By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Before I even begin, let me admit that I know what this is going to sound like: Ya Mazz, Bill Belichick is playin’ chess while everyone else is playin’ checkahs.
But I’m starting to wonder if, in this instance, it’s truer than ever.
As usual, we need to go back to go forward, so let’s start here: the Patriots have been linked to Andy Dalton, at least loosely, for some time, beginning with speculation by Peter King of Pro Football Talk. But here we are, on the verge of May, and Dalton remains a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, who formally selected Joe Burrow with No. 1 overall selection in the last week’s NFL Draft.
Now Dalton seems a lock to be released, if for no other reason than the fact that no team wants to trade for him and commit to the $17.5 million salary Dalton is due in 2020 in base salary.
Does Belichick really want Dalton? Maybe yes and maybe no. But if he does, then he has played this brilliantly.
First off, in the immediate wake of Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay, the Patriots stood by as the free agent and trade market fell into place. When the dust settled, Nick Foles was in Chicago, Teddy Bridgewater was in Carolina, Philip Rivers was in Indianapolis and Drew Brees was back in New Orleans. Now Jameis Winston is also in New Orleans and 13 quarterbacks were selected in the draft, none of them landing in New England.
“Interesting group,” Belichick said of this year’s quarterback crop on April 13, 10 days before the draft, “and probably one that has decent depth to it.”
Draft coverage:— Patriots Draft Hub
— Meet the Class of 2020
— UDFA Tracker
Then, while everyone else took the cheese, Belichick didn’t take a quarterback.
Was this all a way to back the Bengals into a corner? Again, maybe yes and maybe no. But at the moment, it certainly doesn’t seem if Cincinnati has anywhere else to turn, which is why ESPN’s Bill Barnwell listed him among the 32 players (one from each team) most likely to be released in the aftermath of the draft.
And something suggests that Belichick, naturally, will be all too eager to scoop him up.