Let’s preface this one by acknowledging that, if the Bengals had traded for Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, we’d all rolling our eyes and talking once more about how stupid the front office in Cincinnati is. But since the Patriots did it, many in the media will be predisposed to spinning the move in a way that advances the legend of Bill Belichick.
To be sure, Belichick has taken a huge risk by giving a new home to a guy who wasn’t happy with a $100 million mansion. But Belichick also won’t hesitate to put Haynesworth out on the street if Haynesworth says or does any of the things he did in Washington.
And then the media will be predisposed to spinning the move in a way that paints Belichick as a genius for dumping Haynesworth and sending a clear message to a young, impressionable team. Less than a year after the media killed Brad Childress for cutting Randy Moss less than a month after Belichick unloaded a guy who may have come in handy during that playoff game against the Jets.
For now, let’s assume Haynesworth passes his conditioning test (as . . . you . . . me) and that he makes the team. As resident Patriots
homer expert Rosenthal points out, the Pats use a 4-3 front roughly half the time. Thus, Haynesworth likely will be a part-time player, but he possibly will be in the alignment he prefers 100 percent of the time that he’s on the field.
And while there’s no way he’d be asked to play the nose tackle position in New England’s 3-4 alignment, thanks to the presence of Vince Wilfork, Belichick surely wouldn’t expect Haynesworth to be a traditional lineman-occupying presence at defensive end in that formation. That’s where Belichick’s brain becomes important. When a player doesn’t like a certain type of system, it’s because he doesn’t play as well in that system. So instead of forcing Haynesworth to eat his brussel sprouts, Belichick will find ways to let Haynesworth get the most out of his talents. Who knows? Maybe that will mean periodically lining him up on the edge in obvious passing situations and letting him maul a tackle one-on-one and chase down the quarterback.
Either way, the move can’t hurt an anemic pass rush that lost is most productive sack machine since 2009 with the decision to cut Tully Banta-Cain.
For practical purposes, Haynesworth’s $100 million contract is, in reality, a four-year, $48 million package. The Redskins have already paid the majority of that money. If Haynesworth has any pride whatsoever (the jury is still out on that one), he’ll try hard this year to redeem himself, like he did after he took a cleat to the forehead of Andre Gurode in 2006. Next year, Haynesworth necessarily will be in a contract year, like he was in 2007 and 2008.
If he plays like he did in 2007 and 2008, it could be one of the smartest moves Belichick ever made.
That said, we’re still surprised that the Patriots would welcome a guy who has had so many off-field (and on-field) problems. The Gurode assault and battery is something for which Haynesworth should have been not only suspended but also prosecuted, and his propensity for driving anything and everything as fast as he can got a kid seriously injured a couple of years ago. And while Haynesworth’s alleged treatment of a waitress at a D.C. hotel pales in comparison to the allegations against less-than-one-week Patriot Christian Peter, Haynesworth’s history could make ownership more than a little queasy.
For the Redskins, the willingness of coach Mike Shanahan to cut his losses and take what he could get makes sense. He ignored the fact that he missed his chance to get more for Haynesworth in 2010, opting instead to give the franchise the fresh start it so badly needed. Besides, like the Saints possibly shipping Reggie Bush to the Dolphins, trading Haynesworth to the Patriots is a lot better than cutting him and watching him take the Acela to Philly, the new home of former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Of course, Haynesworth could still end up with the Eagles. And if that’s where Haynesworth wants to be, all he has to do is act a little bit in Foxboro like did last year in D.C.