Amidst the hectic chaos of the NFL cut downs two seismic events rocked the landscape. Aaron Donald completed the largest contract extension ever for a defensive player on Friday, August 31st. Then football fans woke up to the news that Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack is a Chicago Bear. We all expected another mega-contract signing to follow. While I waited for confirmation of the financial terms of these, one of my thoughts was “What does this mean for the Patriots’ chances of re-signing defensive end Trey Flowers?”
The contract details proved to be earth shattering for non-quarterbacks in a way that resets the market economics. Donald signed a six-year $135 million dollar deal with $87 million guaranteed. Khalil Mack received a slightly richer deal at $141 million for six years with $90 million guaranteed. These deals truly reset the defensive line market and will affect contract negotiations for years to come.
I’m not saying that Trey Flowers will be signing this kind of deal for the Patriots anytime soon. Mack and Donald were selected with the #5 and #13 pick overall in the 2014 draft and Flowers was drafted in the fourth round at #101 overall. Flowers has 13.5 sacks and 107 tackles through largely two seasons of work and both Mack and Donald have more than doubled that through four full seasons. What it does is force the contract values to rise with each new signing. The bar at the top has risen and the middle class and high-middle class rises with it. Trey Flowers can expect to sign a deal in that middle class area. The question becomes- are the Patriots willing to offer one to their best defensive lineman since Chandler Jones?
The Patriot Way
Chandler Jones. Many will point to him and fellow Patriot Jamie Collins in their argument that the Patriots are a cheap team in contract negotiations. This is false in many ways which I will not get into here. That’s for another time. They have a very rigid sense of the internal valuation of a player’s skill set and are not willing to go beyond that very often. In the event that they feel they will not be able to negotiate a contract that matches the team’s expectation with the player’s, they will seek to get maximum return on a departing player. Whether this means trading for draft assets or players or allowing them to leave in free agency.
Will they do this with Trey Flowers? His contract expires following the end of this season and with reinforcements along the line he could see his impact rise. This would put him in line for a major payday. Jason Pierre-Paul, Stephon Tuitt, Everson Griffen, Calais Campbell, and Danielle Hunter have all signed deals that have averaged just under 15 million per year. The franchise tag for defensive ends was $17.1 million. Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekial Ansah will play out the season under it. This all points to an explosion of contract value for young pass rushers.
Trey Flowers as a Pass Rusher
If Trey Flowers dominates again this season and the Patriots are comfortable, could they actually entertain the thought of trading the budding young star? The 2 first round picks that the Raiders received in the swap will certainly give them pause. Jamie Collins was traded in a surprising bye week trade to the Cleveland Browns. The team has re-stocked the pass rush with young Derek Rivers returning and signing veteran Adrian Clayborn. Now mind you, I am not advocating this course of action, but it is a possibility. We have seen Belichick remove a player that in the short-term could cause pain for the long-term gain. Collins, Jones, Moss, and Seymour have all found themselves packing their bags very quickly when the situation warranted a move.
If the young pass-rusher takes a step forward and sees his value increase, he will definitely be looking at a market that will pay him upwards of $15.5 million per year. Can the Patriots afford this? A rough estimation shows that they have over $168 million allocated for just 44 players. It shows that the organization will have to be frugal and cautious in their financial dealings. The proclivity for Belichick and company to adopt a year to year approach also supports a wait and see approach.
What can we expect?
The ball is in Trey Flower’s court. I’m sure some rough numbers and desires have been exchanged and both sides know where the other stands. You can expect that if he has a stellar year and meshes with the new personnel you’ll see his dollar figure rise with each sack. For me that increases the likelihood that we see him walk in free agency. I plan on enjoying this season and hope every member gets to be fitted for a shiny new ring before that happens.
All photos courtesy of Getty images unless noted otherwise. All contract figures came from Spotrac.com
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