New England Patriots Summer Six-Pack
By Hal Bent
Danielle Hunter’s Contract and Trey Flowers:
The Minnesota Vikings gave defensive end/edge rusher Danielle Hunter a big contract according to Ian Rapoport at NFL.com. The contract had $15 million in a signing bonus, $40 million guaranteed and was for five years and $72 million total.
That is the now the line for the New England Patriots and defensive end/edge rusher Trey Flowers. Sam Quinn at 247Sports was the first to touch base with how this contract affects the Patriots and Flowers.
Flowers has been the most consistent pass rusher in New England in the past two seasons (after basically a redshirt season as a rookie). Although a fourth round draft pick in 2015, Flowers has been a regular contributor whether rushing from the edge or sliding inside on passing downs to help collapse the pocket and flush the quarterback into the arms of college teammate Deatrich Wise Jr. or another rusher.
Remember, the Patriots had an elite pass rusher in Chandler Jones who was their first round draft pick in 2012. Jones piled up 36 sacks in four seasons in New England including seasons with 11.5 and 12.5 sacks. He was traded to Arizona where he has put up 28 sacks in two seasons including leading the NFL with 17 sacks last year.
The Patriots traded Jones for a second round draft pick after a bizarre off-field incident in January 2016 during the NFL Playoffs even though he was their apparent cornerstone pass rusher. New England apparently was scared away by the exploding edge rusher contracts after former Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon went to New York as a free agent getting a $20 million signing bonus, over $50 million in guarantees and an average annual salary of $17 million for five years.
New England had no intention of paying Jones that kind of money and Jones got almost an identical contract (five years for $83 million with $53 million guaranteed). For a player to make that kind of money with Gronkowski and Brady both ridiculously underpaid was not going to happen. The Patriots gave their big money on defense to the versatile Dont’a Hightower (which could prove to be a mistake if he cannot stay healthy).
Flowers is obviously not going to be in the Jones/Vernon contract levels as he just does not have that kind of production. In New England, the sacks are not the biggest and most important number on defense as much as pressure.
Flowers is quiet (when was the last time he made headlines off the field?), versatile (sacrifices sacks to set the edge and rush inside), productive (still has had 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons) and underpaid (on his rookie deal still): a perfect Patriot.
Unfortunately, the rest of the NFL knows that his versatility is keeping his sack number down–just like with Jones in his time in Foxboro. If the Patriots allows Flowers onto the open market next year, he will likely be snapped up by a team more than willing to exceed the contract the Patriots are comfortable paying.
For the Patriots, this contract for a similar player (albeit with Hunter getting more sacks) puts a number on the table for the two parties to use as a baseline. With limited pass rush hurting the Patriots in Super Bowl 52 and at times last year (Cassius Marsh, anyone?), locking up Flowers is a must for the defense.