How many times have you heard that Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and the New England Patriots are a bunch of cheapskates that won't pony up the money to retain talent?
You heard it when cornerback Darrelle Revis signed with the New York Jets in 2015. You heard for the hours after cornerback Aqib Talib signed with the Denver Broncos in 2014 (but that stopped once the Patriots signed Revis). You heard it when wide receiver Wes Welker joined Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2013.
It's like clock work. And it's also wrong.
The New England Patriots just signed kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a record setting 4-year, $17.2 million contract. This is the biggest contract ever given to a kicker in NFL history. No big deal.
The Patriots actually have a history of setting the market with record setting contracts. Here's the full list (h/t to PatsCap's Miguel for filling in some of the blanks):
2000: Roughly two weeks after hiring Bill Belichick, the Patriots sign safety Lawyer Milloy to a 7-year, $36 million contract that was the largest in the NFL for a safety.
2003: The Patriots signed former Bears linebacker Rosevelt Colvin to a most 7-year, $30 million contract in March of 2003. That was the third largest for a linebacker to the Ravens' Ray Lewis' 7-year, $50 million deal signed in August 2002, and the Falcons' Keith Brooking's 7-year, $41 million contract signed in February 2003. Soon after Colvin signed, linebackers Takeo Spikes, Zach Thomas, and Brian Urlacher all signed contracts for more money, but Colvin's was at the top of the market.
2007: Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas signs a 5-year, $35 million contract with the Patriots, snagging the largest cap hit in the league, and earning the title of "highest priced free agent in Patriots franchise history."
2008: New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss signs a 3-year, $27 million contract. The $9 million average per year (APY) is fourth most in the league, behind just the Texans' Andre Johnson's $11.7 million APY, the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald's $10 million APY (this was a rookie contract), and the Colts' Marvin Harrison's $9.6 million APY.
2010 March: Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork signs a 5-year, $40 million contract, making him the highest paid nose tackle in the NFL.
2010 September: Quarterback Tom Brady signs a 4-year, $72 million contract, making him the highest paid player in the NFL.
2011 August: Offensive guard Logan Mankins signs a 6-year, $51 million contract, making him the highest paid guard in the NFL.
2011 December: The Patriots sign linebacker Jerod Mayo to a 5-year, $48.5 million contract extension, behind just 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis' 5-year, $50 million contract for the highest paid in the league.
2012: Tight end Rob Gronkowski signs a 6-year, $53 million contract, making him the highest paid tight end in NFL history.
2014: Patriots sign cornerback Darrelle Revis to a 2-year, $32 million contract, the $16 million APY the richest value for a cornerback in the league.
2015 March: Safety Devin McCourty signs a 5-year, $47.5 million contract with a safety-record $28.5 million guaranteed. His $9.5 million APY is the second most for a safety, behind just the Seahawks' Earl Thomas.
2015 July: The Patriots make Stephen Gostkowski the highest paid kicker in NFL history with a 4-year, $17.2 million contract.
It should be noted that the Patriots don't ever finish a contract without restructuring, or moving the player. This is the curse of the monster contracts. Gronkowski (and effectively Gostkowski) are the only two players on this list who haven't either restructured or changed teams.
But when people call the Patriots "cheap", please tell them that the Patriots have signed an average of one market leading contract over the past decade.