Reimer: After getting low-balled, nice to see ex-Patriots finally get paid in free agency

Alex Reimer
March 14, 2018 - 1:16 pm

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski gave Danny Amendola the perfect Patriots send-off Wednesday. In an Instagram post, Gronk lauded Amendola for the sacrifices he made in New England. 

“Stay lit, be FREE, be HAPPY,” Gronkowski wrote cryptically, given his hints about retirement. “You hard work, the way you play at your size, the pain you fought through, the hits you take and get right back up talking s— back. I appreciated it all. Congrats. Enjoy Miami kid.”

Tom Brady applauded Gronk’s remarks. “Well said,” he responded, with five exclamation points and three clapping emojis. 

Brady and Gronkowski know the physical punishment Amendola withstood during his five seasons here. They know about his incredible playoff production, and how he was never rewarded for it. Amendola took pay cuts for three straight years to stay with the Patriots. So it’s fitting the team didn’t pay him following his most stellar postseason run yet, in which he came down with 26 receptions for 348 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots would not have reached the Super Bowl without Amendola. He caught both of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship, while Gronkowski was nursing a concussion.

Despite those contributions, it’s not surprising the Patriots let him go. Amendola was the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on their depth chart. The Dolphins gave him two years and $12 million with $8.25 guaranteed. 

Congrats. Enjoy Miami, kid.

It’s a mischaracterization to say the Patriots never pay top dollar to retain their own players. They made Logan Mankins the highest-paid guard in league history and Vince Wilfork the highest-paid nose tackle. Devin McCourty received big bucks a couple of years back, too. But Bill Belichick doesn’t move with the market. If players want to receive market rate, they usually must look elsewhere. It’s impossible to blame them. 

On paper, Malcolm Butler appeared to be the perfect Patriot. While most of his peers were playing big-time college football, Butler worked at the local Popeyes, because he didn’t have the grades for Division 1 schools. He wound up playing at community college and West Alabama University before entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2014. 

Less than one year later, Butler won the Super Bowl when he picked off Russell Wilson at the goal line. The following season, he replaced Darrelle Revis as the Patriots’ No. 1 corner. Then he was low-balled. The Patriots reportedly offered Butler $6 or $7 million annually last offseason. On Wednesday, ESPN's Field Yates tweeted the Patriots offered Butler a deal comparable to what he received from the Titans, but that wasn't reported at the time. 

Butler responded with a solid campaign in 2017, playing 98 percent of the defensive snaps. But in the Super Bowl, for reasons unknown, he played 0 defensive snaps. Butler’s last indelible moment in a Patriots uniform was crying on the sidelines during the national anthem. 

Butler got dissed for one year, both personally and financially. But in the end, the Titans made him one of the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks in football. The humbling was worth it. 

Nate Solder is now the highest-paid left tackle in league history, inking a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants. The 2011 first-round pick played through his entire rookie contract before the Patriots offered him a $20 million extension in 2015. New England had ample opportunities to rip up Solder’s deal and pay him like an elite tackle. They never did it. 

That’s not surprising, of course. It’s apparent Belichick doesn’t view Solder as a top left-tackle, just like he doesn’t think Butler is an elite corner. Belichick doesn’t deviate from his assigned value, no matter the player’s contributions or personal story. That’s why there was no reaction when Dion Lewis inked a four-year deal with the Titans worth $11.5 million guaranteed. Lewis, whose career was resurrected in New England, only has one chance for a payday. He took it. Congrats. Enjoy. 

Following months of weirdness, Belichick’s cold and calculating free agent approach is a sign of normalcy. His methods have sustained the roster around Brady for 17 seasons. When it comes to free agency, Belichick has earned the benefit of the doubt. He usually wins in January.

But it's nice to see the players win in March. 

This post has been updated. 

Comments ()