Robert Kraft took issue recently with comments made by head coach and general manager Bill Belichick, criticizing the aggregate spending of the team on players over the last 3 seasons. In his 2022 end of season press conference, Belichick said, "Our spending in 2020, our spending in 2021, and our spending in 2022-the aggregate of that-was were 27th in the league in cash spending."
""Our spending in 2020, our spending in 2021, and our spending in 2022-the aggregate of that-was were 27th in the league in cash spending.""- Bill Belichick
In response, Kraft replied, "Money spending will never be the issue, I promise you, or I'll sell the team." At the end of the day, any penny-pinching with team salaries is not coming from the owner's box. Belichick is known around the league as one of the more frugal GM's in the NFL. He values the dollar bill, especially when it comes to the salary cap, more than most Fortune 500 CEOs.
This is not a knock on Belichick, but rather, a compliment. Bill's creative spending is what has allowed the team to be the most dominant professional sports franchise we've seen since the Boston Celtics of the 1960's. The man loves a bargain, and he knows how to get top dollar production for bottom dollar prices. Ja'Whaun Bentley's new contract extension is the perfect example of this.
The teams middle linebacker, and one of their defensive captains, just signed a 2 year extension worth $18.75 million ($9 million in total guarantees). That's an AAV of $9.38 million per year and a very nice raise from his current salary of $4.25 million. Don't be fooled by the raise though, as this extension could be one of Belichicks bigger steals recently. He pinched this particular penny so hard, his fingerprints are embedded on it.
In order to determine whether a signing is a good deal for the team or a good deal for the player, we have to compare it to average salaries and production from players in the same position. In this case, I took the average salary of the top 10 highest-paid linebackers, and based on production, figured out what the average pay per tackle, sack, and interception is.
With the middle linebacker position, the biggest emphasis is on tackles. They are typically the teams leading tackler (as is the case with Bentley), and tend to be light on sacks since their primary focus is either run support or dropping back into coverage. The average salary among the top 10 highest-paid linebackers is $15.5 million per year. The average statistics are 135 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions per year.
I estimated this would make the average tackle worth $86,000, the average sack worth $775,000, and the average interception worth $969,000. When you apply the dollar figures to Ja'Whaun Bentley in 2022 (125 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception), he should be making $14.5 million per year. He should be the 7th highest paid linebacker in the NFL, but Bill went and did it again. He is getting Bentley's production for 65% of his actual value.
Mr. Kraft may take issues with Belichick's comments at the end of 2022, but maybe that's because he was misunderstanding Bill's sentiment. He wasn't complaining that the Patriots were one of the lowest spenders in the league, he was bragging about it. You can see the faintest beginning of a smirk when he says it. This is because, whether it's team finances or press conferences, Bill knows exactly what he is doing.