Starting Center Earns His Just Reward
For all you that think the New England Patriots won't pay to keep the players they value (a la Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri, Willie McGinest, David Givens, Ty Law, etc.), take a look at Dan Koppen. New England on Thursday signed Koppen, who was in the last year of a 4-year rookie deal, to a 5-year extension worth in the vicinity of $19 million to $20 million, including $7.5 million in bonuses.
That should answer lots of questions, like "Why are the Patriots sitting on nearly $11 million dollars in 2006 salary cap money?" and "Why are they so stingy with all their good players?"
Heck, even ESPN.com headlined the deal by saying the Patriots "reward" Koppen. That implies that the Patriots see value in Koppen and that both sides came to an agreement on what his value is. As opposed to the Branch situation, in which the Patriots saw value in Branch, but not as much as Branch and his agent saw.
I would expect to see more of these types of extensions in the next month or so. This owner and front office are just going to sit on the extra cap money, but they going to pay players what they're worth. Last year's free agent acquisitions (Duane Starks, among others) were mostly busts. The jury patiently waits to render a verdict on this year's crop. But it is undeniable that Scott Pioli and his staff can pick a draft like nobody's business. Koppen was a fifth-round choice in 2003. He started as a rookie and started 46 straight games before a shoulder injury cut short his 2005 season.
So there were some questions this year whether Koppen would be ready or as able as prior to the injury. With a single-minded dedication, Koppen prepared and proved himself.
He did it knowing that he was going to be a free agent next year and that he was worth far more to New England than his current $1.6 million base salary.
He didn't hold out. He didn't hold the team over a barrel. He didn't demand to find out how other teams valued him. He didn't say he needed to feed his family.
He did what was necessary. He did his job.
And, for that, for all that, he was rewarded.
So let this put to rest the ridiculous insinuations that the New England Patriots don't pay players what they're worth, they play hardball just to be stingy, that they "disrespect" their players. It was bull when Lawyer Milloy said it. It's bull now.