There was an alarming amount of hand-wringing on Friday about the Patriots screwing over a guy who apparently can't decide whether he wants to play this year. Brian Waters, who was contracted to play for 1.4 million in 2012, hasn't shown up. Not for offseason training, not for minicamp, not for training camp, the preseason or - at the very least - the first regular season game. But the report by the Boston Herald that the Patriots want to shave Waters' salary down to 950,000 brought people out of the woodwork to decry this as another example of the Patriots squeezing a player.
Which is odd, because last week Aaron Hernandez got a fat new contract and people were hurtling over the barricades to salute the Patriots' generosity. But back to Waters. There's a lot of backstory to the situation that's unknown. For instance, a sourcetold me by text Friday night that "what was reported today is not true." Since the reports - or at least the details - have been foggy, I asked whether every report, including the Boston Globe saying it learned "months ago" that Waters agreed to a deal that would cut his salary but pay him bonuses for every time he was on the 46-man active gameday roster, was untrue as well. The source said he didn't know everything that's been reported. I've had multiple sources tell me the notion of a pay cut is inaccurate. But,perhaps contrary towidely held beliefs, solid sportswriters don't just say, "Maybe I'll make up a story about the Patriots requesting Waters take a pay cut" and go with it. The information was passed on in seemingly vague terms to Jeff Howe who reported it for the Herald. Is the "pay cut" Howe reported part of the deal Waters agreed to where he'd be paid for being on the 46? Seems plausible. Frankly, I'd never heard of that agreement nor was it reported locally although the Globe says it knew about it "for months." My take is that the team's been exceptionally accommodating to a player who has shown no inclination to return and has cold feet about leaving home. I also heard rumblings that, at some point in the offseason, Waters was offered much more to return than the 1.4M but he didn't budge. But there's been nothing concrete enough around that to build a story around. As it's been for much of this odd impasse. Additional reasons for Waters' not wanting to leave Texas have been quietly alluded to.As a result,I think it's wise to tread lightly on questioning his commitment to football too strongly because of that. Nobody's indicated if it's a family illness or some other dynamic but a wide berth has been given.
But the fact he's past the point where he was expected to come in - clearly - means the Patriots are at peace with moving on. They've gone through six weeks of work without him. Might the offensive line be best if Dan Connolly was at center and Waters was at right guard? Definitely, presuming Waters has kept himself in football shape. But Connolly is no slouch and he's shown that in subbing for Logan Mankins in 2010 and locking down the center spot after Dan Koppen went down last year.
The offensive line was nobody's idea of a dominant group in the preseason. But the interior wasn't a glaring problem, it was the edges - most troublingly the right edge when Marcus Cannon was over at right tackle. So where are we? There's a 35-year-old guard who can play for the Patriots if he chooses. The Patriots have moved on but they've left the light on for him. It comes down to this: the Patriots have addressed the position. They don't have aneed for Brian Waters. And he needs them even less.