Saints hedge on Jones: Compensation a roadblock
Patriots Notebook/by Kevin Mannix
Monday, March 24, 2003
PHOENIX - Day One of the NFL owners' meetings concluded yesterday and the first upset of the week is on the books - Tebucky Jones is still a Patriot and likely will stay that way.
``I don't think it's going to happen,'' said Jim Haslett, coach of the Saints, who are the only team to have publicly expressed interest in the veteran free safety to this point. ``We'd like to have him . . . definitely. Just not at the price they're insisting on.''
Though the Patriots said there have been ``no negotiations, none'' between them and any other team about Jones, several Saints sources indicated that the compensation issue has been established. If the Saints are willing to give up their second-round draft pick this year, Jones will be playing in New Orleans this year. The Saints, according to those same sources, are holding fast to their offer of a third-round pick this year.
``We're not going to (give up a second-round pick),'' said Haslett, who added that the Saints already began looking in another direction and are likely to sign a different free safety this week. ``We're not giving them what they're asking for and I don't think they're going to make the deal we want. We're moving on.''
Which might not be the case for Jones, unless a new interested party shows up at the owners' meetings or in the succeeding months.
Jones is the Patriots' ``franchise'' player, which means he can't sign as a free agent with any other team. If he's to go somewhere else, the Pats would have to trade him. He could still sign a long-term contract with the Pats, but the 1998 first-round draft pick is looking for a deal that will average around $4 million a year and the Pats don't think he's worth that kind of money.
They do, however, like him enough to make him their franchise player, which prevented him from attracting offers from other teams as an unrestricted free agent and leave with the Pats getting no compensation.
The Pats aren't bothered by the high price of their Big Nickel safety corps. They're committed to paying Jones $3 million this year and have Lawyer Milloy for large money ($5.6 million on this year's cap).
They also just signed former Charger strong safety Rodney Harrison to a six-year, $14.4 million contract that includes a $2.5 million signing bonus.
The Pats like Jones' ability to patrol the deep part of the field against the pass. They like his size and his work ethic. They don't like him enough to pay him ``franchise'' player money on a long-term basis, nor do they like the fact that Jones already put himself in the ``disruption'' category.
He said he doesn't want to play special teams anymore and that he's considering skipping the team's voluntary conditioning camp, which begins today in Foxboro.
Coach Bill Belichick doesn't take kindly to disruptive forces, even those who have been exemplary people and solid players during the course of their careers. That's why so many club executives at the owners' meetings think Jones is on Belichick's endangered list.
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