Rumormill: Dillon To Be Released?

Rumors and rumblings about who the Patriots are looking at and what they might do come Draft day continued to be the topic of discussion in Mobile Al, during Senior Bowl week. The one rumor that caught our attention was the one that mentioned Corey Dillon possibly being released due to old age and lack of productivity. PI takes a look at the Dillon situation, including feedback from Dillon's agent on his status.

Rumors continue to swirl that New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon will be released after the June 1st deadline in 2006. Dillon's production and nagging injuries have been the cause for the rumormongers to focus on the Pats' running back. They point to the fact that he's overpaid for his production and at the age of 31 he isn't likely to return to the career year he posted with the team in 2004.

Dillon joined the Patriots in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals after the 2003 season. Known for being dissatisfied in Cincinnati, and labeled a malcontent, the former University of Washington product put his nose to the grindstone in Foxboro saying all the right things and letting his play on the field do his talking for him. In 2004 Dillon turned in his best season ever. He turned in a career best 1,635-yard season, with a 4.7 yard-per-carry average. Big things were expected in 2005 from the Patriots record holder, but those big things turned out to be just a big disappointment.

In Cincinnati, Dillon had the benefit of running behind a number of top draft picks that could move the pile to clear space for him. Although he had to face the tough defenses of the Ravens and the Steelers for years, Dillon led a Bengals rushing attack, which forced opponents focus on stopping him or risk the consequences. The Bengals weren't adverse to drafting linemen in the first, second or third round of the draft.

Cincinnati's line knew how to pave the way for their feature back. The Denver Broncos found out the hard way what happens when the gameplan doesn't focus on stopping him. Dillon broke Walter Payton's single game rushing record in 2000 by blasting through the Broncos defense for 278 yards on 22 carries. The record is now second in NFL history, behind only Jamal Lewis' 295 yards set in 2003.

Dillon is a workhorse as far as running backs go. He grinds out the tough yards, many of which come after contact. Usually it takes more than one tackler to bring him down, and when he's headed for the sidelines, instead of stepping out of bounds, Dillon typically lowers his shoulder to deliver a blow to his would-be tackler. He's earned respect around the league for his running style and his ability to level opponents when he wants to.

In New England, Dillon seemed to find the perfect situation. He extolled the virtues of being in a fine organization with championship experience. No longer the only option on offense, Dillon could breathe a sigh of relief that he was on a team with Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, other playmakers who could turn the game around. Dillon's ability to churn out 4, 5 or more yards on a run caused Patriots opponents to focus on slowing him down by stacking the box. Teams would defend against Dillon by moving a safety closer to the line, which the Patriots countered with the play-action pass.

In 2005 many things changed for the Patriots offense. Charlie Weis was no longer around to do the play calling. The offensive line lost two of its starters and suffered through a rash of injuries. Two rookies were called on to man the left side while a backup stepped in at center and a part-time starter moved over to right tackle position. The changes impacted Dillon and the rest of the ground game. The Patriots dropped to 24th overall vs 7th in 2004.

Gone were the days of Dillon's lofty 4.5 yard-per-carry career average. 3.5 yards per carry became the norm. The line wasn't the only group to suffer injuries; Dillon had his own bout with nagging ankle and calf injuries that kept him out of four games completely, and on the sidelines at the start of two others. It was the most time he missed due to injury in his career, which is why the rumors have started.

The lack of production has raised some to question Dillon's ability to stay healthy through a season. The belief that most running backs decline in productivity after the age of 30 was one reason Dillon stopped talking to the media during his 2005 struggles. He would refer to himself as an "old man, " or in need of more Geritol, when reporters approached him in the locker room. Sensitive to the criticism, Dillon swore off the media for much of the 2005 season. When he did speak, typically it was in self-deprecating fashion. Frustrated at not being able to return, and faced with an onslaught of questions about his age, Dillon lost it in the locker room after the team's season finale against Miami - a game that Dillon sat out.

At 31, the prospect that the team might believe he's too old to be the main back, Dillon is facing more questions. Will he be around in 2006 or will the Patriots look for fresh young legs to carry the load?

