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Former Patriots WR Reggie Wayne says Bill Belichick let him keep his signing bonus

And the bonus wasn’t small potatoes either.

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New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It should tell you exactly what you need to know about how long Reggie Wayne lasted with the New England Patriots that when I fired up the ol’ image search machine we use for article photos and looked up “Reggie Wayne Patriots”.....there isn’t one.

Put another way, the Pats twitter joke “Patriots Legend _______ ______” basically fits Reggie like custom Cutters.

Those of you with sharp memories will remember that approximately 38 years ago in August 2015, the Patriots inked a 36-year-old Reggie Wayne to a one-year Belichick Special deal worth up to $3,000,000.00. And while if we’re being real about it, expectations for what he could do at that point for an inevitable Hall of Famer on the 18th green of his career were probably WR3/4 at best, based on the roster at the time featuring prime Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski , Danny Amendola, and Brandon LaFell, not to mention a high-upside Aaron Dobson... you know, the guys that had powered the offense to a legendary Super Bowl the season before.

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

So a classic Belichick no-risk, possible-extremely-high-upside veteran signing, right? Sort of; even though the contract amount wasn’t that high for a (probably) early-ballot Hall of Famer, it did include a $450,000.00 signing bonus. Which, as all you salary cap nerds are already aware, is fully guaranteed money.

As it turns out, Wayne almost made it 2 weeks with the Patriots before deciding “I’ve made a huge mistake” and asked for his release from the team on September 5, 2015. The team obliged, and that was that, Reggie’s potential with the Patriots lost to the sands of time, a Wiki footnote in a season that ended in a brutally disappointing fashion in NightmareVille, Colorado.

Fast forward to summer of 2020 (present day if you’ve lost track), and Reggie Wayne revealed that despite how short his time in New England was, even though he offered to return that $450,000 bonus, Bill told him to keep it and not sweat about it.

From NBC Sports Boston:

“I went up to him and I said, ‘Hey, this is what it is. I know got a signing bonus. I’ll give it back, no biggie,” Wayne said on the ”Hellipod” podcast with NFL Media’s Dan Hellie. ”Bill Belichick told me to keep it, man. Told me to keep it. I’m like, ‘Hey, you ain’t got to bend my arm back twice.’ He told me to keep it. And that was love, man. And I always had respect for him. I’ve heard people and seen stuff that he’s done on camera of his respect for me, and maybe that was just his sign of appreciation. We had a lot of battles against that team, so he told me to keep it. We kept it in the bank. I appreciate it. Hey, the best job ever.”

For what it’s worth, this is also pretty funny: on the same podcast, Wayne says he had no problem working out for the Patriots before signing his deal, but the Lions asking for a workout? F that noise.

“I said, ‘Work out? You the Detroit Lions. Wait. Work out? I’m good.’ Like, I can give you — I got 14 years of working out that you can see,” Wayne said. “So I was like, ‘Nah, I’m cool.’

“Before I get there, Bill Belichick says, ‘Hey, Reg, you got to work out,’ ” Wayne recalled. “So I said, ‘All right. You Bill Belichick, all right, I’ll work out for you. Y’all New England. OK, I’ll work out for New England.’

“So I get out there, they had some other guys there working out, but I didn’t work out with those guys, so I already felt like, OK, this is some ball stuff right here. So I worked out by myself and Tom Brady is the one throwing me the passes. So I went out there and I had a pretty good workout. They ended up signing me third week into the preseason.”

The respect is obviously very much mutual, as it frequently is with players that regularly torment Bill throughout their careers.

Also, on the “respect” subject, for as much sh*t as Belichick gets for being a notorious tightwad, not only do anecdotes like this pop up every once in a while, the Patriots are also one of several teams that’ll look at proven vets that just barely miss their contract incentives and go “eh, close enough” and pay ‘em anyway. A couple recent cases in point include RB James White and DT Lawrence Guy after the pair were *this* close to hitting their incentives after the 2018 season, paying Sweet Feet an extra $250,000 and Guy $400,000, and while the Google-machine fails me with finding other examples, it’s definitely not the first time the team’s done this.

Insert this story in your “Actually, Bill Belichick is pretty cool and not a jerk like most people think” quiver as you see fit.