Some people have taken notice to the many roster moves of the New England patriots,and chided Bill Belichick for the seemingly random nature of the very many personnel transactions, as if there was no plan and no logical explanation for these maneuvers. Perhaps the primary example for this is CB Marquice Cole, who has been has been signed four times and released three times this year – including four roster moves in a recent ten-day span.

On the surface these appear to be random moves that indicate an inability to form an opinion, and lack of decisiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth; in actuality Belichick is working the system to his favor.

Jason at Over The Cap (a great guy by the way; don’t hold his being a Jets fan against him) uncovered the rationale for these seemingly aimless roster moves.

The Patriots, Marquice Cole, and Termination Pay

What New England is doing is essentially using loopholes in the CBA to basically put Cole on their own version of IR with the designation to return while protecting their own financial interests. By waiting until the end of the week to release Cole, Cole receives his full salary, $42.058.82 per week, and will never miss a game check provided they continue re-signing him to a contract after Sunday’s game.

Termination pay is that guarantee everyone always talks about when a veteran player makes the week 1 roster. In Cole’s case he would be eligible to receive the balance of his $715,000 salary, which at the time of his first release was $546,765 and this week would be $504,706, once released. However, because Cole never misses a game check he is ineligible to claim Termination Pay following the season.

If New England did what many would think is the normal routine of releasing a player and then re-signing him when he is expected to contribute the Patriots would have to pay Cole both the balance of his Termination Pay plus his salary on the new contract. So if they had released him outright last week and waited until week 8 to bring him back Cole could file a claim to receive his $546,765 and collect 8 weeks of salary on top of that amount. By releasing him after Tuesday the most he could have earned is the $546,765. This is why he will likely be back by next Wednesday and if he still can not play be released by Friday. If New England placed Cole on IR his season would be over, which they don’t want to have happen.

The risks for New England are minimal with this strategy. Cole does not need to clear waivers until after the trade deadline and its unlikely any team would sign him if he has a minor injury anyway, so there is a great chance that Cole is always going to re-sign with New England once asked. In fact it is probably agreed upon before the release that he will be back and not entertain offers from other teams. The team most likely will replace him with a Practice Squad player who will need to clear waivers once released, but considering the player has been free for any other team to sign off the Practice Squad anyway, waivers are not a concern. If a team wanted him that badly they would have made an offer before this time.

So it’s a small but neat little aspect of roster management going on in New England right now that ensures they have the players they want at the price they want for the remainder of the season.

While other are playing checkers, Bill Belichick is playing chess.

 

I wasn’t particularly surprised that the Patriots lost yesterday, although I did not expect the offense (1-12 on third down) to struggle as mightily as it did. It is very difficult to win back-to-back games on the road, especially when one or both of those opponents are decent teams. Yes, the Bengals lost to Cleveland, but look at the entirety of their work and the talent on their roster; Cincinnati is a very solid ball club. Their loss to the Browns was a classic ‘trap’ game: it was sandwiched between an emotional win over Green Bay and a game against a team that has not had a losing season in 13 years.

Here is a look at how NFL teams have fared in consecutive road games this year:

Won both games
4-1 Indianapolis (beat San Francisco and Jacksonville)
3-2 Miami (wins at Cleveland and Indianapolis)

Split
4-1 Seattle (beat Houston, lost to Indianapolis)
4-1 New England (beat Atlanta, lost to Cincinnati)
3-2 Detroit (lost at Arizona, beat Washington)
3-2 Chicago (beat Pittsburgh, lost at Detroit)
3-2 Baltimore (lost to Buffalo, beat Miami)
3-2 Cleveland (lost to Baltimore, beat Minnesota)
3-2 Tennessee (beat Pittsburgh, lost to Houston)
3-2 Arizona (lost to New Orleans, beat Tampa Bay)
2-3 San Diego (beat Philadelphia, lost to Tennessee)
2-3 Philadelphia (lost to Denver, beat the Giants)

Lost both games
2-3 St. Louis (lost at Atlanta and Dallas)
1-3 Minnesota (lost at Detroit and Chicago)
0-5 Jacksonville (lost to Oakland and Seattle)
0-5 New York Giants (lost to Carolina and Kansas City)

Of the 16 teams to play consecutive games on the road only two have won both games. Seattle is probably the best team in the National Football League, and they were unable to complete that task. There are other good teams that were unable to pull off the the feat as well, like the Bears, Lions – and yes, the Patriots. Indy defeated an injury-riddled 49ers team and then was gifted with a date in Jacksonville, while Miami had the good fortune of playing Cleveland prior to the Browns turnaround. The bottom line is that the Pats loss should not come as a shock; a win would have been the exception and not the norm, even for a good NFL team.

 

New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Monday October 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN
Mike Tirico (play by play), Jon Gruden (gushing), Lisa Salters (sideline eye candy)
Falcons favored by 10; over/under 44½

Following the Saints 26-18 victory against the Bears, Atlanta is in danger of falling four games behind New Orleans in the NFC South should they lose Monday night. The Falcons are a double-digit favorite despite a less than stellar showing last week against the Patriots in a game in which they only scored one touchdown in six trips to the red zone. The Jets have performed better than what many expected them to do thus far this year thanks to quality play from both lines and a defense that is allowing just 283 yards per game (2nd best in the NFL).

The Jets get Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Mike Goodson (suspension) back, to compliment Bilal Powell (4.4 yards per carry, 292 yards rushing) at running back. The Patriots dominated the line of scrimmage a week ago and Rex Ryan would be wise to attempt to do the same Monday night; the Jets running game versus the Falcons run defense is a mismatch that favors Gang Green. Expect Atlanta to stack the box and dare Geno Smith to throw the ball; the rookie quarterback already has nine turnovers (eight picks, one lost fumble) through four games and a scarcity of targets. Smith will be without his best option, WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Atlanta CB Asante Samuel, who has missed two of the four games, returns from a knee injury looking for a pick-six.

Atlanta is still without RB Steven Jackson and probably don’t want to test the Jet run defense, which is limiting opponents to an NFL-best 3.0 yards per carry. CB Antonio Cromartie will match up with Atlanta WR Julio Jones; the problem for New York is the rest of Matt Ryan’s options in the passing game. TE Tony Gonzalez is a matchup nightmare for the Jets, and doubling up on him leaves more room for WR Harry Douglas.

I think the Falcons will be fired up as they are in desperation move; they cannot afford to fall four games behind the Saints. Geno Smith and the Jets have not played nearly as well on the road (0-2, outscored 51-23) as they have at home (2-0) while Mike Smith’s Falcons have never lost three straight games. Despite last week’s loss, Matt Ryan is still 34-6 at home in his NFL career and the Jets don’t have the personnel to mount a comeback once they fall behind. I think the Jets defense may be good enough to hang around and keep this game close for awhile, but the Falcons will pull away in the second half.

Pick • Falcons 23, Jets 16
Jets +10
Under 44

 

 

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2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL

2013 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

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