Covering the Patriots requires a reporter to use his intuition. In the years I've covered the team, my intuition's been good (signing of Rosey Colvin, rise of Tom Brady, usefulness of Danny Woodhead, the resurrection of the tight end position) and askew (not sniffing out the Moss deal looming, the release of Brandon Meriweather). I bring this up on this Tuesday because Ian Rapoport at The Boston Heraldhas read the smoke signals around veteran left tackle Matt Light and mentioned that there is a chance Light may retire. This being the dead period before the Combine and the start of free agency, the speculation gained traction. So it now behooves me to speculate on Rap's speculation. And while Rap looks up at this cloud and sees a horse wearing a party hat, I'm looking at the same cloud and saying, "Rap, that's a flippin' unicorn, fer crissake!"Money aside, why would Light want to retire? He played tremendously in 2011 (2.5 sacks allowed) and was as engaged as I've ever seen him. It's out there somewhere, the video of Light on the bench, head bowed, fists clenched as Billy Cundiff lined up the would-be game-tying kick in the AFC Championship. That level of desperate hoping was something I never thought I'd see from Light, who always maintained a respectful detachment from getting too overwrought about his job. He and Brian Waters were the Patriots best two linemen. Speed rushers, power rushers, young, old, didn't matter. Light was on lockdown all season. What Rap wrote in a larger post about Marcus Cannonwas this: "While it hasnt been said officially, the expectation is that Matt Light will not be back next year (with retirement definitely possible)."The money Light's due in 2012 -- reportedly 3.4 million in salary and a 100,000 workout bonus-- seems daunting to Rap. Especially with 2011 first rounder Nate Solder and third-year man Sebastian Vollmer in the mix. Here's why I see it differently. Light was given a 6 million signing bonus. So the Patriots will take a cap hit in the neighborhood of 3 million to not have a capable, veteran left tackle who's still playing at a high level around? Beyond that, Vollmer's back issues in 2010 and '11 should make the Patriots reticent about lopping Light or asking him to take a penal pay cut. And I'm not sure Solder is quite ready to step in at Light's level. This isn't a rebuilding Patriots team. It's one that was within a couple of plays and minutes of a Super Bowl win. Will the Patriots maybe ask Light to take less than he's due to make? Maybe. But releasing him or forcing him into retirement doesn't seem likely to me.
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