The Patriots pulled a pretty surprising move late Tuesday afternoon when they claimed injured tight end Jake Ballard off waivers from the New York Giants.
Tom Coughlin and the Giants waived Ballard, who is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in Super Bowl XLVI last February, to make room on the roster to sign defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, and it backfired when the Patriots surprisingly snatched him up.
The Giants were hoping that Ballard would clear waivers and then be placed on the team’s PUP/reserve list, as he is expected to miss all of the upcoming season while he recovers from microfracture knee surgery.
I really like this move by Bill Belichick and the Patriots for two reasons. One, because it’s pretty much a slap in the face to the Giants, who I probably don’t have to remind you have beaten the Pats in their last two Super Bowl appearances.
The G-Men just assumed that the rest of the league would be polite and let Ballard pass through waivers like they wanted, except they forgot that Belichick doesn’t care about being polite. If he thinks a move makes sense, he’s going to make it.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he doesn’t think that other teams need to show a certain amount of professional courtesy knowing that the Giants were trying to make a roster move with an injured player who is not expected to play this season, but you could tell he was still very disappointed that the Patriots snatched Ballard:
“Discouraged is a minor description,” Coughlin said Wednesday when asked how discouraging the news was when he learned of it during minicamp practice Tuesday afternoon. “Very disappointing. I am not going to have a lot to say about that one, just the fact that we are disappointed. We are very disappointed.” (ESPN)
Belichick also stated that he didn’t think he had broken an unwritten rule by claiming Ballard:
“The player is on waivers, he’s on waivers — ours or anybody else’s. I don’t know what unwrittens you’re talking about. …
“Any time you put a player on waivers, you know there are 31 teams out there that can take him if they want him. We all know that. There is no secret about that.” (ESPN)
Okay, so both guys recognize that the move was completely within the rules. But the move still has to really sting for the Giants, especially because it’s the Patriots, who are by far the league’s deepest team at the tight end position already. I love that.
The second reason I really like this move is because Ballard is really good player. The second-year tight end had a breakout season in 2011-2012, catching 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns before being slowed by injuries down the stretch of the season. You may remember that one of those touchdown catches was a game-winner with :15 seconds left against the Patriots in Week 9 of the regular season.
Obviously, picking up Ballard is a move for the future by Patriots. Though Ballard won’t play in 2012, he is expected to be ready to go by the start of the 2013 season, when he’ll have a chance to work in three tight end sets behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. That could be extremely dangerous for the Pats’ offense, especially moving towards the goal line.
Ballard is under contract for the next two seasons and is due to make just over $1 million. The Patriots will have to eat Ballard’s $540,000 salary this season but they obviously see it as a worthy cost to what he can offer this team moving forward.