When free-agent wide receiver Stevie Johnson elected to sign with the San Diego Chargers over the New England Patriots Tuesday, it marked another player who passed on the recruiting pitch of Bill Belichick and the New England staff. The list has been growing in recent days.
Linebacker Andrew Gachkar chose the Cowboys over the Patriots. Defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker picked Detroit over New England.
All three had been brought to town for visits.
We don't know how serious the Patriots were about running back Reggie Bush, but there was enough interest to also bring him to town for a visit. Bush chose San Francisco.
Meanwhile, franchise stalwart Vince Wilfork said leaving for Houston instead of sticking around was one of the hardest decisions he's had to make.
Add it up and the defending Super Bowl champs have been a bit jilted, leading some to ask the question: Is there any reason for concern that a handful of players are electing to play somewhere else?
Mainly, the answer from here is "no."
It's not as if the Patriots haven't scored a few notable hits, with defensive end/outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard and tight end Scott Chandler their two best. They also re-signed safety Devin McCourty, which might be the most important move of all this offseason.
Every decision for a free agent is personal. For Gachkar, for example, his wife had ties to the Dallas area and that was a factor in his decision. For Walker, he said it was in part because of a scheme preference in Detroit. We obviously know about cornerback Darrelle Revis (Jets) and running back Shane Vereen (Giants) electing for the most bottom-line security, as is their right.
As for the Patriots, perhaps more than anything, the sense from here is that their salary-cap situation -- with an eye toward the future and some potential big deals on the horizon for the likes of left tackle Nate Solder, defensive end Chandler Jones, and linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins -- has them in a mode where they are not as flexible to win a free-agent bidding competition with another team. Part of this was a result of using some of 2015's cap to build the best team in 2014 (e.g., a $5 million charge for Revis), and that strategy obviously paid off.