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Patriots Replay Thu Jul 18 | 12:00 AM - 12:00 PM

View from Above: To sign, to tag, and equality for all

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Three thoughts on three subjects for the price of one – free of charge, as always.

The Kaepernick Conundrum

With the news over the past weekend that Colin Kaepernick has settled his collusion grievances with the NFL, the obvious question that follows is – “what comes next?”

The rumors of that “next” could include potential employment with the New England Patriots, if we are to believe Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos. Geragos fueled this fire by telling CNN there are two teams that could give Kaepernick his opportunity at pro football again - the Carolina Panthers, and the Patriots.

Before you respond to this statement from Kaepernick’s attorney, consider that his primary job is to advocate for his client regardless of whether there is a real opportunity to play again, or not. 

So, let’s simply examine this for what it is. 

Colin Kaepernick settled his grievance with the National Football League two years after opting out of his last contract with the San Francisco 49ers. He hasn’t played football since. Reportedly, the settlement amount agreed upon could range upwards of $40-$60 million, and while that is pure conjecture, the amount of any settlement could indicate Kaepernick expects to never step foot on a pro football field again.

At least as a player. 

It could also be a condition of his settlement agreement as well. In other words, “here’s your money. Now don’t come back and ask us for a job.”

I mean, the guy hasn’t appeared to be terribly interested in playing anymore, has he? Regardless of what some teams and owners might think his personal or political beliefs would bring to their own backyards, if he really wanted to play football again – wouldn’t he at least give the public some indication of his true desire?

All we’ve seen publicly is his desire to make a spectacle of himself, and of his beliefs (thanks, Nike) – which is his right, of course. But there are repercussions and reactions to every action we all take, and it simply seems Kaepernick has been blissfully unaware of this reality. So many (but not all) highly-paid professional athletes are just that – blissfully unaware of the reality behind every day struggles, social or otherwise.

Maybe that’s part of the reason behind his social stand in this instance. That is laudable. Admirable, even. But if I’m a businessman – and rest assured, that’s exactly what NFL owners are – I’m highly unlikely to take a chance on a marginalized talent coming into my organization and bringing controversy with him, unless he can significantly contribute to my bottom line.

Can he help me succeed? Make me money? Be a good employee? Play by the rules as I ask the rest of my employees to do? Unless the answer is an unequivocal “yes” to each, I’m reluctant to hire him.

That’s not collusion. It’s just good business sense.

Regardless, it is probably in the league’s best interest to make the Kaepernick issue disappear. Except for the phantom ‘no-call’ by officials in the NFC Championship game, this past season was largely without much controversy. Ratings, save for the Super Bowl itself, were up. For an issue that was only going to linger like a cold sore on your lips, why not make it go away as quickly and quietly as possible?

As to the Patriots’ name being brought up in this instance, here is the one item to keep in mind through every rumor you see or hear – if Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft believe something (or someone) will make the football team better, they’ll do it. If they don’t, they won’t.

Or have you not been paying attention?

Tag, you’re it

It’s that time of year again, the time when a child’s playground game turns into big business for teams, and for some players.

It’s the time for the Franchise Tag, which is a one-year, guaranteed contract that essentially keeps a player from hitting open free agency, if certain financial conditions are met. Every team can use one of these tags each year, once per year, if they so choose. The tag window opens this week and will remain open for another two weeks thereafter.

Will the Patriots use theirs to keep someone around before potentially moving on? 

In the past, the team has applied the tag to players while negotiating a longer-term deal, keeping a player in place until a new contract is reached. That’s not a bad thing for the team hoping to keep a ‘star,’ and it’s not entirely bad for the player, either. A significant raise is usually the result, even if only for one year.

The player can still hit free agency in another year, if a contractual agreement can’t be reached. Buying time both ways can help both sides.

Of the players who could be eligible for the tag this year, you can probably consider Stephen Gostkowski, Trent Brown and Trey Flowers as the most likely recipients, as each is eligible for free agency.  But nothing is guaranteed, and the team does not need to tag anyone by these rules.

More likely, the team could use the tag to keep a player ‘in place’ while a contract extension is worked out. The thinking here is either Gostkowski or Flowers makes the most sense, with Brown less likely only because there is obvious depth (Isaiah Wynn?) at his tackle position.

Gostkowski was the last Patriots’ player to get hit with the tag, in 2015, before a longer-term contract was worked out. Could a similar arrangement be underway? What about keeping stability on a defensive line coming off a spectacular Super Bowl performance against the Rams? Maybe Flowers is the guy.

Or, keeping continuity on an offensive line that kept Tom Brady relatively clean throughout the postseason could be a priority, too. The mountain-man that is Trent Brown surely has been a security blanket for TB12 like few others, and at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds (give or take) a frustrating reality for opposing defenders.

Decisions, decisions. Nothing is a given here, just as nothing is guaranteed in this two-week-long game of “tag, you’re it.”

Jumping through hoops

The NBA All-Star game was in Charlotte, NC this past weekend, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Patriots or the NFL.

Or did it?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the issue of parity in his league and in his sport, where in the past a few teams (like the Celtics and Lakers, for the most part) manage to dominate year after year.

That hasn’t been the case over the past decade or so, with Silver saying over the weekend, “if you look at the last, I think, 11 years, we've had seven different teams win championships. But if you look back to the first 60 years of this league, I think three teams — the Lakers, Celtics, and the Bulls — won 60 percent of all championships. So, progress.”

While the issue of parity in the NBA is now more about smaller market teams being able to keep their superstar players, and some of those players deciding to ‘team up’ with others, Silver told the media that the way the NFL currently keeps things level is a model for success – despite the recent successes of the New England Patriots on the field.

“I look at the NFL, which among sports leagues, probably has the best parity and the best system in terms of creating competition than any league I'm familiar with,” Silver said, “yet the New England Patriots have been in the Super Bowl nine out of the last 18 years. And I don't think anyone points to that as a sign that the system isn't necessarily working.

“I think what people recognize is you want parity of opportunity, but you don't want to artificially create competition that somehow takes away incentives for teams to be great,” he added.

Doing the most with what you have. Making the most of your opportunity. Out-thinking the other guys. That’s precisely what the Patriots have done better than most teams, inside or outside of the NFL.

Pro basketball, we can hope, seems to be catching on to that thought, too.

John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, has concluded his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio & Television Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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