is going to make for a very interesting venture.
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