Wide receiver Torry Holt, who inked with New England last month, mentioned all three of those reasons when explaining why he signed with the Patriots. But as it turned out, running back Kevin Faulk might have been equally as important. Faulk and Holt have known each other since the pre-draft process in 1999, and the longtime Patriot put his recruiting skills on display.
“[Holt] actually called me up before he signed and was like, ‘Hey look, the Patriots are interested in me. I’m interested in y’all. I just need to know about the organization, players and everything,'” Faulk recalled. ‘And we talked for about 15-20 minutes, and that was it from there, and now here he is.”
Players such as Holt aren’t going to blow up the free-agent market at this stage in their career. Holt, for instance, was looking at a fairly restricted contract as he signed for one year and $1.7 million, which was likely comparable to anything he would have gotten elsewhere. So for him, the intangibles turn into the tiebreaker.
Each situation differs, but a signing could hinge on team location, opportunities, a chance to win or connections to the roster. Player-to-player recruiting is nothing new, but it clearly pays for a team to have a few champions of popularity contests.
“If they don’t call you, you’ll probably call them,” Faulk said of the recruiting process. “Like when Randy [Moss] came [in 2007, Tedy] Bruschi called. Then Bruschi gave me his number, and I called. It’s just how stuff works out because it’s a team. We’re building a team, so we’re family now. We just want to bring that warmth in.”
As Faulk put it, one call can’t completely change someone’s mind, but the sales pitch can at least help to sway an opinion or confirm something they already might believe. The Patriots have the reputation around the NFL as an organization that is run by a first-class owner who is committed to winning.
That messages filters through the front office, the coaching staff and the players, and potential signees just want to hear someone like Faulk reaffirm those beliefs. Holt asked Faulk about guys in the locker room, the dedication to winning and Brady’s working relationship with his wide receivers. Clearly, Holt was happy with what he heard.
“They’re just asking the questions, and he’ll make a decision from there,” Faulk said. “But I’m pretty sure pretty much most of the time before they call, they’ve already got their mind made up on what they’re going to do or which direction they’re going to go. It’s just the fact of insuring it.”