Rumours are swirling following the Patriot's decision to cut starting left defensive end Ty Warren. He fell out of favour with the organisation for one reason or another, the team is changing schemes...etc. Whatever the reason may be, it is also clear that the overwhelming majority of fans are concerned with this decision, as they expected Ty Warren to come in and form a formidably front three together with stalwart nose tackle Vince Wilfork and the newly acquired Albert Haynesworth. As troubling as this decision may seem, lets analyse it from two points of view: the Patriots without Ty Warren and the decision to actually cut Warren...
Patriots without Ty Warren
After a stellar 2006 season in which Warren recorded 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks, he was rewarded with a shiny new deal, one which would have paid him over $6million this season. Perhaps the defining principle of Bill Belichick is value. Since signing that new deal, Warren's production and health has gone down, having recorded only 7 sacks total since combined with missing games in both 2008 and 2009 due to injury. This doesn't even take into account the fact Warren missed the entirety of 2010 with a hip injury.
Speaking of 2010, that would be the same year the Patriots went 14-2 with one of the youngest defenses in the NFL and a makeshift defensive line for the year. In Warren's absence, Ron Brace quietly made solid improvements to his game at the defensive end position and Brandon Deaderick showed some promise and an ability to make plays when called upon. Furthermore, another Warren (that would be Gerard) filled in the leadership void that Ty Warren would bring, together with adding a decent pass rush.
Ah yes, the pass rush. When listing the improvements this team would need to make in 2011 to be serious contenders, I would bet 90% of fans would list the following as top of the tree: Improved pass rush, 3rd down defense, a deep threat wide receiver and better protection for Tom Brady. The latter two are of no consequence in this debate clearly but the first two are interesting to consider.
How many fans envisioned Ty Warren on the field for 3rd downs this year, had he still been a Patriot? That's right, he would be on the sideline whilst better pass rushers such as Albert Haynesworth entered the field to try to improve that 3rd down defense. Ty Warren was not a vital cog in terms of making the key improvements this defense needs to make and so, did not represent value at over $6million. Instead the Patriots will retain the players that helped them go 14-2, whilst making moves to improve that pass rush and in turn, the 3rd down defense.
Allowing Warren to leave will not affect how well the Patriots perform as a defense on third down, since he would likely not be on the field in most of those situations.
Decision to cut Warren
To me this is the surprising part of this move. As I have outlined above, I understand completely if the team felt it no longer needed Warren and thought some of the younger players on the roster could do the same job. But in light of the fact that cutting Warren only saves the team just over $200,000 in cap space, it would seem to make no sense whatsoever when you factor in the need around the league for proven 5 technique defensive ends. The Cowboys just resigned Marcus Spears but are in dire need of another DE, the Jets, Redskins, Chiefs, and Texans to name a few could have all used the help. Surely a trade could have been worked out with one of these teams, even for a minimal draft pick - doing so would have at least generated much more cap space than $200k and given the Pats a low draft pick - better than the nothing they get in the current situation.
Some people are still suggesting this move is cap related and Warren will rework his contract but not so according to emerging media reports. Mike Reiss reported the following comments from Ty Warren himself:
"I think it looks like they're trying to get away from the 3-4...When I heard about the different defensive deals they're going to be doing, I didn't see me in that big picture of things, or at least not a huge role in that deal".
This one is final folks. Reading into these comments, it's certainly plausible that Warren requested a release due to the nature of how he saw the defense unfolding and his role in this defense. But surely, the Patriots could have sought a trade while making a commitment to Warren that they would trade him to a winner, as a thank you for his services. He could have even stood to retain his contract in such circumstances. But that didn't happen - the Patriots simply released Warren and Peter King even tweeted yesterday that Warren could take minimum money to go to a contender!
Why release him with such minimal difference in cap space? Something is amiss here - we may never know what that is, but it's clear the Patriots have missed out both financially and in compensation for Ty Warren. Whilst moving on without Warren may have been the right move, to cut him altogether when it makes little difference to the cap is a perplexing move.