If Thursday's allegations prove to be nothing more than an annoying wet blanket, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has no reason to be upset with safety Brandon Meriweather.
Even Belichick, who walks the tightest of lines when it comes to off-field controversy, can't fault Meriweather for looking like the victim of hasty allegations. Of course, the story has yet to fully unfold, but when something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, more often than not, it's a duck.
Meriweather has had an up-and-down four-year tenure with the Patriots, and he hit his low point early in the 2010 season when his playing time decreased after he admitted he wasn't practicing well. He also faced a ton of heat for a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap, which resulted in a $40,000 fine.
At his best, Meriweather looked like a budding star in 2009, when he earned his first Pro Bowl bid. He was explosive, found the ball through the air and on the ground, and he was displaying the potential to be the next big-time safety out of Miami.
Meriweather is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, and his 2011 salary is $1.65 million. Considering his ceiling, that's a very affordable price tag, but the Patriots have two other potential starters in Patrick Chung and James Sanders, as well as some other young talent with Jarrad Page (restricted free agent), Sergio Brown, Bret Lockett and Josh Barrett.
Obviously, the Patriots won't keep seven safeties, and four is a more ideal number. It's unclear if Belichick has Meriweather in his long-term plans, but if he doesn't anticipate Meriweather being around for at least one more contract, it wouldn't be shocking to see them go in a new direction prior to the 2011 season.
Some league sources believe Meriweather's trade value would be worthy of a third-round draft pick — maybe, maybe a second-rounder — and that shouldn't be enough to entice the Patriots to part ways with the 2007 first-rounder.
Meriweather still has some tremendous on-field potential, even if he took a step back in 2010. Thursday's allegations — as they currently stand — shouldn't change his reputation.
Should the Patriots keep Brandon Meriweather through the final year of his contract? Leave your thoughts below.
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