Mortensen added that Fitzpatrick is unhappy with constantly rotating between different positions, and feels he’s playing too much box safety. His agent, Joe Segal, has reportedly been in contact with multiple teams.
While the Patriots secondary is one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL, there’s no reason to believe that Bill Belichick wouldn’t at least test the waters and inquire about the former Crimson Tide star’s price tag. Why? Two reasons: pedigree, and value.
There’s no denying his innate skill set. Fitzpatrick — the 11th overall selection in the 2018 draft — is an athletic specimen.
With pick 11 in the 2018 NFL Draft, the #Dolphins selected Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) May 22, 2019
He posted an elite #RAS with great size, great speed, poor explosiveness, at the CB position.#Dolphins pic.twitter.com/dIg7E3hObG
He also checks the box of having elite college production. Plus, the value of developing under Nick Saban — the game’s preeminent mind on secondary play — can’t be understated.
Bottom line: Fitzpatrick has the tools and ability — which he flashed in his rookie season — to become a perennial Pro Bowler.
Yet, what makes the possibility of acquiring him so attractive — and why his price tag is likely to be a 2020 first round pick and possibly more — is the value of his contract.
According to overthecap.com, $10,042,012 of Fitpatrick’s fully-guaranteed, four-year $16,447,768 rookie contract was paid as a signing bonus. That’s just over 61%. When players are traded, signing bonus prorations stay with a player’s original team, meaning that any team receiving Fitzpartick would be getting him for less than 40 cents on the dollar.
If Fitzpatrick were acquired next week, the 2019 cap hit for his new team would be just $1,083,199. His 2020 cap hit would be a meager $1,975,252, and his cap hit in 2021 would be $2,722,878.
The organization receiving the 22-year-old corner would also have him under team control through the 2022 season after exercising his fifth-year option. And, they would receive a nice discount on it, since it would be calculated by taking the average of the third-highest through the 25th-highest salaries at the cornerback position from the previous season.
Had Fitzpatrick been drafted one spot earlier last spring, his 2022 fifth-year option would be calculated using the average of the top-ten highest cornerback salaries. That difference in 2019 would’ve been $3,749,000. However, given the explosive rise of the salary cap — and considering that stars like Jalen Ramsey are projected to blow to top off of the cornerback pay ceiling — that fifth-year option discount on Fitzpatrick could be significant.
[Cue ‘Belichick jogging out of tunnel’ gif]
Are the Patriots stacked at cornerback? Absolutely. But if there’s one thing Bill Belichick likes more than Super Bowl rings or perfectly-padded film breakdowns, its getting a discount on a premium, first-round talent. Add to it that Fitzpatrick comes from Saban’s program, can handle the slot and the boundary, and can provide safety help in a pinch, and it’s a perfect recipe.
“You say he’s versatile, but he wants to be traded because he’s playing too many positions!”
The important thing to remember is that not playing your favorite position on a tanking team who just got blown out by 49 points in their home opener is a hell of a lot different than not playing your favorite position for the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports.
He has the ability to play any position in the secondary. Would he in Foxborough? It depends on the status of their current personnel. In 2019, he’d play a mix of slot and boundary corner. But, he’s a chess piece, and if that chess piece is needed elsewhere, Bill would move him. Ultimately, he could be the perfect long-term replacement for Devin McCourty.
“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PRICE TAG?!?!”
Imagine rolling out Gilmore, Fitzpatrick, Jackson, Jones, and Williams as your cornerback group through 2021. Or, down the road, a starting secondary of Gilmore, Jackson, and Jones at corner, with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joejuan Williams starting at the safety spots. What would that be worth? A first round pick? More?
Look, the Patriots are, per usual, loaded with draft resources in 2020. Honestly, too much stock is put into the potential of draft picks to begin with. This is a rationale Bill Belichick has out on display consistently over the years by moving draft capital for pro personnel. And, let’s face it — an opportunity like this rarely presents itself.
If one thing is certain, it’s this:
Should Dolphins GM Chris Grier get a phone call from a number with a New England area code over the next couple of days, under no circumstances whosoever should he answer it.