Congratulations to Patriots tackle Marcus Cannon, who signed a bombshell 5-year, $32,500,000.00 extension with the Patriots this week. It really looks like a lot of money when you put all the zeroes in there, huh?
All of the details of the contract aren't quite out yet, but hopefully it'll keep Cannon in blue and silver until either 2021 or he gets tired of winning Super Bowls.
It'll also be just the latest in a series of deals where the Patriots and Bill Belichick prove that, contrary to what most people south of Connecticut seem to think, New England is perfectly fine crossing the T's and dotting the lowercase j's on big-time contracts for players that deserve it.
And by "deserve it", we mean a few things that most eight-figure Patriots contracts have in common:
-They're guys that the Patriots drafted (usually)
-They've proven that they buy into New England's system and culture (which sounds like a very Office-Space-type criteria, but it's true)
-They've consistently produced at a high level on the field (duh)
In Cannon's case, as anyone who's watched him over the past few years is well aware, his performance has been all over the place, ranging from getting barbecued by Von Miller and/or DeMarcus Ware in the AFC Championship last year to, well, the clinic he's running at right tackle now. And offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has basically flat-out said that the reason for Marcus's out-of-nowhere success this year is because he's in better physical shape and playing better technique:
"His arms are really long, but he doesn't use them like a guy that has long arms needs to use them. The more you keep the defenders out and away from you, instead of letting them get into your body and grab things, the better off you're going to be at tackle. He seems to grasp that very well and embrace it. If he will continue to play that way, he'll be fine. And he has been fine."
This is key, because if New England's going to be paying you like a top player, you had better not only have the talent, but you also better be willing to modify your game if the team thinks you need to in order to be better.
And if you look over just, say, the last decade or so of Belichick as a general manager, the guys that check all three of those boxes are the ones that get paid like bosses.
We can start with an easy one - Rob Gronkowski's record-breaking contract extension in 2012. Gronk got extended for a cool $53,000,000 over six years, even with his injuries. But he checks all the boxes - New England drafted Gronkowski in the second round in 2010, and after three years, the Patriots knew they had a guy that's supposedly one of the smartest(stop laughing), hardest-working guys on the team.
Here's a few more guys that fit the bill, because this narrative that "Belichick doesn't want to pay his players!" needs to die, ASAP:
-Devin McCourty's extension after the 2014 season had the most guaranteed money for a safety (at the time) - and let's not forget that McCourty had Pro Bowl seasons at cornerback and safety. Devin's a great player, but what likely made the difference when it was time to deal out contracts is that a position switch like that, and playing both positions well, is pretty much the best way to prove that you're 100% committed to doing whatever you can to help the team win.
-Jerod Mayo, the linebacker out of the University of Tennessee that made it to captain status after just his second year with the Patriots, cashed in with a five-year extension worth $48.5 million at the end of 2011. It's been pretty well-documented over the years what a hard worker Mayo was, with even Bill Belichick saying that "There have been very few players in my career that I've had the opportunity to coach that I'd say had more of an impact on a team than Jerod has from day one, which is unusual"
-Vince Wilfork, who needs no introduction, got rewarded for wrecking offensive linemen's lives at defensive tackle with an extension in 2010 - on the first day of free agency, nonetheless - for five years and $40 million, which easily made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the game.
-Logan Mankins, who was never shy about letting the Patriots know exactly what he thought he was worth, eventually got it because you don't let one of the best guards in the league leave, period. Mankins' 2011 extension for six years and $51 million made him - wait for it - the highest-paid interior lineman in the NFL.
You get the idea. If New England has had some time to get to know you, and they know what you're about and how you conduct yourself, and how hard you work, and you're hanging with the best in the league, guess what - Bill and Robert Kraft can cut the check. If you've got question marks, even if you're a great player, then that's usually a ticket to getting shipped out of town for whatever another team will trade.
So, to bring this back to Marcus Cannon, like we said earlier - the kid is clearly coachable, and now that his play finally matches his talent (he was a projected first-rounder, after all, before beating freaking cancer) - he's finally cashing in on years of hard work and being versatile.
As our fearless leader Rich Hill pointed out on Tuesday, this deal makes Marcus Cannon the fourth-highest paid right tackle in the league.
Good for him. Seriously.
It's exactly the type of deal that Belichick and Kraft have done plenty of times in the past, and if we're lucky, they'll do a few more times before the season's over.