Rumors have been rampant in league circles that the Patriots will try to unload Dillon this off-season to pursue a younger back. If they do dump him, it would have to be after June 1st, so the cap hit can be spread over more than one year.

If the team really wanted to dump him, then why would the Patriots renegotiate Dillon's deal last season in a contract that included a $3 million option? The deal, plus the incentive clauses build into his restructured contract guarantee him to earn a cool $6 million in 2006

The rumors of his departure persisted even in Mobile, where TFY Draft Preview heard from one source that the Patriots might still be looking to unload the aging veteran. The chances of that outcome happening look to be remote now. TFY reported that according to Dillon's agent Steve Feldman, Dillon's salary of $6 million for 2006 is guaranteed. Which means he probably isn't going anywhere, and the rumors are just that, rumors.

Although a $6 million hit on the bottom line isn't something that would sideline a profitable team like the Patriots, it isn't exactly chump change. The number isn't too big for the team to absorb and move forward, although with bloated contracts already on the books with Tom Brady, Willie McGinest and others, the Patriots need to reduce their cap charges not add to them.

If the Patriots were looking to move Dillon, then why were they scouting offensive linemen heavily during the Senior Bowl practices? And why didn't they talk to every running back at practice?

The Patriots have the 21st selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, and are expected to choose a player who can help protect Tom Brady while possessing the ability to deliver crushing blocks for the ground game. With a solid line the Patriots would not only protect their franchise quarterback, it would allow Dillon to return to the same dominating form he showed in 2004.

It looks more likely that the rumors are little more than some projecting that the Patriots will be like other teams - willing to unload a potentially productive player just because there's a question about their age. It's those same rumormongers who haven't looked into the Patriots situation deep enough to realize, Corey Dillon is still the best option for the team in 2006.

Drafts are notoriously difficult to predict, just ask Mel Kiper. Mock drafts out there run the gamut from predicting the Patriots will choose a defensive player for their secondary, a linebacker for the rush defense, a defensive lineman to backup Vince WIlfork to more offensive lineman. Few predict they will choose a running back of the right caliber to replace Dillon in 2006.


Jon Scott has been covering the NFL for over ten years. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association he is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, and has been a regular guest on other websites and radio programs. You can find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Jon Scott" or Send him an email here:

 


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Rumors continue to swirl that New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon will be released after the June 1st deadline in 2006. Dillon's production and nagging injuries have been the cause for the rumormongers to focus on the Pats' running back. They point to the fact that he's overpaid for his production and at the age of 31 he isn't likely to return to the career year he posted with the team in 2004.

Dillon joined the Patriots in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals after the 2003 season. Known for being dissatisfied in Cincinnati, and labeled a malcontent, the former University of Washington product put his nose to the grindstone in Foxboro saying all the right things and letting his play on the field do his talking for him. In 2004 Dillon turned in his best season ever. He turned in a career best 1,635-yard season, with a 4.7 yard-per-carry average. Big things were expected in 2005 from the Patriots record holder, but those big things turned out to be just a big disappointment.

In Cincinnati, Dillon had the benefit of running behind a number of top draft picks that could move the pile to clear space for him. Although he had to face the tough defenses of the Ravens and the Steelers for years, Dillon led a Bengals rushing attack, which forced opponents focus on stopping him or risk the consequences. The Bengals weren't adverse to drafting linemen in the first, second or third round of the draft.

Cincinnati's line knew how to pave the way for their feature back. The Denver Broncos found out the hard way what happens when the gameplan doesn't focus on stopping him. Dillon broke Walter Payton's single game rushing record in 2000 by blasting through the Broncos defense for 278 yards on 22 carries. The record is now second in NFL history, behind only Jamal Lewis' 295 yards set in 2003.

Dillon is a workhorse as far as running backs go. He grinds out the tough yards, many of which come after contact. Usually it takes more than one tackler to bring him down, and when he's headed for the sidelines, instead of stepping out of bounds, Dillon typically lowers his shoulder to deliver a blow to his would-be tackler. He's earned respect around the league for his running style and his ability to level opponents when he wants to.

