Report: Patriots want Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick emails sealed in Bret Bielema case

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Darren Hartwell
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Report: Pats request emails between Kraft, Belichick remain sealed originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

While Bill Belichick tries to find the New England Patriots a quarterback, it appears his team is engaged in a legal battle.

Lawyers for the Patriots have filed a motion requesting that four emails between Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft remain sealed after a subpoena that would attempt to make them public as part of a federal court case involving former New England assistant Bret Bielema, The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan reported Tuesday.

The case stems from Bielema's exit from the University of Arkansas in 2017. Bielema's firing triggered a buyout worth more than $11 million with the stipulation that he'd make a "good faith" effort to find another job with an annual salary of at least $150,000.

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By January 2019, the Razorback Foundation determined Bielema hadn't made that "good faith" effort and cut off his payments with $7 million left on the buyout. Bielema sued the Foundation in June 2020, and the Foundation countersued.

Here's where the Patriots come in: New England gave Bielema his first post-Arkansas job in 2018 as a defensive consultant to Belichick, but the Foundation accused Belichick and Kraft of intentionally paying Bielema far less than $150,000 per year so he could continue receiving payments from Arkansas.

The Patriots cooperated last summer by supplying emails between Belichick and Kraft -- which discussed "coaching compensation and qualifications" -- with the expectation they'd remain sealed, per Kaplan.

After the Razorback Foundation subpoenaed the emails, the Patriots made the case for keeping them private.

"These emails contain competitively sensitive information," the team's motion read, via The Athletic. "They reveal NEP’s decision making process, at different points in time, for how much to compensate one of the team’s coaches (Mr. Bielema), based on his experience and prospects and what other coaches were being paid; how to structure his contract with NEP; and how best to utilize him as part of the coaching staff.

" ... While Mr. Bielema is no longer with the team, the information remains competitively sensitive because it can be used as a benchmark both for the coaches currently fulfilling the roles formerly performed by Mr. Bielema and for NEP’s other coaches."

This legal battle is still ongoing, but emails between Belichick and Kraft going public certainly would attract plenty of attention from the NFL and the general public alike.

Bielema stayed on as the Patriots' defensive line coach in 2019 but left to become the New York Giants' outside linebackers coach in 2020. He accepted Illinois' head coach job in December 2020.