FOXBOROUGH — One of the worst phrases in the NFL vernacular is "contract year."
Sure, you can get a player who sees the dollar signs ahead of him in free agency and puts up a career season for the betterment of his (likely) former team before he leaves for taller stacks of green. That's the way it has worked many times for the Patriots like Dion Lewis, Mark Anderson, Logan Ryan, and Akiem Hicks, who all did their job, then left town.
But the flip side — players who carried an attitude into their contract season for, often, a perceived lack of respect by the Patriots — can often be much more of an issue and do more damage. Some think the petty money issues that routinely affect the other 31 teams don't happen inside Gillette Stadium, but they do. More than they realize, until it's too late.
Randy Moss was traded in the final year of his contract. Wes Welker had issues with contract (he signed his franchise tender, which chafed Bill Belichick) and left on poor terms. Jamie Collins had to be traded in the middle of the final year of his deal. And, of course, there's the worst-case scenario that transpired last season. Depending on your point of view and who you talk to, the contract stalemate between Malcolm Butler and the Patriots may or may not have cost New England a sixth Super Bowl title.
So issues with some players in a contract year are real, and they are not foreign to the Patriots.
This season, New England has a whopping 27 players headed towards unrestricted free agency in 2019. But all but one of them can be managed or won't be an issue (Shaq Mason, as a guard, isn't at a vital spot).
The one potential problem area for the Patriots? Trey Flowers.
And he has a confluence of factors that would normally lead to him being the biggest headache in a contract season. Not only has there not been much discussion when it comes to a possible extension, according to Flowers, but he's been told he's switching positions.
Because top free-agent signing Adrian Clayborn can only play on the right side due to his Erb's palsy, the Patriots have switched Flowers to the left side this spring. Flowers put up 13.5 official sacks (PFF has him for 18) and 121 total pressures in 30 games the past two seasons (an average of four per game) from mostly rushing off the right edge (73 percent of the time).
A position change for a player as productive as Flowers — in a contract year — would cause huge problems with 99 percent of players around the NFL.
But rest easy Patriots fans, Flowers appears to be the 1 percent you can believe in.
"Yeah, it can be (an issue)," Flowers told BostonSportsJournal.com this week. "But