How do the salaries of Pats' defenders stack up?

How do the salaries of Pats' defenders stack up?

Told you last week about the Patriots salary outlay to their top players. It falls well in line with the rest of the league and - given how good the top three players have been, the fact Tom Brady Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins take up about 35 percent of the 2013 cap is understandable.

Now let's look at some more key Patriots and see how they are paid relative to their positional peers.

I put some time in figuring out what "place" each player's 2013 base salary is in relative to the position group. With things in a state of flux this time of year, where a player comes in is a snapshot. A guy with a fat 2013 base salary could be a cap casualty tomorrow and the player here would move up.

The base is not the end-all, be-all measure of a contract's value and whether or not the player is being fairly compensated. He may have cleaned up in guaranteed money when he signed. He may have fatter base salaries coming later in the deal or already realized some guaranteed money.

But the relevance of the 2013 base salary for this little exercise is examining where the Patriots' true cash for the upcoming year is headed and how they've positioned themselves.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Vince Wilfork
Signed: Five-year deal in March of 2010
Cash Value: 39.49M
2012 Base: 4.5M
2013 Base: 6.5M
DTs contracted for higher base in 2013: 4
Comment: Only Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Kevin Williams will carry a higher base in 2013. Wilfork is right where he should be though, and higher on the list would be appropriate as well. The Patriots most important defender.

Kyle Love
Signed: Renegotiated an extension in August 2012
Cash Value: 1.895M
2012 Base: 540K
2013 Base: 750K
DTs contracted for higher base in 2013: 39
Comment: Love had an up-and-down year - excellent at the outset then supplanted somewhat by Brandon Deaderick. Still, as he enters this contract year, the Patriots have a good player who'll be motivated by the chance to make a bigger score when he becomes a free agent after this season.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Brandon Deaderick
Signed: Four-year deal in July 2010, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 2.657M (with escalator in 2013)
2012 Base: 540K
2013 Base: 1.33M (realizes escalator from 575K to low RFA tender of 1.33M)
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 34
Comment: Deaderick's deal as a seventh-rounder in 2010 was shaped the same as punter Zoltan Mesko's. Deaderick was listed among the DEs in the information we used.

Rob Ninkovich
Signed: Renegotiated three-year deal in September of 2011, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 5.065M
2012 Base: 900K
2013 Base: 900K
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 44
Comment: For a fifth-round pick who bounced around before finding a home in New England, Ninkovich has done OK. And the Patriots have done well with his deal, spending 1.8M for one of their best playmakers over 2012-13.

Chandler Jones
Signed: Four-year deal in May 2012, expires after 2015
Cash Value: 8.173M
2012 Base: 390K
2013 Base: 761K
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 50
Comment: Still on his rookie deal, Jones is going to have a lot of players making a fatter base than he does. His time will come.

Jermaine Cunningham
Signed: Four-year deal in June 2010, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 3.608M
2012 Base: 549K
2013 Base: 575K
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 55
Comment:In the last year of his deal, Cunningham is on the cusp of being a very valuable player but he's still trying to carve consistency. It will be interesting to see what he does in a vitally important contract year.

Jake Bequette
Signed: Four-year deal in June 2012, expires after 2015
Cash Value: 2.654M
2012 Base: 390K
2013 Base: 480K (his base is "tied to credited seasons)
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 72
Comment: No info on what Bequette's contract adjusts to if he doesn't have a credited season in 2012 and he was inactive for so many games, he did not get a credited year.

Justin Francis
Signed: Three-year deal in May 2012, expires after 2014
Cash Value: 1.447M
2012 Base: 390K
2013 Base: 480K (his base is "tied to credited seasons)
DEs contracted for higher base in 2013: 72
Comment: Francis' deal was almost identical to Bequette's save for the length and the 529,800 more that Bequette got as a third-round draft pick in contrast to the undrafted Francis. He'll be a real deal if he keeps competing at the same level and gets a little sharper in the defense.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Jerod Mayo
Signed: Renegotiated seven-year deal in December 2011, expires after 2017
Cash Value: 50.655M
2012 Base: 1.15M base
2013 Base: 1.25M base
OLBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 2
Comment: Mayo's deal is complex because he has 3M option bonuses deferred into March and October, so he'll actually be paid 7.25M in cash this season and he also had a bonus of up to 800K based on playing time and a Pro Bowl appearance which he no doubt hit (no info on what the levels were). So it's potentially 8.05M in 2013. So the base - while accurate - is not really indicative of how much he's getting paid. So I went off the adjusted base of 8.05M.

