According to an NFL source who has spoken to a team that inquired about Law with the Patriots, New England almost certainly will not release the rehabbing three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who has a year left on his contract. Rather, the Patriots will either keep Law (highly unlikely, but possible) or trade him (more likely) before the April 23 NFL draft.
Compensation? Model that after the deal the Patriots made with Cincinnati last spring to obtain Corey Dillon. New England traded the 56th overall pick in the draft -- a late second-rounder -- to the Bengals to obtain the dissatisfied Dillon. Cincinnati used the pick on safety Madieu Williams from Maryland. While the deal enriched the Patriots because it gave them a 1,600-yard running back in his prime, it was a win-win trade. Williams is the cornerstone of a rebuilding Cincinnati secondary.
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The second-round pick is a figment of my imagination. You might say the Patriots will never get a low two for Law, who is currently rehabbing a broken left foot. How can you equate Dillon, a healthy back a year ago, with Law, a 31-year-old cornerback coming off an injury?
I would make this argument: Law's foot is going to be fine. At the time of his injury, he was one of the league's five best corners, for his physicality and his cover ability. He's got two, maybe three, good to very good years left. If you're a cornerback-needy contender -- say, Kansas City, with the 46th pick in the second round, St. Louis with the 50th, Green Bay with the 58th -- why wouldn't you give that choice for a player very likely to give you at least two good years at a position you desperately need help at?
At the end of the day, I'm sure teams like the Chiefs, Rams and Colts wanted to see Law on the free market, so they wouldn't have to pay with a draft choice and a new contract for him. But if you're the Patriots, you'd be dumb not to try to get something for a player as talented as Law. As long as you've got a year left on Law's contract, why not try to get something significant for him? The Patriot way is to maximize value, and this only makes sense.
My guess is the Patriots will get value for Law, and Law will get the new contract he wanted from the Patriots last year.