The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if there is more than meets the eye to the New England Patriots signing former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
With the Patriots, it seems like there’s always more than meets the eye.
Sure, New England has had some injury issues with its receiving core. Brandon LaFell remains on the physically unable to perform list, and Aaron Dobson has been sidelined by a hamstring injury the last two weeks. Julian Edelman has been out since Aug. 2 with a leg injury, although he is still expected to be ready for Week 1.
And Wayne has had a stellar career. But is that career over?
Last year he caught 64 passes for 779 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Not terrible. He can still catch the ball. But he has clearly lost a step or two from his heyday. Even a casual fan could see that last season. And at 36 years old, he’s not getting any faster.
There’s a reason the Colts cut Wayne loose after last year, and there was no rush by any other team to sign him. He simply can’t run fast enough to get open and he certainly can’t run fast enough to run away from anybody once he catches the ball. Wayne hasn’t been near his best since 2012.
So for the Patriots, why sign Wayne now? There will certainly be younger and faster wide receivers available—if not now, then when the 32 NFL teams cut their rosters from 90 to 75 players on Sept. 1 and then to 53 players a few days after that.
Yes, the Patriots have had some success bringing in older, established players. But not ones as far past their primes as Wayne.
Is this about DeflateGate? Although I’m fairly certain Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick still have steam coming out of their ears over the Colts’ role in that fiasco, I don’t think that has anything to do with this decision.
I do think there’s a solid chance the Patriots have identified the Colts as their biggest obstacle to returning to the Super Bowl.
What better way to learn something they don’t already know about the Colts than by bringing in a guy who’s been there 14 years?
You could say the Patriots don’t need any inside information to beat the Colts. After all, New England shellacked Indy 45-7 in the AFC championship game last season.
But Belichick never stops looking at every angle for every advantage he can get. That’s one of the things that makes him great. He scours the rulebook and scrutinizes opponents for the least little thing he can use to his advantage.
So who’s to say he won’t bring in Wayne and pump him for all the information he can get on the Colts?
Maybe the Patriots are just playing mind games with the Colts. Or signed Wayne out of spite. Who knows?
Wayne thinks he’s getting a second chance at another season in the NFL. And I hope he’s right. But I think it’s just as likely he’s nothing more than a pawn to be sacrificed in Belichick’s relentless battle for supremacy.