As Opposed to Belichick & The Patriots
Many have taken to criticizing the Ravens for releasing special teams ace Justin Bethel. But let’s be honest, special teams have changed and the league is driving it that way. Directional punting, touchbacks on kickoff and penalty flags seemingly on every other special teams snap, have reduced the importance of teams. It is no longer one-third of the game.
Some who understand this and the importance of preserving the fourth-round comp pick forecasted for the Ravens in 2020, get the need to part ways with Bethel. The former 2012 sixth-round pick out of Presbyterian College and three-time Pro Bowler has made 6 tackles this season for the Ravens. But do you give up the draft capital for so little production in the grand scheme of things?
Eric DeCosta decided that the opportunity cost was just too expensive. He wants the comp pick.
Now the timing of the move raises suspicion. Some might say that DeCosta wants the added draft capital to somehow swing a deal before the Tuesday, October 29 trading deadline at 4PM Eastern Time. But the comp pick isn’t awarded until 2020. You can’t trade what you don’t already have but maybe knowing that the comp pick will eventually be theirs, provides the Ravens a degree of comfort.
But knowing that the pick will eventually be theirs really doesn’t change anything in the present. It doesn’t impact their draft capital today. The Ravens could have waited until after they faced off with the Patriots to release Bethel and still get the comp pick. They know that. But they didn’t. They value the relationship with Bethel and his representatives.
Comparatively speaking, the Patriots are playing games with Michael Bennett and Josh Gordon, both of whom are destined to become former Patriots sometime in the next couple of weeks. They are manipulating CBA loopholes.
Parting ways with either Bennett and/or Gordon now, would make both free agents and enable them to sign wherever they want. Waiting until after October 29 at 4PM would subject both players to waivers. In order to become a free agent, they would have to clear waivers.
Knowing this, the Patriots can use the threat of waivers as bargaining leverage. In the waiver game, teams with the worst records have priority over the best teams. BUT, Bill Belichick could work out a trade for either or both players so that they can land with a team that wants them most, likely a winning team. Likely the end game the players want.
It’s a smart move on the Patriots part, purely from a transactional perspective. But from a relationship viewpoint, it’s a bit cutthroat.
The Ravens have opted for the player-friendly approach. They cut Bethel before October 29 to allow him to sign where he wanted. They respect the players and their agents and hope that in doing the right thing by the player, it will afford the Ravens some negotiating luxury that the Patriots obviously don’t value as much.
Time will tell if it’s the short-term smart move.
But we don’t have to wait to learn what is the long-term, right thing to do.
RSR’s Brian McFarland contributed to this article.