Negotiations between the Patriots and Ty Law on a contract extension have taken a turn for the worse, which is to say they aren't going anywhere, other than in circles. Now Law would like to exit the rotary, so to speak. He wants out of New England.
"Right now, it's not about money," Law said this week. "That bridge is burned. I no longer want to be a Patriot. I can't even see myself putting on that uniform again, that's how bad I feel about playing here."
Citing "irreconcilable differences," Law, one interception from tying Raymond Clayborn's franchise record, said he has expressed to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli his desire to play elsewhere after being "lied to" about their intentions.
Belichick declined comment last night.
Law, who last month called the Patriots' four-year, $26 million offer "an insult" and "a slap in the face," said this week he thought discussions would continue until the Patriots informed his agent, Carl Poston, of their plans to carry Law's $10 million salary cap figure for this year, the penultimate of a seven-year, $51 million contract that included a then-record $14.2 million bonus. "They told me they didn't want to insult Ty anymore, so they're not going to submit any more offers," Poston said.
Talks of a new deal began when Law visited Belichick at his Gillette Stadium office upon returning from the Pro Bowl. Law, 30, wanted to discuss his uncertain future. That was the first of two meetings with Belichick. Law said he's also spoken with Belichick and Pioli by phone regarding a new deal. But when Poston made Pioli a seven-year, $63 million counteroffer that included $20 million to sign and $28 million over the first three years, Pioli, according to accounts, responded with something to effect of "We can't do that. Save the paper."
"They told me one thing and did another," Law said. "They said we were going to talk. All of a sudden, negotiations are off. `We're just going to keep it the way it is for this year.' No. It ain't going to be `for this year.' I don't want no `just for this year.' I don't want no years at all. Actually, I don't want a contract extension anymore because I no longer want to be a New England Patriot. I'm drop-dead serious about not wanting to be a part of this organization anymore."
This is not the first time Law has asked to be let go. Law said he asked Belichick to place him on the 2002 expansion list, which was due days after New England's Super Bowl XXXVI victory.
Law is due to earn $6.15 million in salary and a $1 million reporting bonus this year, and $8.75 million in salary plus another $1 million reporting bonus next season, when he counts more than $12.5 million toward the cap. Trading Law or releasing him before June 1 would come with a cap hit of $5.4 million, or the remaining prorated portion of his signing bonus. If the Patriots cut him after June 1, the cap hit this year would be $2.7 million, and the $2.7 million acceleration would be applied to the 2005 cap. So eager is Law to sever ties with New England that he has offered to buy out the final years of his contract.
"I am willing to pay them to let me go," Law said. "I told them, `Instead of you paying me a $7 million salary, I'll pay you. For the next two years of my deal, I'll write you a check, and we'll go free and clear.' "
The Patriots declined.
The fact is Law is a gladiator. Belichick is the emperor. Though considered by many to be the league's premier cornerback, Law cannot win his freedom simply by winning the crowd. Belichick ultimately has the final say and right now appears content with paying Law what basically amounts to "franchise" money this year rather than assume what would be an even greater replacement cost.
"I can't do a thing about it but express my displeasure about playing for this organization," Law acknowledged. "I'll go to training camp. I've got bonuses for going to training camp. I'm just saying it won't be a comfortable working atmosphere. It's not a reason to hold out. I get $1 million just to show up. Who wouldn't show up for $1 million? The money ain't the thing, because I have that. Then again, I'm not going to sit here and say I don't want $7 million, either. That's stupid. Hell, we all gotta eat.
"I'll go out there and play my game. I'm not saying I'm going to be the best guy to be around or your favorite guy to talk to. But I'm not going to hurt my teammates and I'm not going to hurt myself. I'm going to go out there and play football, because if you want to pay $7 million to a guy that really doesn't want to be here, OK, this is business. Fine. You don't have to like your boss to work and do your job well."
Law believes he does his better than any corner in the league and, therefore, should reclaim the "throne" given to its highest paid. But he no longer wants a new contract, regardless of amount or length, from New England.
"They're not going to come to a number that's going to make me happy enough to be a Patriot," Law said. "It's not a dollar amount right now. I got money. I'm not chasing money . . . to see what somebody else is going to give me. I want to leave the Patriots. If that means taking less money to go elsewhere, that's fine with me.
"But at the same time, wherever I'm at, I just want to be paid what I deserve to get paid. And to be truthfully honest with you, I deserve to be the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. But that's not of the utmost importance right now because the team that I've proven that for and the team I've busted my ass for the last nine years doesn't realize or can't see [that] they're not giving me the proper respect or the contract that I deserve."
The Patriots' offer essentially would guarantee Law $15.6 million over the next two years ($6.6 million bonus, salaries of $4 million this year and $5 million next year). His contract calls for him to make $16.9 million over the next two seasons.
"I would be a fool to take less than what I already make," Law said. "So you're telling me, if I make $17 million over the next two years, if I'm a Patriot, I'm going to accept $15.6 million? That's a pay cut. I said it a thousand times, I'm not taking no pay cut. No. . . . If this is a business and you can't afford to pay me what I deserve to be paid, that's fine. I have no problem with that. But let me go out there and earn the salary that I deserve and let me get the commitment from another team because I deserve more than just a one-year deal."
Law played last season knowing it could be his last in New England. He is convinced, however, that without a new contract in place this year will be his last.
"I feel like I'm on a one-year deal, because they're not going to pay me my salary next year," Law said. "[Last] year, if I'd have played any other way than how I played, it was a no-brainer, I was gone. It was confirmed within the organization that they had no intentions of keeping me this year. So what am I supposed to feel like?
"Hell, Lawyer Milloy was under contract, too. And? If I'm under contract, assure by guaranteeing it right now that ya'll not going to do me the same way you did Lawyer. The last few years have been like a boil coming to a rise, ready to bust anyway. It was only a matter of time. When the whole thing happened with Lawyer, I kept saying, `It might as well be baseball, because I'm on deck.' "
He also is on the other side of 30, and apparently the Patriots are reluctant to make such a lucrative, long-term investment in Law, even though he thinks he can play cornerback at an elite level for three or four more seasons before moving to safety.
"A couple of weeks ago I was 29," Law said. "Four seasons will go past and I'll be 33. The way contracts are done in the NFL, it's all about the first three or four years anyway. Carl Poston is, hands down, the best agent in the league. Get creative. Put an option in there. If I'm not playing to that level, cut me. I deserve not to have to come into training camp knowing the clock is ticking. To have me here knowing you're not going to pick me up next year, I'm a sitting duck.
Said Law, "I had nine great years here. At one time, I was thinking maybe I could get 13, 14 great years in, and one day, in a dream land, go to the Hall of Fame as a Patriot. But this is business."