Dont'a Hightower
Signed: Four-year deal in July 2012, expires after 2015
Cash Value: 7.724M
2012 Base: 390K base
2013 Base: 741K base
OLBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 42
Comment: Hightower has a portion of his signing bonus deferred into this year but that doesn't really impact his base salary which is reasonable enough for a first-round pick in the second year of his deal.

MIDDLE LINEBACKERS
Brandon Spikes
Signed: Four-year deal in July 2010, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 2.744M
2012 Base: 540K base
2013 Base: 575K base
OLBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 31
Comment: The Patriots have Spikes at a very advantageous price this year. He came on strong in 2012 and - with his deal up at the end of the year - he could be a renegotiation target for the team.

CORNERS

Alfonzo Dennard
Signed: 4-year deal in May 2012, expires after 2016
Cash Value: 2.157M
2012 Base: 390K
2013 Base: 480K
CBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 100
Comment: Dennard is - by dint of his being a seventh-round pick - going to be an outstanding value for the entirety of his contract. Hopefully for his sake, the seemingly isolated stupid act that caused his value to plummet won't haunt his earning power his entire career and he can recoup some of that dough later.

Devin McCourty
Signed: 5-year deal in July 2010, expires after 2014
Cash Value: 10.135M
2012 Base: 540K
2013 Base: 650K
CBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 54
Comment: Having been switched to safety where he'll likely stay, McCourty's 2013 base will be closer to the top of that lower-paid position group. But either way, the Patriots have a very good - if somewhat inconsistent - defender who is a team leader and a real pro under contract for a terrific price.

Ras-I Dowling
Signed: Four-year deal in August 2011, expires after 2014
Cash Value: 5.309M
2012 Base: 732K
2013 Base: 973K
CBs contracted for higher base in 2013: 42
Comment: Plagued by injuries in each of his first two seasons, Dowling has had little chance to prove his true worth. He'll enjoy a fairly handsome paycheck in 2013 given the output so far.

SAFETIES
Steve Gregory
Signed: Three-year deal in 2012, expires after 2014
Cash Value: 7.055M
2012 Base: 750K
2013 Base: 1.25M
Safeties contracted for higher base in 2013: 15
Comment: Gregory is winning. Smart player. Good locker room guy. Not a very valuable safety in the current NFL where he battles to be average in coverage and, when tackling, looks like Jeff Van Gundy breaking up a fight. (http:www.youtube.comwatch?v=nWqv5fNeosc ). He's a free safety but, if Devin McCourty is a full-time safety going forward, it's hard to imagine Gregory being a 1.25M backup because he and McCourty are both free safeties. With a cap hit of 2.55 this year and 3.68M next year, Gregory may not be long for New England

Tavon Wilson
Signed: Four-year deal in May 2012 expires after 2015.
Cash Value: 4.217M
2012 Base: 390K
2013 Base: 581K
Safeties contracted for higher base in 2013: 20
Comment: Had some promising moments in 2012, although the Seattle gaffe on a double-move late in the game that resulted in the game-winning touchdown was a donkey punch. He's a pretty good deal at this point.

LONG SNAPPER

Danny Aiken
Signed: Three-year contract claimed July, 2011, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 1.4M
2012 Base: 465K
2013 Base: 550K
Snappers contracted for higher base in 2013: 13
Comment: Runs a good operation with Zoltan Mesko and Stephen Gostkowski. He is below the current rate for signed long snappers. A lot of would-be free agents on the market means Aiken is closer to the bottom than his position indicates.

