Belichick stirs it up by drafting Mallett

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Belichick stirs it up by drafting Mallett

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Bill Belichick just doesn't care what the neighbors think.

Or the media. Or his fellow NFL coaches. Or the rest of his football team.

If a player who can help his team has alleged turd tendencies but Belichick can reconcile those with his own expectations, he will hire that player.

Everybody else can deal with it. Or, more specifically, Belichick will deal with it. Everybody else just has to do their job.

Doesn't matter if it's Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Ted Washington, whoever. The Patriots' program and the latitude Belichick has to run it his way will either keep the player in check or the player will be gone.

Which brings us to Ryan Mallett, the 74th player chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft.The quarterback from Arkansashas been carrying the label of "baddest guy on the board" for months. It's all been very ambiguous.

And he's now a New England Patriot.

Mallett, 22,got arrested for public intoxication in 2009. That's the only documented instance of bad behavior. But the allegations of drug use have been rampant. Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly wrote that Mallett was up-front about his drug use in interviews with team executives. One executive told Nawrocki that Mallett was off his team's board entirely. Paul Burmeister of the NFL Network said earlier this week that Mallett's drug use was "documented."

But on Friday night, Belichick said that the Patriots were "obviously comfortable" with the off-field concerns about Mallett. And the head coach gushed about Mallett's thirst for football knowledge.

"Hes definitely a football guy," said Belichick after the second and third round picking for the Patriots was over. "He's a great kid to talk to, and hes very into football. You cant wear him out; as long as you want to talk about it, hell be there. However many hours it is, hes ready to go watch the film or go talk about a new technique or a route or a read or whatever.

"His father is a football coach. Hes grown up in a football family, which I can definitely relate to," Belichick noted.. "Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and you love it. Its one of the two, and I think hes, like I said, very much a football person. Both his parents are educators and hes a kid thats eager to learn and has a great thirst for knowledge for football and for his position, which there is a lot going on there. I think that hell certainly get an opportunity to receive a lot of knowledge at that position around here, so well see how it all manifests itself."

Warm, right?

But here's the thing. Ryan Mallett will not be on an unlimited leash in New England. The Patriots may have turned into Raiders East in some ways - a place where wayward talents can come and rehab their careers - but "Just Win, Baby" is not their slogan.

It's more of a reform school than a frat house. And the "screws" Belichick employs are his players and coaches.

If one thinks Tom Brady will sit idly by while Mallett screws up training or passing camp reps because he's not prepared, one hasn't heard the NSFW explosions of Brady when things go south on the practice field.

And that goes double for offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

There will be a time, some moment of agitation, when Belichick reminds Mallett that Mallett has nowhere else to goif the Patriots throw up their hands.

And that's really the most interesting thing about this Patriots program.

Hadthe Bengals - who really could use Mallett, the quarterback with the best arm in the draft - what would the reaction have been? Doomed. Inserted into a chaotic, rudderless, cheap and treadwater program, Mallett wouldn't have gotten the structure to succeed. That would have been the logical assumption.

But the Patriots can select Mallett and it's a stroke of genius because their program is built for whip-cracking and conformity.

On the surface it seems like hypocrisy. It's actually reality.

Look at how the turds have done when they left the Patriots program. Moss, for instance. He helped get two coaches fired in the three short months after he left New England.

(Ironically, Mallett was selected with the third-round pick the Patriots got from Minnesota in exchange for Moss).

Mallett handled a modest grilling from the New England media pretty well on Friday night.

In 2010, it was clear every draft choice was coached to answer any question about past issues - injuries or trouble - with a simple "That's in the past."

Mallett handled questions about the intense scrutiny he faced with reasonable aplomb.

"Its just people talking," he said about focus on his alleged drug use. "Im focusing on getting up to New England and learning as much as I can and getting on the field as quick as I can. Its just something thats behind me. Its in the past and Im looking at the future."

Asked if he was mislabeled, Mallett answered, "Im going to go up there and be the person that I am. Im a people person. I love to be around people. So Im going to go up there and work as hard as I can to get on the field. Mislabeled if thats what you want to call it, fine. I think I was portrayed in a different light than the people that know me and know who I am."

Probed again on whether he has been a drug user, Mallett answered, "All Im saying is thats in the past and Im looking in the future. I dont think that stuffs a problem. There has been a lot of stuff said that is definitely false. But Im looking to the future and looking forward to being a Patriot. ...There are people that say stuff all the time. The only thing I can do is go out and prove them wrong. And thats what I intend on doing."

The Patriots used the 199th pick on Tom Brady in 2000. He had something to prove as well. And he has.

Mallett doesn't just need to prove his doubters and detractors wrong. He has the burden and opportunity to prove Bill Belichick right. A Hall of Fame coach took a chance on him.

What will he do with that chance? It's a powerful motivator.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.