Albert Haynesworth a Patriot?
Before Haloti Ngata signed his franchise tender with the Ravens this year, I had dreams of two of the league's most dominant big men playing together, side by side on the line of the Patriots. I thought maybe there was some way Ngata could find his way here. This morning my daydream has been fulfilled, just not in the way I'd have imagined it to be.
While most remember Albert Haynesworth for his refusal to be a part of Mike Shanahan's system in Washington, or perhaps for his inability to pass a basic conditioning test last summer, but before all of the hulabaloo in Washington what many don't remember is that Haynesworth was easily one of the most dominant players in the league before Shanahan did everything he could to emasculate the man in Washington.
See here's the thing, if you look at the Haynesworth situation on it's own, it's very easy to assume he was in the wrong, to assume he was a fool who wasn't dedicated and couldn't pass a basic conditioning test, but when you pair his situation with that of former Redskins QB Donovan McNabb (traded to the Vikings yesterday for a 6th round pick) you begin to see a different story. McNabb has always been known as a class act, the guy who always did the right thing and said the right thing, and yet Shanahan found reason to have a problem with him as well. Knowing that, it's easier to think that perhaps the issues with Haynesworth weren't all Albert's fault. Very likely Coach Shanahan deserves a great deal of credit for how things went down as well.
Regardless of where the blame lies, Haynesworth is an interesting acquisition, reminiscent of the acquisition of Randy Moss prior to the 2007 season. Who knows who's to blame, but one thing that is certain is that Haynesworth refused to play nose tackle in the 3-4 system that Shanahan planned to run-the same 3-4 system we run here in New England. We have a nose tackle of our own right now however, so I imagine Haynesworth fits in at the RE position, with Ty Warren returning from injury to the LE position. Otherwise we can only really expect to see him play during passing situations, along a 4 man front perhaps as part of the nickel or dime package.
Whether it's Corey Dillon or Randy Moss, Coach Belichick has become known to be a man willing and able to give what many consider a troubled player a second shot-and to do very well with that player. Now while the past performance of such players doesn't really matter at all in this situation, it does show a pattern from which you can draw the conclusion that if Bill can't do it, who can? This very well may be Haynesworth's last opportunity to show the league he isn't a joke, The last real chance for him to return to the dominant form that once earned him a $100 million contract and the designation as the highest paid defensive player in the history of the league.
He's always been a guy known to take plays off, a guy that didn't give his all every moment of the game, and a player who could let his emotions take control. While it doesn't exactly make my heart warm that the Patriots have now signed someone who once stomped on an opposing player's face, I am encouraged by our history with such players, and do believe that next to Wilfork and opposite Warren is a place Haynesworth could succeed. I look forward to watching him overcome the obstacles he's built for himself here in New England, and believe that if he plays to his potential the cost of a 5th round pick in 2013 is low. The team will pay him $5 million this season, and surely isn't afraid of cutting ties with him entirely should things not work out. Keep an eye on this situation as it develops through the preseason, it'll be interesting to see how Haynesworth fits in here.