NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Jets have been in the forefront during this NFL free-agent frenzy period. They agreed on a five-year deal with wide receiver Santonio Holmes on Wednesday and are gunning after top cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
But don’t look now, here come the Patriots.
Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco are headed to New England — and “The Patriot Way” will be tested once again.
After a season-long feud with Washington coach Mike Shanahan, the 335-pound Haynesworth was traded to the Patriots on Thursday for a fifth-round draft choice in 2013. Haynesworth will team with Vince Wilfork to give New England a formidable defensive line.
Later Thursday, the Patriots obtained Ochocinco from Cincinnati and gave the wide receiver a new three-year contract. It was not known what the Bengals received.
The outspoken Ochocinco and reticent Patriots coach Bill Belichick have opposite public images. But they have developed a friendship, in part from interacting at Pro Bowl practices.
“I like Chad,” Belichick said before last year’s season opener between the teams. “An odd couple, but in the end I think we have a lot of things in common.”
Ochocinco returned the compliment: “He became a friend of mine. He has a lot of respect for me in my game and I have a lot of respect for him in everything he’s done as a coach.”
Two defensive linemen who could be starting alongside Haynesworth in the 3-4 defense — the alignment that helped fuel Haynesworth’s discontent with Shanahan — think he’ll be adjust to the players’ unselfish approach.
“You can see that Albert wasn’t really happy in his situation,” end Ty Warren said Thursday after the Patriots’ first practice of training camp, but “all you see is what goes on (from) the outside and sometimes that’s only half of the truth. So I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, with the structure of this locker room, the guys that’s in this locker room.”
Wilfork, primarily a nose tackle, saw the most action at defensive end of his seven-year career last season. Playing next to Haynesworth, the 325-pounder could spend even more time on the outside.
“It’s always team first. That’s the Patriot Way. If you can’t put the team first you won’t be here,” said Wilfork, a three-time Pro Bowler.
Any new Patriots player with a checkered past, on or off the field, “will see how we do things around here, point blank,” he added. “We had guys come through here with a rap sheet and (people) say, ‘he can’t be handled. This guy can’t do this,’ and you know what, it worked out fine for us. So I don’t think it will be a big problem.”
Moss, eager to leave the Oakland Raiders, didn’t go all out in 2006 and was traded to the Patriots for the 2007 season. He caught 98 passes, including an NFL-record 23 touchdown receptions, that year and didn’t cause trouble until last season, when he was traded.
Dillon, who complained about being stuck with a consistently bad Bengals team, was acquired in March 2004 for a second-round pick and was a major contributor that year to the Patriots’ championship. He rushed for a team-record 1,635 yards and ran for 75 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
And Harrison became a hard-hitting leader, showing he was far from finished.
“Every case is different,” Warren said. “All the guys that I’ve seen make that transition, from the Rodneys, just right on down the line. Everybody’s had a smooth transition.”
Last year Haynesworth missed offseason workouts because he wanted a trade to avoid playing in Shanahan’s 3-4 defense. He didn’t practice until he passed the conditioning test on the 10th day of training camp. Then he was suspended for the final four games of the season for “conduct detrimental to the club.”
He’s also had several legal troubles. He is scheduled for trial on Aug. 23 on a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge, stemming from an accusation that he fondled a waitress at a hotel bar in Washington. He has pleaded not guilty.
“When we get on this field, regardless of what people say about you, it’s ‘Can you perform?'” Wilfork said. “It’s ‘Can you put it together?'”
Haynesworth has talent. He had 8 1-2 sacks in 2008, his last season with Tennessee, which selected him with the 15th draft pick in 2002.
With Haynesworth and Wilfork on the field at the same time, teams might have to assign four blockers to them. That would be a big advantage for the Patriots’ pass rush, which was mediocre last season. So what would it mean to play with him?
“It’s huge. He’s got some freakish ability,” Warren said. “I’ve seen him on film and he’s the real deal.”
How much harder will the Patriots be to beat with Haynesworth and Ocho? Fire away in the comments below…
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)