New England Patriots: What Does Latest Brandon Meriweather Shooting News Mean?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 21, 2011

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 24:  Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New England Patriots warms up against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 24, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It's been a tough past six months to be Brandon Meriweather.

Just last summer, the training camp chirp was about defensive leaders stepping up, and Meriweather was expected to be one of those leaders. He was excited for the role, too, even gushing to NFL Network's Michael Lombardi that he was honored to be considered a leader of the defense.

But from the buzz that he was "freelancing" and subsequently lost starts, to the helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap that opened the flood gate of new contact rules, and finally his selection as the MDP (most dubious pick) for the 2011 Pro Bowl, it was a tough season and postseason for Meriweather.

All the while, he has remained the constant topic of trade discussion. Those who don't think he will be traded know that he won't be re-signed when his contract expires after 2011.

Adding fuel to the fire, Meriweather was reportedly involved in a shooting in Orlando, Fla. several weeks ago. At first, he was a peacekeeper. Then, word broke that he was actually the shooter.

Monday, the dust settled and all was clarified by Meriweather's attorney Adam Swickle, who told's Jeff Howe, "It's very, very clear that Meriweather had nothing to do with this shooting."

In fact, the attorney goes as far as to tell Howe that Meriweather, "acted in a peacekeeping mission, trying to keep people from fighting regarding an incident he had nothing to do with."

So what does this mean for his time with the Patriots?

In terms of remaining a Patriot, Meriweather is the benefactor of his small contract. As odd as that may sound, it doesn't make sense for the Patriots to get rid of his base $650,000 salary for 2011 in favor of a safety that doesn't have experience in the system.

In this case, it may be better to go with the devil you know than the devil you don't know.

Sure, this might help Meriweather change the "bad boy" background he's developed ever since his days at "The U," but ultimately, if he was in the dog house with Belichick before, this news probably doesn't help him.

Is it possible, though, that Meriweather's trade value has actually gone up now? Before, when it was perceived he might be a perpetrator in the shooting, it was widely accepted that he could no longer be traded. Now that he is known as the peacemaker in this scenario, other teams might actually find a benefit in trading for him.

In this scenario, he was the upstanding citizen. He was the good Samaritan.

If the Patriots got rid of Meriweather, they'd have to find someone to step in quickly.

There are some developmental prospects to be had at the safety position in this draft, but not much "packaged talent." Although the Patriots may be in search of their next elite prospect at safety, with Meriweather possibly (read: likely) out the door by the end of 2012, the team would be wise to add depth.

They can't wait on a miracle with Meriweather. Will he suddenly just get it under the tutelage of Matt Patricia?

Of course, only time would tell the answer to that. But why take the chance?

There are a few depth players available in the mid-round area of the draft. Names like Ahmad Black of Florida and Jaicquawn Jarrett of Temple have been linked to the Patriots via workouts and coaching relationships.

If Belichick thinks they can contribute enough to warrant the selection, it's worth making the pick. Even if they're not three-down guys.

Who knows, maybe the Patriots have been targeting UCLA safety Rahim Moore? He's widely considered the top safety prospect in the draft and looks like a fit for the Patriots secondary.

According to the scouting report on him from ESPN's Scouts, Inc., he is at his best when he's allowed to watch the quarterback's eyes and attack the ball. It was in this way that Moore was able to log 14 interceptions in his college career, including 10 in 2009 alone. The Patriots have always loved ball-hawking safeties—in fact, Meriweather is a prime example.

Moore was a team captain, and if you followed the Patriots on draft day in 2010, it appears that may have become a big bonus in the background of a potential prospect.

He appears to have a high football IQ with his ability to quickly diagnose plays and his excellent natural instincts. An interview would reveal a lot, though, and in the end, only Belichick will know the answers.

That goes for Brandon Meriweather's future, too.