The Fine Print in Foxboro

If there's one thing for certain in New England, Bill Belichick does not negotiate with terrorists. You won't find players holding the team hostage with contract demands, you won't find them throwing wrenches into the plan with their trade demands. Bill Belichick is old school. To paraphrase a former viral video, "He ain't got time for that."

When it comes to the likes of N'Keal Harry, most fans have turned on him. Some with good reason, some with just what the internet has told them. The truth is, Harry has underperformed when healthy. His fellow draftees have outperformed him and then some, making the decision stand out that much more. It's well noted that Belichick ignored his scouting department to take Harry based on his college coach and interview portion. Harry was dominant at Arizona State. Harry looked like a future stud in the NFL, and who knows, he may just become one...

BUT he won't get there with his agent not placing blame on N'Keal for his own shortcomings. Harry has dealt with injuries in his first couple years, but when healthy, has he stood out? Not really. A flash here and there. Is Harry solely to blame? No. Tom Brady was checked out by his last year, which coincided with Harry's rookie year where he missed most of the season. Cam Newton was coming back from injury and his arm has not looked even half as good as it once was. But was it the coaches' fault? It could be. The Patriots are known for having a complicated system. They work on execution. They work on being in the right spot, at the right time, like it's designed. But they also expect every player to adapt to the team instead of the team adapting to a certain player's strengths. At 6'4, N'Keal should and probably would excel at jump balls. He has enough muscle to get physical with corners at the top of routes. But that's never really been what the Patriots offense has been about. Randy Moss is also 6'4, but the difference is, Moss could always separate and his QB was an extreme peak Tom Brady. N'Keal Harry is not Randy Moss. Expecting him to be a Moss or D.K. Metcalf is out of the question. But the Patriots could use N'Keal the way he could actually excel in and nobody probably would've batted an eye.

It's still not all the Patriots fault. The routes that Harry is asked to run, the chances he is given, he should've taken advantage of. Plain and simple. Josh McDaniels is pretty well known for his playcalling. It seems it barely changes from week to week. Start with a screen play to the RB or a run right up the middle sound familiar? It's fine. McDaniels isn't innocent in this, neither is Belichick. Is there still something to salvage out of N'Keal Harry? Maybe. It would have to involve changing the offense enough to give him more chances at 50/50 balls. Personally, this author believes Harry would be better with Mac Jones than with Cam considering the accuracy Jones has displayed. Will it be salvageable in New England? Maybe. Maybe not. Requesting a trade publicly probably won't sit well with the hoodie sitting in the office, we Patriots prefer to handle our business mafia style. Behind closed doors.

But what about Stephon Gilmore? He's publicly noted that he's not among the highest paid corners, why does he get a pass? Because he's an All-Pro, former Defensive Player of the Year, who is still among the best corners in the entire NFL. If it was J.C. Jackson, then it might be a different story. Gilmore has earned some leeway to make a case for a better contract. The Patriots made no moves to add a corner to take his place, unlike at WR where they added two players who can actually get some separation alongside Jakobi Meyers. Will Gilmore return to the Defensive Player of the Year form after coming off an injury and reaching his 30's? Most likely not. But will he still be able to hold down who ever he covers? Most likely.

Will N'Keal be able to separate from corners magically? Most likely not. Is there a way to change his fortune and make him serviceable? Most likely.

Bill Belichick has a few decisions coming down the pipeline. The Patriots are reportedly going to meet with Gilmore before training camp in a couple weeks to try to figure that out. Will Bill be willing to dump Harry for what will probably be a late draft pick? Will Harry want to stay to try to prove himself if he doesn't get shipped off somewhere else? There are a lot of questions heading into training camp. The excitement of the offseason is about to ramp up.

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