FOXBORO, Mass. — With the way Bill Belichick spoke about Kyle Arrington on Tuesday, it’s no wonder the Patriots gave the cornerback a four-year, $16 million contract.
That contract came as a surprise to some, especially since Aqib Talib only got one year and $5 million from the team. But it shouldn’t have been a shock. Arrington is a valuable player to the Patriots who offers a ton of versatility. Arrington is a quality special teamer who excels covering the slot, but can kick outside at a moment’s notice.
The fifth-year player has been playing inside and outside this summer. He’s been taking more reps outside since Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard went down with injuries.
“Kyle is one of our hardest working players,” Belichick said. “He’s been a very dependable and durable player that’s been out there a lot. He’s taken a lot of snaps. He’s come a long way from the practice squad to playing corner to playing inside in the nickel position. He’s always had a strong role in the kicking game. His reads and techniques and communication and overall understanding of what we’re doing and what our opponents are doing has improved every year.”
Arrington went undrafted out of Hofstra in 2008, but caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles, spending the season on the team’s practice squad. He was signed by the Buccaneers in 2009 off Philadelphia’s practice squad before he was released by Tampa Bay and swooped up by New England. The Patriots have held on to him ever since and Belichick said Arrington has grown “a ton” since 2009.
“His game is improved and his responsibilities have expanded as well,” Belichick said. “He’s a lot more valuable to us now than he was obviously when he came here but even progressively each year he continues to I’d say, expand his value to the team because of his performance, improvement and also his versatility.”
Arrington is one of the shining examples of a player who went undrafted, bounced around a few teams, then finally made an impact when given an opportunity. Arrington led the NFL in interceptions in 2011 with seven, but came up empty in 2012. “You hate to throw gutter balls after throwing a strike,” Arrington said about his lack of picks last season.
“It’s perseverance,” Arrington said about his journey from going undrafted in 2008 to being primed for a starting role today. “A matter of knowing what I was capable of. Then, being part of such a standout organization from top to bottom. Bill, he’s definitely one of those coaches, where if you’re good enough, whatever role you carve out for yourself, it’s one that you deserve.”
Arrington said going undrafted and being an “under the radar type of guy” coming out of high school has put a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s just a natural chip that’s placed on your shoulder as far as being overlooked, not really getting the opportunity you’ve always felt like you’ve deserved,” Arrington said. “It’s one of those things that makes you work harder, to prove yourself moreso, whatever you do. It doesn’t even have to be football.”
Arrington has worn three different uniform numbers with the Patriots. He was No. 27 in 2009, No. 24 from 2010-12 and now he’s wearing No. 25. Arrington joked he was determined to make his mark somehow.
“If there was one thing I was trying to do, it was, in that fact be a pioneer,” Arrington said. “If i wasn’t going to do anything else in the league, I was going to be the only one to accomplish something.
“You’ve never seen someone wear multiple different numbers with the same team.”
Arrington’s perseverance has paid off to the tune of $16 million. Arrington said the best way to describe the feeling of receiving that contract is that it’s nice to be wanted. From coming out of college to coming out of high school, Arrington probably didn’t feel wanted very often. But as Belichick said, Arrington has worked hard.