PUNTER
Zoltan Mesko
Signed: Four-year contract signed June, 2010, expires after 2013
Cash Value: 2.832M (initial value was 2.07M)
2012 Base: 540K
2013 Base: 1.33M (realizes escalator from 575K to low RFA tender of 1.33M)
Punters contracted for higher base in 2013: 4
Comment: Mesko's numbers are impacted by the fact he's so often got a short field to work with since the Patriots don't often go three-and-out and give him a chance to boom punts. His 2012 performance still wasn't as good as it could have been. He's in a good contractual spot for himself in the final year of his deal.

NHL Notes: Carlo sticking with his strengths in the D-zone

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NHL Notes: Carlo sticking with his strengths in the D-zone

By all accounts, 20-year-old Brandon Carlo has been outstanding for the Boston Bruins.

The rookie D-man was remarkably strong and consistent skating with Zdeno Chara as a top-pairing shutdown D-man before the Bruins captain went down with injury, and he was still very good after adjusting to life without partner Big Zee over the last six games.

Carlo had a couple of assists and a plus-3 rating while topping 20 minutes of ice time in each of the games without Chara, and rightly saw it as an opportunity to show what he could without the 6-foot-9 safety net on his left side. It’s exactly those kinds of challenges that spark Carlo’s competitiveness and get the fire burning that he so desperately needs in order to play at such a high intensity level every night in the NHL.  

“Zee helps me a lot, but I feel like at the same time I have the strengths to be able to handle myself on my own in this league,” said Carlo, who leads all rookies by a wide margin with his plus-12 rating for the season. “It’s a great opportunity to get out there and build relationships defensively. I just take it as an opportunity to prove myself in this league by myself. It was an opportunity to gain some confidence in different ways. With Zee playing so well and with such great chemistry between us, it gave me a whole bunch of confidence.

“Playing with different guys and matching up against the other team’s best players or matching up with third and fourth lines and maybe taking a few more hits, it shows that I can play anywhere in the lineup. It’s another great opportunity to prove myself.”

Well, Carlo has proven himself and passed that test along with all of the other NHL rookie exams set in front of him more than a quarter of the way through the regular season.

Clearly there are obvious gifts with Carlo plain to anybody watching him for the first time. He has the 6-foot-5, 203-pound frame that simply can’t be taught and that size allows him to win battles against stronger, more experienced opponents looking to do battle with him in Boston’s defensive zone.

He also has a very good point shot he consistently threads through traffic, and that has him on pace for a very respectable seven-goal, 20-point rookie campaign without any power play time mixed into his ice time. The decision-making with the puck and the passing is tape-to-tape more often than it’s not, and Carlo usually does a good job of avoiding the kind of high risk passes that can turn into goals against while battling other team’s top line players.

He keeps it simple and keeps it focused on defense, but Carlo also shows there is more surface to scratch with his offensive game.

Some of Carlo’s talents are a little less apparent to the casual observer, however.

The defensive stick-work, in particular, is something that you notice after watching Carlo shut things down in the D-zone night after night. He uses his long wing span and king-sized stick to poke pucks away from attackers, and has an uncanny ability to sweep the puck away from speedier players that were able to get a step on the big D-man.

“The one thing is that he’s so long and his stick is so long, it gives him time to recover because as a young kid in the league you’re going to make a lot of mistakes,” said Torey Krug, who has had to learn to survive in the NHL without those particular gifts. “He has the ability to come back and recover. The second part of that is being unfazed by it. He can make a mistake on one shift, and the next shift he shrugs it off and says ‘Okay, I’m not gonna get beat like that again.’ He has the ability to overcome that. He has the right head on his shoulders with the willingness to listen, to learn and to just keep getting better.”

The stick-checking in the D-zone is exactly how somebody would teach their hockey-playing kids to utilize the stick in the defensive zone, provided those puck prodigies were 6-foot-5 with excellent strength and hand-eye coordination to boot. Carlo said it’s something he’s nearly always been able to do as a big-bodied defenseman, and that certainly was reinforced by his coaching at the WHL level with the Tri-City Americans.

