By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
I have a friend who has persistently and relentlessly advocated to me the Patriots should pursue All-Pro Defensive Tackle Albert Haynesworth in a trade from the Redskins. His advocacy has been so loud and repeated, and with the Redskins seeming desire to give Haynesworth away, it has admittedly weakened me to a proposition I once rejected out of hand. I’ll admit, he at least convinced me to pause and ponder the possibility for a moment. Could Albert Haynesworth fit with the Patriots?
Haynesworth’s talent is undeniable. As great as Vince Wilfork is, he is just a notch below Haynesworth, who has been called the most dominant defensive tackle in the league. And athletically, for his position, he is as much a freak as Randy Moss is as a receiver. This is a 6’6″ 350 lb. man who ran a 4.82/40 and had a vertical jump of 39″ inches during his pre-draft workouts in 2002. At 350 lbs.!! And as my friend has pointed out, a Patriots team in a reconfigured 4-3 alignment with Wilfork and Haynesworth in the middle would be a nightmare for teams to attempt to run on up the middle. Nobody would even get to middle linebacker Jerod Mayo to block him and he’d clean up on tackles. The double teams would have to be so persistent, it would make life easier for the Patriots edge defenders, where undoubtedly they are a bit weaker and have more question marks. And even on passing downs, Haynesworth is a good inside pass rusher, an area of concern the Patriots have looked to shore up this off-season. Indeed Haynesworth has racked up 18.5 sacks the last 3 seasons, an excellent number for an inside rusher.
But what about that contract you say? The $100 million dollar, 7 year deal Haynesworth got last year is nearly legendary. A defensive tackle getting that? But on closer examination, its not quite as unworkable as it may first appear. For starters, the Redskins have already paid out $32 million of that money, which leaves a potential $68 million which could be paid over 6 years to a team trading for him (though its unlikely it would all ever be paid out). Is that all that more unreasonably more than the $40 million over 5 years Wilfork got when one considers Haynesworth is the next level up player (and capable of playing for 3 downs as opposed to the 2 Wilfork plays on)?
So, what then is the problem? Ship a third rounder to Washington for next year (the Patriots have two firsts and two seconds anyway) and be done with it, right? Not quite. Haynesworth does come with quite a bit of baggage. Lets start with the fact the Redskins have paid him $32 million freakin’ dollars the last calender year and he still has not shown up for voluntary workouts this year!!! Any workouts. He’s been practically invisible to his employer. Think about that, he can’t be unhappy with his contract, right? How could he be? So, what’s the problem? The coaching staff? Is that his problem?
Indeed, Haynesworth did have a problem with last year’s Redskins’ defensive coordinator, Greg Blache. After a December 21st 45-12 loss to the Giants at home last year, Haynesworth threw Blache under the bus to the media by declaring “could not survive another season in this system if it stays the way it is….” Apparently it wasn’t Haynesworth’s fault the Redskins couldn’t cause any turnovers and allowed the Giants to march into town and roll up nearly 400 yards offense and 45 points that day. Not the $100 million dollar guy’s fault at all, apparently. Blame the coach everyone knew was on his way out of town at that point anyways. Courageous of Albert, I must say.
Nevertheless, Haynesworth got his wish. In to town comes new coach Mike Shanahan with new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his new system, a 3-4 defense to boot. Apparently Haynesworth is still unhappy with this as well and has put out word he in no uncertain terms wishes to play in a 3-4 base defense. Incidentally, the Patriots play a 3-4 base defense and any trade for Haynesworth would assuredly require a change to the 4-3, particularly with Vince Wilfork being one of your better players on defense. Haynesworth’s unhappiness no matter how much money he makes or what system he plays has led Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi to wonder aloud if Haynesworth really even likes football. And this is a guy who’ll be 29 before camp starts. He is no doubt dominant and you may want to make some concessions for a dominant guy, but not sure you want to be committed to someone for 6 more years who is about to hit his 30s and lacks passion for the sport.
Then there are the character issues. Haynesworth is a guy caused a stir by kicking his teammate Justin Hartwig in camp in 2003. The same guy who was suspended five games for viciously stomping on Andre Gurode’s head while he was on the ground during a game with the Cowboys in 2006. And the same guy who’s been brought up on criminal charges several times the past few years for various admittedly minor offenses. Do we really want someone here who has no beef with his contract, having been made the highest paid defensive player in history a year ago, who got a change in coaching staff he advocated for and whose teammates and owner are openly calling for to show up during a critical team-building portion of the off-season while a new coaching staff tries to install his system on the Patriots? And a player who’d require the Patriots to scrap their defensive plans just days before, or even possibly after depending on when any trade were made, their first mandatory mini-camp when the system is being installed and taught to new comers and vets alike?
The Patriots have reportedly recommitted to finding leaders, solid citizens, captains and players with a passion for football and for a chance to succeed this off-season. In a way, its a return to a philosophy that kicked off their run of Super Bowl victories to begin with. The youth they’ve mixed in over the last two years gives Patriots fans justifiable optimism this team is rebuilding and with a little luck can regain its dominance again with a new core of players (and a mixture of some of the old core). Adding a questionable, albeit dominant, 29 year old disgruntled Albert Haynesworth to the mix? Even at a song in terms of draft picks, I gotta say thanks but no thanks.