What Bill Belichick did with the 43rd pick in this year’s draft was masterful. No one wants to talk about that, because it was the pick they acquired for Jimmy G, but he turned that pick into Christian Sam, 2nd and 3rd round pick next year, and used a pick acquired to trade up for Duke Dawson. It got me thinking about the top 5 offseason moves Belichick has made with the Patriots. These moves could be in the draft, making trades, or even signing free agents. Here is my list:
5. Patriots trade 29th pick for Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, and LeGarrette Blount
In 2013, the Patriots had the 29th overall pick. When it got to them, some people thought the best player on the board was Cordarelle Patterson, a speedy wideout from Tennessee. Ironically, he’s actually a member of the Patriots after they traded for him this offseason. But at the time, the Patriots didn’t want him, and traded him to the Vikings for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th round pick. They used the 2nd to draft Collins, the 3rd to draft Ryan, and they traded the 7th to Tampa for Blount. Getting 3 players that are key players for you in at least one super bowl run(in Ryan and Blount’s case 2) is an amazing return no matter what you give up, but considering that Patterson is essentially a return specialist makes really puts this trade over the top.
4. Patriots trade 28th pick for Randy Moss and Jerod Mayo
This trade was actually made possible by one of the most notorious trades in Bill’s history with New England. Before the 2006 season, Deion Branch was traded to the Seahawks for a 1st round pick in 2007, that pick ended up being #24, which they used to take Brandon Meriweather. Because they had already selected a player, they decided to trade out of the 28th spot to the 49ers in exchange for a 4th round pick in 2007 and a first round pick in 2008. The 4th rounder was traded to Oakland for Randy Moss, and the 1st round pick ended up being #7 the next year. They traded back to 10, picking up an extra 3rd rounder(Shawn Crable, just pretend it never happened), where they drafted Mayo. Moss set the single season receiving touchdown mark in 2007 and Mayo was defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, so I’d say the return was pretty damn good. Loses a few points here because Moss was only here for a few years, and because, while Mayo was a consistent player and great leader, he wasn’t a truly special linebacker.
3. Patriots trade 73rd pick for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski
Just the fact that this trade isn’t #1 shows how amazing this run has been. To get two of Brady’s all-time favorite targets for a 3rd round pick might be the steal of the century, but there are still two moves that were better than this one. The pick they traded in this deal was actually given to them by Green Bay in the Clay Matthews deal. You remember that one, probably, the Patriots trade out with the Packers, they draft Clay Matthews and the Patriots draft Darius Butler and Brandon Tate. YIKES. Luckily, if you count this trade in that return, the Patriots crushed that deal. The deal with the Jaguars was for a 2009 7th round pick and a 2010 2nd round pick. The 7th rounder was used on Edelman, but the 2nd rounder they had to actually package a 6th rounder to move up two spots to take Gronk. It’s close enough, and they gave up basically nothing to go get him, so Gronk is counted as part of this trade. With this move as 3rd, 1 and 2 should be ridiculous, and, don’t worry, they are.
2. Patriots draft Tom Brady at #199
Only the greatest draft pick in the history of the NFL. To get the best QB to ever play the game at the end of the 6th round is flat out insane. It also means the Patriots passed on him multiple times, but they did eventually call his name. The story of how the Patriots ended up with Brady is a fascinating one. Lloyd Carr has said that only one NFL team called to talk about Brady and that was the Patriots, but it wasn’t Belichick who did the calling, it was The Notorious B.G. aka Bobby Grier who made that call. Grier was the GM in 1999, when Pete Carroll was still the coach. Then, in the draft room, it was QB coach Dick Rehbein who pushed for Brady to be drafted. Listening to Dick proved to be a wise decision, and Belichick kept Brady as the 4th QB on the roster, which is almost unheard of for him, since they’ve only 3 QB’s a handful of years. The next season, Brady had worked his way all the way to backup behind Drew Bledsoe, who had signed a massive contract that offseason. Bledsoe almost gets killed(seriously) by Mo Lewis in week 2, and the rest is history.
1. 2001 Free Agent Class
Excuse me, what? This list is supposed to be the best single moves ever by Belichick? Good thing I make the rules and can do whatever the hell I want! I only break the rules because this was so insanely important to the franchise. The free agent class, which consisted guys who had never really done anything anywhere else, and guys who had been good but were considered over the hill, totally changed the identity of the team. The class included 8 starters in Super Bowl 36, plus their starting punter and a key special teams contributor. The full list is: Je’Rod Cherry, Mike Compton, Marc Edwards, Damon Huard, Larry Izzo, Marty Moore, David Patton, Roman Phifer, Anthony Pleasant, Antowain Smith, Chris Sullivan, Mike Vrabel, and Ken Walter. You’re talking about a future Patriots Hall of Famer in Vrabel, a 1,000 yard rusher in Smith, and the guy who scored the only 2 offensive touchdowns in their last 2 playoff games in Patton. Not to mention the leadership from guys like Compton, Phifer, and Pleasant. Throw in them drafting Richard Seymour and Matt Light, and it’s the greatest offseason in NFL and it’s not close.
What do you think of the list? Would you have ordered them differently, or do you think there are moves that I completely missed? Let me know on Twitter @wkndwarpod
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast