It's rare that we ever get to relax and enjoy an offseason where the Patriots are simply buyers in the free agent Supermarket Sweep and don't have to worry about losing a cornerstone player. It's part of the cold, hard calculus of life in the NFL. Last year it was JC Jackson. The year before, it was Joe Thuney. On St. Patrick's Day of 2020 some guy announced he was leaving at 8:30am and the world went all to hell. But I'm blanking on his name and don't want to lose my train of thought so forget it. The best any of us can hope for is that you stagger your key contracts in such a way that you're not losing too many at once. Like that dark day five years ago when they lost four starters, two each on both sides of the ball:
And all they were able to manage that year was winning a sixth Super Bowl.
Be that as it may, the indispensable guy who's up now is Jakobi Meyers, who has been nothing less than the WR1 for every quarterback who has started for this team since Cam Newton came to Foxboro to replace whatshisname. No matter who has been under center, Meyers has been the favorite target. No matter who's been calling the plays, the passing game has run ostensibly through him. His value is unquestionable.
But at the same time, his value is very much a question. Meaning zero disrespect to Meyers, whose personal story has been a testament to his talent and hard work since he made the roster as an UDFA out of NC State, he's nobody's idea of a true WR1. He's been ours pretty much by default. Because since Julian Edelman's career ended, all the Pats attempts to find an elite wideout have fallen flat. Typically off the pizza paddle hands of N'Keal Harry or Nelson Agholor. He's been the best receiver on the roster in the same way that Pippen was the tallest of the Hobbits. And presumably Bill Belichick traded for DeVante Parker and used a 2nd round pick on Tyquan Thornton with the idea that Meyers would be a complimentary piece alongside them, not the other way around.
But at the same time, he's the best of a paper-thin class of free agent wide receivers. Which, if the only thing I remember from studying economics in college is correct, would definitely drive up his price. And based on every transaction I've made since I got out of school, Adam Smith wasn't just blowing smoke with that "Supply and Demand" stuff. It's not just a good idea; it's the law.
All of which puts Meyers in that weird, uncertain shadow realm between "want to have" and "have to have." Like a phone your teenager wants when no one on your Family Plan is due for an upgrade yet. You can't Franchise him, since the tag at that position is worth $19.74 million. You can't afford to lose him, but at that number you can't afford to keep him. So it all comes down to what is the right number. And according to this report, the two sides have figured out how to determine it. By letting Smith's laissez faire free market decide for them:
Meyers' agent and Belichick (although it's supposedly Matt Groh handling the contract talks) have been holding a staring contest across the table since the season ended, and neither side has blinked. As Scott Glenn's captain of the USS Dallas puts it in The Hunt for Red October, the hardest part about playing Chicken is knowing when to flinch. And when no one does, you let the process play out.
It's a risky strategy. And we can confirm it's cost them in the past. But it's also worked to perfection a time or two. Edelman tested the waters in 2014, didn't find anything to his liking, and signed a four-year deal to stay in New England and win three rings. Dont'a Hightower was ESPN's choice for best free agent at any position in 2017, visited the Jets among other teams, and ended up re-signing. So it's entirely possible Meyers will get a few offers only to find that the real substantial pay raise, signing bonus and guaranteed money are the friendships he's made along the way. And there's no place like Foxboro.
For New England, letting guys like Meyers walk is just part of how they operate. The organization confidently relies on their ability to find the next Jakobi Meyers. In the way they let Malcolm Butler go and replaced him with Jackson. It can suck to see these players leave. But like that dread day in 2018, you have let it play out because it's most often for the best.
Anyway, here's hoping Meyers gets paid what he deserves. And it's coming from the Kraft family.