The largest individual guarantee among the Patriots undrafted rookie free agents belongs to Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe, who received an $8,000 signing bonus and will receive $22,000 in fully guaranteed base salary regardless of whether or not he makes New England’s 53-man roster for a total of $30,000 in guaranteed money. The 5-foot-11, 204-pound Moe excelled in the three-cone drill at the 2013 combine, posting the second-fastest time among all invitees. As explained here by Christopher Price of WEEI.com, the Patriots have shown a tendency to target players who perform well in that particular agility drill, so that Moe was a “priority free agent” for the Patriots does not come as much of a surprise. (Had Moe played at Rutgers, the Patriots might have requested that Foxborough officials award him the key to the town or make him an honorary selectman.)
Behind Moe on the Patriots’ list of large guarantees is Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld, who received the team’s largest signing bonus ($12,000) and also has a $5,000 base salary guarantee for a total of $17,000 in guaranteed money. Sudfeld, who a month older than Rob Gronkowski and a few months older than Aaron Hernandez, caught just two passes in his first five seasons at Nevada catching 45 passes with eight touchdowns after being granted a medical redshirt for the 2012 season. Offensive lineman Elvis Fisher, Moe’s former teammate at Missouri, received $15,000 in guaranteed money from the Patriots, while guard Josh Kline ($14,000), fullback Ben Bartholomew ($10,000) and linebacker Kanorris Davis ($10,000) also received five-figure guarantees.
Perhaps the most shocking example of this de-evolution in NFL strategy is the man who has long represted the ideal of aggressive fourth-down decision making: Bill Belichick. Last year during the regular season, the Patriots didn’t attempt a single run or pass play on fourth-and-2, and they went for it only two times out of eight opportunities in long field-goal range (between the 31- and 37-yard lines). This trend carried over into the playoffs; against Baltimore, the Patriots had fourth-and-2 twice and settled for a punt and a 31-yard field goal. They also punted twice in long field-goal range, although these were “no man’s land” situations, i.e. not just in deep field-goal range but in deep field-goal range on fourth-and-long when none of the options are mathematically any good. As a result, Belichick ranks a shocking 23rd out of 34 head coaches in Aggressiveness Index for 2012. This is a massive change from most of Belichick’s career. Belichick has the fifth-highest career AI of any head coach with at least three full seasons between 1991 and 2012, and he ranked in the top six for AI every year between 2004 and 2010 before falling to 11th in 2011 (although he was sixth in 2011 in the older version of AI). 2012 was only the third season out of 18 when Belichick ranked in the bottom half of the league; the others were 1994 (0.76 AI, 21st) and 2003 (.84 AI, 23rd).
“So I showed him how I was running with it, and he looked at it and he knocked the ball right out of my hands. And he was like, ‘Hold it like this.' And what he told me felt comfortable. I had a tighter grip on the football. That should secure that problem as long as I work on it.”