In New England, Dillon seemed to find the perfect situation. He extolled the virtues of being in a fine organization with championship experience. No longer the only option on offense, Dillon could breathe a sigh of relief that he was on a team with Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, other playmakers who could turn the game around. Dillon's ability to churn out 4, 5 or more yards on a run caused Patriots opponents to focus on slowing him down by stacking the box. Teams would defend against Dillon by moving a safety closer to the line, which the Patriots countered with the play-action pass.

In 2005 many things changed for the Patriots offense. Charlie Weis was no longer around to do the play calling. The offensive line lost two of its starters and suffered through a rash of injuries. Two rookies were called on to man the left side while a backup stepped in at center and a part-time starter moved over to right tackle position. The changes impacted Dillon and the rest of the ground game. The Patriots dropped to 24th overall vs 7th in 2004.

Gone were the days of Dillon's lofty 4.5 yard-per-carry career average. 3.5 yards per carry became the norm. The line wasn't the only group to suffer injuries; Dillon had his own bout with nagging ankle and calf injuries that kept him out of four games completely, and on the sidelines at the start of two others. It was the most time he missed due to injury in his career, which is why the rumors have started.

The lack of production has raised some to question Dillon's ability to stay healthy through a season. The belief that most running backs decline in productivity after the age of 30 was one reason Dillon stopped talking to the media during his 2005 struggles. He would refer to himself as an "old man, " or in need of more Geritol, when reporters approached him in the locker room. Sensitive to the criticism, Dillon swore off the media for much of the 2005 season. When he did speak, typically it was in self-deprecating fashion. Frustrated at not being able to return, and faced with an onslaught of questions about his age, Dillon lost it in the locker room after the team's season finale against Miami - a game that Dillon sat out.

At 31, the prospect that the team might believe he's too old to be the main back, Dillon is facing more questions. Will he be around in 2006 or will the Patriots look for fresh young legs to carry the load?

Rumors have been rampant in league circles that the Patriots will try to unload Dillon this off-season to pursue a younger back. If they do dump him, it would have to be after June 1st, so the cap hit can be spread over more than one year.

If the team really wanted to dump him, then why would the Patriots renegotiate Dillon's deal last season in a contract that included a $3 million option? The deal, plus the incentive clauses build into his restructured contract guarantee him to earn a cool $6 million in 2006

The rumors of his departure persisted even in Mobile, where TFY Draft Preview heard from one source that the Patriots might still be looking to unload the aging veteran. The chances of that outcome happening look to be remote now. TFY reported that according to Dillon's agent Steve Feldman, Dillon's salary of $6 million for 2006 is guaranteed. Which means he probably isn't going anywhere, and the rumors are just that, rumors.

Although a $6 million hit on the bottom line isn't something that would sideline a profitable team like the Patriots, it isn't exactly chump change. The number isn't too big for the team to absorb and move forward, although with bloated contracts already on the books with Tom Brady, Willie McGinest and others, the Patriots need to reduce their cap charges not add to them.

If the Patriots were looking to move Dillon, then why were they scouting offensive linemen heavily during the Senior Bowl practices? And why didn't they talk to every running back at practice?

The Patriots have the 21st selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, and are expected to choose a player who can help protect Tom Brady while possessing the ability to deliver crushing blocks for the ground game. With a solid line the Patriots would not only protect their franchise quarterback, it would allow Dillon to return to the same dominating form he showed in 2004.

It looks more likely that the rumors are little more than some projecting that the Patriots will be like other teams - willing to unload a potentially productive player just because there's a question about their age. It's those same rumormongers who haven't looked into the Patriots situation deep enough to realize, Corey Dillon is still the best option for the team in 2006.

Drafts are notoriously difficult to predict, just ask Mel Kiper. Mock drafts out there run the gamut from predicting the Patriots will choose a defensive player for their secondary, a linebacker for the rush defense, a defensive lineman to backup Vince WIlfork to more offensive lineman. Few predict they will choose a running back of the right caliber to replace Dillon in 2006.


Jon Scott has been covering the NFL for over ten years. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association he is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider, and has been a regular guest on other websites and radio programs. You can find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Jon Scott" or Send him an email here:

 

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