Patriots host free agents Skuta, Fusco

Patriots host free agents Skuta, Fusco

With no work to do (at this point, at least) ahead of the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, the Patriots are keeping busy with free agents. 

The team reportedly brought in a pair of players for visits Wednesday, with former Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta and former Vikings offensive lineman Brandon Fusco both making the trip to New England. 

Skuta, 31, was released two seasons into a five-year, $20.5 million contract with the Jaguars. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder broke into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals in 2009 and has also played for the 49ers. Last season, he totaled 18 tackles with no sacks over 13 games. His career-high in tackles came when he had 40 in 2015; he posted a career-best five sacks with San Francisco in 2014. 

A sixth-round pick in 2011, the 28-year-old Fusco had spent his entire career with the Vikings as a center and guard before being released in February. 

Bean: Why we should shut up about Tuukka Rask, Part 1 million

Bean: Why we should shut up about Tuukka Rask, Part 1 million

I feel like I’ve written this lede roughly a thousand times, but here it goes again: When Don Sweeney took over as Bruins GM, he didn’t reinvent the salary cap. He got rid of some good players, which is essentially the only thing a GM can do when trying to create cap relief. 

At least immediately, losing Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic and, to a degree, Reilly Smith, did not not make the Bruins better. The goal is to have as many good players as you can afford. 

Which somehow [and I’d use the F-word here if I could] brings us to Tuukka Rask, the most polarizing athlete person in Boston world history. 

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On one hand, you have people saying he makes more money than he’s worth. On the other hand, you have people saying he makes more money than he’s worth. It’s what else the respective sides say that divides them into camps of rational and foolish. 

The foolish side: They’re not contenders with him, therefore they’re not contenders because of him. 

The rational side: While not blameless, he has seen his numbers decrease as the roster in front of him has. You don’t want to keep getting rid of good players [there's a "horses vs. ponies" thing that people like to reference]. A young defense might want to have a good goaltender. 

First, the degree to which he’s overpaid: It’s up to $1 million. As previously noted, he was one of 14 goalies with a cap hit between $5.5 million and $7.5 million this season. In a season far from his best, Rask ranked eighth in save percentage among them. So is $7 million a high cap hit? Yes. Is it problematic for a team that is seemingly interested in getting good goaltending? No. 

Then there’s the question of how the Bruins could replace him if they dealt the 2014 Vezina winner. Presumably, they would be getting something in exchange for the player, which would cost cap space. From there, they would likely have to turn to free agency, which would give them options like Ben Bishop, Scott Darling, Jonathan Bernier or Brian Elliott. 

Bishop and Elliott were both worse than Rask last season -- which, again, we’ve all noted was a down year for him -- and Bernier, who has been worse throughout their careers, had similar numbers in 38 games to Rask's 65. Darling has had a higher save percentage (.919 to .915) than Rask over the past two seasons while playing less than half the games as Rask and doing so behind a vastly superior defense. 

Because the Bruins did not advance to the second round of the playoffs, my always-entertaining co-worker Mike Felger suggested Tuesday that the Bruins should replace Rask with another goalie who would not singlehandedly be able to make up for for injuries to three of the team’s top four defensemen. 

“Why pay someone seven when you can pay someone three to do the exact same thing?” Felger asked on Early Edition. 

Well that’s dumb. It’s a results-oriented business, but stealing two games while keeping the other ones close is not the same as getting swept. The team would be better with him than with a $3 million guy they’d sign. 

Also, if “did you win a playoff round” is the barometer of a good goaltender, what the hell will the Canadiens do with Carey Price? Is Cory Schneider bad? The Devils didn’t even make the playoffs. 
 
Speaking of making up for the back end, the Bruins have encouraging pieces on defense. They’re also not paying much money there as they transition. The Bruins are one of just seven teams that only has one defenseman making more than $4 million against the cap next season, and Boston’s highest-paid defender (Torey Krug) only commands $5.25 million. 

Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are on entry-level deals. Zdeno Chara has a very team-friendly $4 million cap hit. The Bruins don’t need to spend a lot on this defense as its young players grow; paying a little extra to make sure those guys are in a more stable situation with regard to their goaltender is certainly a manageable endeavor. 

This isn’t to say that Rask shouldn’t be criticized. Go for it. Yet, it’s perplexing as to why one of the team’s good players is identified as a problem when there are far greater ones on the roster. 

The Bruins have a number of other players -- David Backes, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes among them -- who also make at least $1 million more than they probably should, and Rask is better at his job than they are at theirs. 

That’s the logical way to look at it, anyway. The Rask talk won’t stop. It might not get smarter, but it definitely won’t stop. 
 

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

A piece that ran on POLITICO Wednesday morning explored an interesting possibility: A potential political career for longtime baseball executive Theo Epstein. 

The piece, titled “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” comes a month after Fortune magazine ranked the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on its annual ranking of the world’s greatest leaders. In the POLITICO article, Ben Strauss, in addition to noting the 43-year-old’s accomplishments with the Red Sox and Cubs, hits on several instances in which Epstein’s leadership has been mentioned in relation to politics. 

Strauss then goes on to interview CNN senior political commentator (and Cubs fan) David Axelrod about whether Epstein could be a saving grace with “Democrats on the lookout for a new generation of talent.”

The interview sees both POLITICO and Axelrod compare Epstein to Barack Obama. Says Axelrod: 

They both have two kinds of intelligence: emotional intelligence and a more linear intelligence. They both have the self-confidence to surround themselves with very smart people. Theo’s had a core group around him (general manager Jed Hoyer and head of amateur scouting Jason McLeod) since the beginning in Boston. It’s striking how much he relishes smart people around him and has the confidence to be challenged...Obama had it, too. I would add that Epstein has learned on the job. In Boston he was a pioneer [in using statistical analysis]...He’s told me that he used to be dismissive of the touchy-feely stuff [in evaluating baseball players], but now his scouts write five-page essays about the guys they’re going to draft. In the same way, Obama would tell you he was a better president at the end of eight years than at the beginning. He was smart enough to learn on the job, too.

Asked whether Epstein could win a statewide race for governor or Senate in Illinois, Axelrod replied, “Yeah, he could,” but questions whether Epstein has “the desire to hold public office.”

“I think Theo would be frustrated in public office because of the situation he’s in now,” Axelrod said. “He basically has free rein to do what he needs to do for the success of the organization. That is not the case in politics—you’re seeing that with the governor in Illinois (Bruce Rauner) right now. You have to deal with legislatures and all kinds of public stakeholders. And if you’re used to making things happen, I’m not sure the Senate would be a particularly satisfying job for you. When I talked to him on my podcast...about what he might want to do next...he allowed that he might want to own a team sometime and use that team or use that platform to try to impact on a community. He clearly cares about the larger world and wants to make an impact...But there are many, many reasons I think Cubs fans can relax and enjoy the benefits of his leadership for many years to come.”