When news broke that free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would be signing with the Titans instead of the Patriots, most believed it resulted from a difference in the contract offer.
Bill Belichick is known for not paying the big bucks to sign any player, never mind one at the top of the league at their position. Details revealed that the offer from Tennessee and New England were widely apart, explaining why Hopkins chose to sign with the team less inclined to allow him to thrive.
But there were other factors behind the scenes also impacted the Patriots' urgency in signing the receiver, despite knowing how impactful he would be for the offense and Mac Jones this upcoming season.
According to Patriots insider and NBC Sports Boston reporter Tom Curran, there was concern from many inside the Patriots' organization regarding how Hopkins would fit with the culture in New England, mainly due to his reported dislike of practicing.
"There were reservations voiced to me from folks within the building of, ‘OK, how’s the culture fit going to be?' This is important that this gets clipped: Not in the way of he’s a bad guy. Not in the way of he’s going to be an irritant, but more of he doesn’t like to practice. He’s not on all the details, he’s not the most precise player, and that happens a lot. You bring in a player who’s so thoroughly established elsewhere and say, ‘OK, you’re going to adhere to the rules and the regulations we have here,’ and they can be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t do it that way.’ So, there was concern about that. Maybe the Patriots didn’t want to go that far, but he had a two-day visit with them."
This had been a rumored problem mentioned weeks ago, but as Curran said, the receiver was still brought in for a visit and spent nearly 48 hours with the team, making it seem like it wasn't a determining factor for Belichick to sign him.
Then there's another theory making waves about why the head coach and general manager didn't make a stronger push to get a deal done; he's more confident in the offense heading into this upcoming season than those on the outside.
On paper, the receiving corps and offensive line certainly seem improved over last year's roster, but that's just on paper.
We are yet to see JuJu Smith-Schuster become a full participant at practices as he continues to deal with an injury sustained last season with the Chiefs. Plus, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry need to return to how they performed during their first seasons in New England to truly boost the offense because their inconsistent production last season was not helpful whatsoever.
The offensive line has a lot of work to do, considering most remain concerned about how well they will perform this season, which will go hand-in-hand with how Mac Jones looks as well.
It's possible since Belichick has insight into how the team is looking, that explains his lack of push in signing Hopkins. However, it's difficult to dismiss the idea that he didn't want to pay him even though there was plenty of cap space to do so.