On the surface, today's reported acquisition of manchild/problem child Albert Haynesworth looks almost exactly like the move before 2007 to acquire Randy Moss. Then, as now, a prodigiously talented but attitudinally challenged NFL star who had quit on his previous team and seemed like the ultimate head case--about as un-Patriot like player as could be imagined--joined the team and fans held their collective breath. We all know that Moss worked out pretty damn well--at least until last year. Will Haynesworth be a replay of the success New England had with Moss? A total bust? Or something in between?
But that's if he's in shape--not only physically but also mentally. The Patriots have zero tolerance for shenanigans. I think it is highly unlikely that Haynesworth arrives to a locker room that belongs to Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Matt Light, and the other Patriot veterans--or to a defense that is run by Belichick, still the NFL's master schemer and teacher--and pouts, sulks, grouses, or otherwise acts spoiled or entitled. If Moss became a poster child for decorum and professionalism his first several years, Haynesworth certainly could as well, despite the way he acted in Dan Snyder-ville.
And if he doesn't, he's gone. Plain and simple. And at the cost of nothing more than a 5th round pick two years down the road. (Belichick will probably pick up two or three of those at Stop 'n Shop on his way home today). If Haynesworth IS still a head case or a malcontent then we can just pack him up and ship him out. He could be a huge plus for us this season; but we weren't planning on him, or counting on him, and we don't even necessarily need him. So if it doesn't work out, so be it. He certainly won't do any damage to a highly professional, tightly-knit team in the process.
But there's a third option here, too. Somewhere between becoming his dominating former self and becoming a total bust, is a middle possibility. Maybe Haynesworth doesn't recapture his old dominance but becomes merely--merely--a solid NFL starting defensive lineman, someone who makes plays, is solid and dependable, occasionally has great games but rarely has bad ones. If Haynesworth becomes nothing more than a solid starter, he probably still represents an upgrade over Ron Brace/Myron Pryor/Brandon Deaderick/Kyle Love. And that's more than you would normally get with a 5th round draft pick.
Maybe it will all fall apart next week. Maybe Haynesworth really is beyond redemption. But isn't that exactly what people said about Randy Moss in 2007? Or even Corey Dillon in 2004? And at such a small price and at such little impact in terms of contracts and the salary cap, isn't this actually a risk that may well become a steal?