“There were not a lot of teaching points there. The stick is just something that I’ve always just loved using,” said Carlo. “Whenever I was on 1-on-1’s with my teams the guys would hate going against me because my poke check was so good. It’s just something that I really took pride in, developed and just got better and better with over time. There are certain things guys have told me [over the years] like using the straight back-and-forth instead of the windshield wiper [stick check].

“With my size I kind of had to adapt to the long stick, and I really enjoy using it [as a defensive weapon]. It gives me an extra step and an extra opportunity to get the puck away from guys too, particularly when they get behind me. It’s nice that I can use that long reach to get me out of sticky situations at times.”

Claude Julien made certain to point out that it’s something Carlo brought to the table prior to joining the Bruins organization, and was noticed immediately by the Providence Bruins coaching staff last season in his handful of games with them. It’s something of a rarity for a 19 or 20-year-old player to have that kind of stick technique down to a science to the point where it becomes a defensive weapon for him at the NHL level.

It’s also something that’s made Carlo’s transition to the NHL almost seamless despite just eight games of AHL experience entering this season.

“Most young guys always have two hands on their stick and it’s up around their waist, and you have to do a good job of teaching them to keep one hand on the stick with sticks on pucks,” said Julien. “Those are the kinds of things where it’s hard [sometimes] to break younger players in because for some reason they’re told to keep two hands on their sticks when they’re younger. At this level we need the one hand to have sticks on pucks.

“That’s what came out of last year when he first got to Providence. He had a very good stick and that’s what we were told. He had that before he came here, and that was one of his strengths. You continue to work with him because that has been one of his best weapons. Zdeno is probably one of those guys that’s going to tell you it served him extremely well, so he’s learning from the best when he’s playing with [Chara]. No doubt that’s been a big part of why he’s able to play here right now is because he defends well, and he uses his stick well.”

It’s exactly those kinds of fundamental strengths that have the Bruins believing they’ve got the real deal in a top-4, shutdown D-man in Carlo, and that the 20-year-old Colorado native has played himself into a big part of the big picture future for the Black and Gold. 

ONE TIMERS

*Seeing Brad Marchand lose it on a linesman Saturday afternoon in Buffalo reminds me of his preseason comments on getting on the good side with the refs this season. Marchand had just engaged in a scuffle with Rasmus Ristolainen, and then the Bruins winger engaged in a verbal scuffle with one of the officials during the ensuing face-off. Cameras caught Marchand saying “Do your job! Do your job!” before dropping a couple of clear F-bombs his way before the puck was dropped. Well, so much for racking up the brownie points to change the reputation with the refs, eh Brad?

*In case it isn’t already obvious, expect the Bruins big trade acquisition prior to the deadline to involve a top-6 forward that can put the puck in the net rather than a top-4 defenseman. They could use both, of course, but they are looking to find somebody that can finally fill into Loui Eriksson’s left wing role on David Krejci’s line, and both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller haven’t been perfect solutions for the playmaking Krejci. Certainly the Black and Gold will look at 22-year-old Frank Vatrano when he comes back as well, but there’s no telling how long it’s going to take a youngster like that to fully come back from foot surgery. The Bruins may just hedge their bets by going out and getting another winger after putting together a whole collection of centers on the roster this summer.

*Continued prayers and thoughts for Craig Cunningham as it sounds like he’s on the road to recovery in very slow steps out in Arizona. He is a great kid and deserves all the positive thoughts that Bruins Nation can send out to him.

*If you haven’t already, go out and pick up fellow Bruins writer Fluto Shinzawa’s new book entitled “Big 50: Boston Bruins: The Men and Moments that Made the Boston Bruins.” The Boston Globe writer goes deep into the B’s history books for some Old Time Hockey anecdotes and characters, and also gives you a close-up view of the last 10 years as he’s covered the daily doings of the Black and Gold. It’s not that big of a book either, so it looks like the perfect Christmas stocking stuffer for the Bruins fan in your family.

Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.