Don’t send Patriots flowers after free agent losses

The bell rang at noon on Monday, and it’s always like school being out for summer.

Instead of kids running out the doors, it’s agents and general managers running out after National Football League free agents.

The New England Patriots usually do a slow jog, And they usually never make it in time to a couple of their own key players.

That was the case again yesterday, as they waved good-bye to two key players from their Super Bowl championship team – leading pass rusher Trey Flowers and left tackle Trent Brown.

Not surprising. At first there might have been the thinking that Flowers would give the Patriots a chance to match whatever offer he got. When his former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, urged Detroit Lions general manager (and former Patrtiot exec) Bob Quinn to throw a five-year deal somewhere between $16-$17 million per, there was probably no reason for Flowers to go back to the Patriots. He already knew the answer.

Brown was a goner and everyone knew it, even at the Super Bowl. He was going to cash in big time. And he did, to the tune reported Monday of $66 million for four years. It only took 15 minutes into the foolish “legal tampering” period – they should just let free agency start, period – Monday for that agreed upon deal with the Oakland Raiders to be announced.

Brown knew he was going to hit the jackpot, currently the biggest contract awarded to an offensive lineman. He doesn’t get too excited about much.

“I can control what I can control,” he said during Super Bowl week, “and everything else takes care of itself.”

And Jon Gruden took care of him.

So now the panic begins. Everyone thinks the Patriots are cheap, but they’ve been successful because they don’t hamper themselves with big contracts so the money can be spread more evenly throughout. If you’re looking for a line to draw, it may be Tom Brady’s $15 million. Even Brady takes less money so that formula can stay in tact. Seems to work more often than not.

Now granted, they’ve missed out on some players and every once in a while they will splurge – the signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore two years ago, for example.

But usually, they will sit back, let the silly money be spent, and then grab the players who fit their mold. There always seems to be a method to what many of their fans think is madness – and they especially think that when two of their keys go elsewhere like yesterday.

Perhaps Patriot fans envision Tom Brady left in pieces 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage on some play. Relax. Brown was a goner as soon as he entered free agency, because the Patriots are banking on the guy they really had projected to start for them at left tackle last year – last April’s first round pick, 23rd overall, Isaiah Wynn. Wynn spent the season on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles in the preseason game last August vs. the Eagles. He was supposedly being groomed to take the starting left tackle job that Brown ended up with.

With Flowers, the Patriots just were’t going to commit that much to the position. They went out and got their replacement for him Friday, crazy Michael Bennett, who in the past showed no love for who will be his defensive coordinator, former Tampa head coach Greg Schiano. He’s louder than Flowers, older than Flowers, but, more important, cheaper than Flowers, who this past season had 7.5 sacks but a lot of other intangibles that had him generally ranked as the best defensive free agent.

It’s too bad, because the likeable, good soldier Flowers probably could have been franchised at around $14 million per. But they just weren’t going to spend that dough, tying themselves up for one position. They’ve never really franchised top position players (you have to be a kicker). Again, you have to remember, the Patriots don’t play games with the salary cap, because they figure that comes back to haunt them.

We’re not endorsing these losses. Fans tend to look at NFL free agency like other sports, but when you have a cap that involves 53 players, you have to be careful. A lot of teams aren’t. But let’s see in a couple of years if either player is asked to restructure, etc.

Flowers was asked during Super Bowl Week by yours truly if he ever envisioned what life would be like away from Foxborough.

No I can’t say it ever did,” Flowers said. “I was fortunate to be drafted here and have my first four years here. Going through the draft process, not knowing where I’m going to go, the Patriots called, being as successful as I’ve been. … I’ll let free agency handle itself.”

Perhaps the Patriots will draft the next Trey Flowers in six weeks and develop him over four years.

But as his now former teammate, Dont’a Hightower, said during Super Bowl week about Flowers, “His resume is his resume, he’s a great player. I don’t think he has too much to worry about.”

The question is, do the Patriots? You know their fans will worry, for certain.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,