NFL Free Agency 2011: Patriots Throw Big Money At...Shaun Ellis?!

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2011

Shaun Ellis gets a big payday for his one-game heroics against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Shaun Ellis gets a big payday for his one-game heroics against Tom Brady and the Patriots.Al Bello/Getty Images

When word came out on Sunday that the Patriots had plucked veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis away from the rival New York Jets, I was satisfied with the move from New England’s perspective mainly for two reasons. 

First, the Patriots add much-welcomed depth to the defensive line—a line that has transformed from a position of weakness to that of strength in a matter of a few weeks, thanks to the additions of Ellis, Mark Anderson, Albert Haynesworth, and Gerard Warren.

Second, if this acquisition does nothing, it does at the very least agitate Rex Ryan—something many football fans don’t mind seeing.  But after learning that the Patriots gave Ellis a one-year deal supposedly worth up to $4 million, my reaction over the move quickly went from satisfied to baffled.

Now just for the record, I don’t hate the move.  Anybody and everybody could tell you that going into the 2011 season, New England needed to shore up its defensive front after it was gutted in 2010 to the point where Vince Wilfork was playing significant snaps at defensive end.

But does anybody find it odd that while the Patriots lavished Ellis in green, the Jets did next to nothing to try and keep him in green?  Word is New York offered Ellis a one-year contract for the league veteran minimum of $900,000.

After hearing the Patriots offered Ellis more money, I figured “more” equated to a salary of roughly $1.5 million, maybe—maybe—$2 million.  But was $4 million really needed to seal the deal?  Especially given how evidently unwilling the Jets were in trying to retain Ellis?

And given New York’s unwillingness to give Ellis more than NFL minimum wage, doesn’t that give away the fact that the Jets felt Ellis had nothing left to offer them?  If that doesn’t give it away, then consider that they’re willing to go with an unproven rookie in first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson as Ellis’ replacement.

This comes despite the fact Wilkerson built up little hype in the draft and will be expected to instantly contribute, even though the lockout has made the learning curve for him (and all other rookies) steeper than ever.

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick is willing to give Ellis quadruple what the Jets offered, even when many Gang Green observers will tell you his play in 2010 was underwhelming to the point where his best (and, quite frankly, only good) performance came against the Patriots in last season’s AFC Divisional round.

So now Belichick is throwing big money at someone based on the small sample of one impressive game?  I thought Al Davis was the only executive who made player personnel moves like that (see Larry Brown and Desmond Howard in the late 1990s), and his track record as of late doesn’t exactly inspire greatness.

Of course, just like every other offseason move Belichick has made so far, this one is in the “low risk, high reward” category.  I doubt much (if any) of Ellis’ $4 million salary in 2011 is guaranteed, so if he underwhelms again, he can be cut instantly without harm or foul.

And that’s mostly why I don’t “hate” the deal, I’m just puzzled that Belichick would pony up that much loot to land Ellis—especially considering pass-rushing linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was released because he was making similar money.