On Monday the New England Patriots claimed running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers and released linebacker Josh Hull to create room on their roster. Gaffney, a sixth-round pick (204th overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 draft, suffered a torn left meniscus in practice over the weekend. The Panthers hoped they could sneak Gaffney onto the team’s injured reserve after they waived him on Sunday with an injury designation. Whoops.
This isn’t the first time the Patriots have done this. They claimed TE Jake Ballard off waivers from the New York Giants in similar fashion in 2012, which upset the Giants organization. At that time there was some talk about the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick breaking some “unwritten rule” by claiming Ballard off waivers. Now people are saying the Patriots broke this “unwritten rule” again.
To go all Mike Ditka on them — “Stop it.”
If a player is on waivers, then he’s on waivers and he’s fair game. The goal of each team is to put themselves in a position to win consistently in both the short term and long term, not to try to make other teams happy. The Patriots didn’t break any rules here. A player who they were interested in became available and they grabbed him. This is incredibly intelligent of the Patriots’ front office. They understand the contracts of running backs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are all up after the 2014 season. Gaffney won’t play in 2014 (he will have season-ending knee surgery), but the Patriots are exploring different options for the future at the running back position. The Patriots most likely plan to keep Gaffney on their 90-man roster before moving him to IR once rosters are reduced and a player doesn’t have to go through waivers. They will end up paying Gaffney his base salary of $420,000 for 2014 for the opportunity to work with him in 2015 at a base salary of $510,000.
This is a very low risk, possibly high reward move by the Patriots. Gaffney, who is 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds, played well at Stanford last season, carrying the ball 330 times for 1,709 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. If he recovers from his knee surgery he could certainly be a really nice addition to the roster for the 2015 season.
If people in the NFL don’t like this, then they should write an actual rule. Until then, there is nothing wrong with what the Patriots did.