It has been discussed, debated, analyzed and over-analyzed over the last two-plus weeks: Was acquiring Albert Haynesworth a good move by Bill Belichick?
While the answer to that question remains to be seen, most skeptics still are unsure of whether or not the 330-pounder is completely sold on being a part of this team. Once voted the most dominant defensive player in the NFL, most teams were reluctant to bring him aboard considering his on-and-off-the-field baggage.
While that is understandable, there is a reason Belichick traded for him. He knows he can use the raw talent Haynesworth still has to build a solid defensive line. Here is a look at the top three reasons he is an absolute genius for bringing Albert Haynesworth to New England.
Let's face it. When motivated – keyword: motivated – Albert Haynesworth can be one of the most feared defensive linemen in football.
In his final two years with the Tennessee Titans, he recorded 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Upon free agency, it quickly became apparent that he would command top dollar, eventually signing a seven-year, $100 million ($41 million guaranteed) contract with the Washington Redskins.
After he overstayed his welcome in the nation's capital, he was traded to New England on July 28 for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft. Yes, you read that correctly. At first I was skeptical about the move, but I was quickly reminded of the phrase "In Belichick we trust" and was comforted soon after.
The Patriots gave up virtually nothing for the former defensive standout, and have almost nothing to lose. It is a classic low-risk-high-reward scenario. If Haynesworth gets his act together and buys into the "Patriot way" then Belichick (as usual) will be perceived as a genius.
If he ends up putting himself ahead of the team, New England can cut him and suffer almost no backlash. It's a win-win situation.
During his time in Washington, Haynesworth was a highly controversial figure. He failed his strength and conditioning test one year, and in another he was suspended by Mike Shanahan for conduct detrimental to the team. The chances of him repeating those offenses in New England are slim to none.
Unlike Jim Zorn and maybe Mike Shanahan, Bill Belichick is a no-nonsense head coach. He has previously brought in disgruntled players such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, who were presumed to be on the downside of their careers at the time. He ended up resurrecting both players' careers, returning them to Pro Bowl, and form. There is no reason to believe he won't do the same with Albert Haynesworth.
Haynesworth has already said to the media that he is putting his past behind him, and that he is ready to take up his next challenge as a New England Patriot. The new acquisition insists that he is now focused and ready for the task at hand: chasing a Super Bowl title. Why should we believe him?
Well, in the two-and-a-half weeks that he has been here, he has already restructured his contract to clear salary cap space for New England to pursue additional free agents. If that doesn't sound like a changed man, I don't know what does. However we will have to wait for the season to begin to really assess how committed Albert Haynesworth is to being a part of this football team.
Albert Haynesworth has said on numerous occasions that one of the reasons he frequently clashed with defensive assistants in Washington was because of the schemes they ran. During his time with the Redskins, the team primarily employed a 3-4 front on defense with Haynesworth as the nose tackle. It was a change that didn't come easily to him since he played his entire career successfully in a 4-3 with Tennessee.
That was why so many New England fans scratched their heads when the acquisition was made. He did not seem to fit into the 3-4 base defense Bill Belichick has used for years. After veteran defensive end Ty Warren was released, he hinted that the Patriots would be changing things up on defense, telling espnboston.com's Mike Reiss, "I think it looks like they’re trying to get away from the 3-4."
That in itself exemplifies the way Bill Belichick thinks: instead of making the player conform to a defense he is uncomfortable with, make the necessary adjustments to fit the players needs. That is exactly what he seems to be doing -- changing the Patriots base defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. By doing this, Vince Wilfork and Haynesworth could potentially combine to create one of the best defensive-line duos in the NFL, and could considerably improve New England's run defense. With two guys of that size plugging up the A and B gaps, most running backs will have no choice but to bounce to the outside on running plays.