Why Brandon Lloyd isn't a part of the Patriots' plans

Why Brandon Lloyd isn't a part of the Patriots' plans
February 27, 2013, 12:00 pm
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The Patriots' plans for 2013 continue to take shape and Brandon Lloyd isn’t currently part of them.
A league source told me at the NFL Combine that Lloyd isn’t even on the Patriots projected depth chart for 2013 despite having signed a three-year, $12 million deal last offseason.
How does a guy go from the plum free-agent signing less than a year ago, put up a 74-catch, 911-yard season and wind up on the verge of being thrown overboard?
It may boil down to this. After I’d had my second odd and contentious encounter with Lloyd in a locker room, I asked a Patriot for his impression of the wideout. “Weiirrrdddd.”
Hey, I’m weird. You’re weird. We’re all weird in our own ways. Weird ain’t a prosecutable offense. But when weird becomes a distraction or an impediment to smooth business operations, then weird is a problem.
And the combination of Lloyd’s enigmatic personality, aversion to physical contact, inability to find a consistent niche in the Patriots offense and financial disposability has him on the outs.
The decision on Lloyd looms. If the Patriots want to keep him around, there’s a $3 million option bonus to be picked up. We’re still trying to determine the date that has to be exercised but it could be in the next few days since free agency opens on March 12. If the option is not exercised, the Patriots will avoid Lloyd’s $1.9 million salary. The $2 million “untolled” remainder of Lloyd’s $3 million signing bonus will hit the cap, but the cap savings without Lloyd will be $2.5 million.
Lloyd has yet to respond to a text message asking for his reaction to what appears to be unfolding. And I’m not holding my breath.
All that said, it would be unfair to look at Lloyd’s 2012 season and proclaim it an abject disaster. It was up and down, which is what a transitional season for a wideout joining a complex offense figures to be.
After being targeted 65 times in the Patriots' first seven games, Lloyd saw just 23 passes from Tom Brady in the next five games. The October 21 game against the Jets in which Lloyd was targeted eight times, caught one pass, and was slow to uncover against press coverage seemed to lead to Brady moving his attention elsewhere.
But after a one-target, one-catch game against the Dolphins on December 2, Lloyd played outstanding in big games down the stretch. He had 17 catches on 25 targets for 279 yards against the Texans and Niners. But the following week in Jacksonville gave a glimpse of what may have been frustrating for the Patriots. Lloyd was targeted 12 times and had six catches in the narrow win, but he and Brady got their signals crossed on an end-zone throw early in the game and the mutual irritation was obvious. Later in the game, Lloyd – as is his wont – left his feet on throw down the middle of the field. Unable to work back to the ball, the pass was undercut by a Jaguars corner and picked off.
In two Patriots playoff games, Lloyd had 12 catches for 102 yards on 23 targets. Mediocre.
Still, on production alone you’d figure Lloyd would be part of the Patriots' plans, especially given the fact that Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch all have expiring contracts and Kamar Aiken is the only wideout under contract.
But the difficulty of dealing with Lloyd the person appears to be tipping the scales against him. As many pointed out prior to Lloyd joining the Patriots, he was a tough guy to deal with in other spots. Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, who’s also been reporting on the Patriots’ plans to move on from Lloyd, detailed last March Lloyd’s prior oddness.
The Patriots are the seventh team Lloyd’s played for since 2003. When Lloyd made it clear before the end of the 2011 season that he wanted to play wherever Josh McDaniels was, I spoke to Lloyd a number of times. In this interview from March 8 of last year when Lloyd told me he was “very interested” in the Patriots, he couldn’t have been more charming.
Less than six months later, after he appeared to misjudge a downfield throw from Tom Brady in Buffalo, I asked him about the play. His response was icy. He made it clear we were not going to speak again.
How Lloyd interacts with the media is, quite frankly, irrelevant. But if his interactions with teammates was similar, one can see why he could be another one-and-done Patriots wideout. And a guy who is once again seeking a new team.