Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lose - Lose

So the Raiders acquire Richard Seymour for a pick that will likely fall in the top 20 picks, Seymour represents a one year rental as he will be a free agent after the season anyway. Belichick goes back to the fool me n times well and picks Oakland's pocket yet again. They will assuredly trade down, acquiring multiple picks in the 22 - 53 range which they will use to reload the roster. It's getting to the point that the Raiders might require an intervention. So big win for the Patriots right?

Not so fast.

It isn't that New England didn't get the better part of the deal on paper, they did. The problem is that this deal turns a position of strength into a position of somewhere-around-averagedness. Even this isn't necessarily bad in a vacuum There are about 20 teams for whom this would make a lot of sense.

New England isn't one of them.

To be fair, this is just a rehash of earlier arguments I made when the Patriots had problems with Deion Branch and Asante Samuel. Teams that are legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl have narrow windows. They simply cannot purposely make themselves weaker during a contending season. I'll leave off the Branch/Samuel discussion which has been argued ad nauseum elsewhere and simply focus on the Seymour one.

I guess I should explain that I assume that the Patriots consider themselves Super Bowl contenders and my argument stems from there. If Belichick and his evil cronies deep within Mount Foxborough have determined that a championship is out of their reach in 2009 then this move makes a great deal of sense. I have a hard time believing that they've thrown in the towel on this season though so there it is.

Over the winter the Patriots traded away Mike Vrabel (and Ellis Hobbs) while Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired. While none of those players were still Pro Bowl caliber, they did represent a great deal of steadiness and leadership. In a sense they are irreplacable, but in another they are only replaceable with superior talent. New England brought in a pair of reasonably good corners to shore up the team's weakest point. DROY Jerod Mayo is entering his second year, the team acquired Derrick Burgess for a handful of magic beans. Added to a core that included Vince Wilfork and Seymour there are plenty of playmakers. All is well.

Remove Seymour from that mix though, and now the team appears to be a playmaker short. It isn't that New England doesn't have bodies to replace Seymour. 2nd rounder Ron Brace and 6th rounder Myron Pryor both played well at tackle and appear to be ready for the NFL.

It's just that neither are Richard Seymour.

Various web and print sources think that New England will rely on their defensive line depth to run more 4-3 fronts, and I suppose that makes good sense, but they could have done the same with Seymour. Now they are in a position where they will almost be forced into a 4-3 base which will impact their already suspect pass defense.

They'll win games. They'll probably win the division. They'll be in the playoffs and from there, who knows? While the team was in a bit of a transition, it was in a bit of a transition with a guy named Tom Brady on the roster. In 3-4 years when the payoff from this deal starts benefiting the roster, Brady will almost be in the decline phase of his career, if not the twilight. Handicapping the team now for some kind of nebulous future reward is a terrible decision. Championships are rare creatures that are terribly difficult to capture even with a full arsenal. This might be the one chink in Belichick's armour, a blind spot or arrogance to denude the roster of important talent when the team is otherwise elite. Perhaps it will work out differently this time.


  1. Trade away a 30yo player for a top-10 pick? Great trade. I'd make this trade every year. Esp with the RAIDERS, who are likely to be baaaaaaaad. I don't see them finishing ahead of 4 teams in the league, let alone 10 or 15.

    Teams throw away chances to keep themselves at the top, by declining trade opportunities like this. I mean, not if the guy you're trading away is Peyton Manning. But otherwise? Oh yeah.

  2. Wups, I missed that this pick is not next year but the year after. Cancel my comments about it clearly being a top-10 pick: your top-20 assessment is more accurate.

  3. It's certainly an interesting conundrum. They weaken their roster now, but without making this trade they risk getting nothing for Seymour. I think we have to make the assumption Belichick thinks they have enough talent on their roster now even without Seymour, so he's decided it's better to get something for him than nothing.

  4. How many games has Seymour missed over the last couple seasons?

  5. Your Google is as good as mine.

    The one thing I was thinking about even before your comment, playing devil's advocate with myself, is that assuming Belichick knows what he is doing then one entirely reasonable explanation for this deal is that Seymour is a shadow of his former self. It is difficult to find any real accounts of his play from last year, anything Googled is dwarfed by the recent news. FO called his play "dominant", and statistically he had one of his best years, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he wasn't hurtling down the backside of his peak by the end of last season and into training camp.

  6. I can look that up in the FO Almanac and see if they have something on him (or you can, dep on who gets there first), but I wonder if one of the things Belichick simply assumes here is regression to the mean. Seymour has always been very good, but last year he was dominant. He hasn't had a season like that since '03.

    Could simply be that Belichick thinks he overperformed, will revert to the 25 tackles, 4 sacks player he's been most of his career, and while that's still very good, he's getting up there in age and risks getting nothing for him later so he moved him when his value was highest.

    Not like he hasn't done something like that before. *cough* Deion Branch *cough* *cough*

  7. 3-4 DE isn't a stat position. Maybe stats enhance his trade value, but dominance is measured in his ability to deliver stats to the linebackers by controlling his gap and collapsing the pocket.

    When 3-4 defensive linement accrue big numbers that usually indicates dysfunction elsewhere.

  8. There are two tasks: getting your team to be good, and keeping them good. This is clearly a "keeping them good" move, rather than a "win now" move. Patch, you think that's a mistake in a potential championship season. I think it is almost never a mistake: that if you continue to make moves with future payoffs in this league, then you will be able to field awesome teams.

    I guess a lot depends on how good the other DLs on the Pats roster are, how "expendable" or rather replaceable they made Seymour. If the dropoff is small, or smallish, then getting a 1st-rd pick is excellent. If the Pats get devastated by injury on the DL or whatever, then this move will look awful.

    I think all events this season, short of the Pats winning the SB, will tend to support your point, Patch. Every loss, we'll be able to say "Well if they had Seymour, they could have gotten one more stop" etc. So this could be the domino that cost them a championship. I dunno that that will be true, though. If Belichick stays around for another 5 yrs, we'll have opportunity to evalutate this move from different perspectives.

  9. What I've heard is that since this is a 2011 pick, the Patriots are expecting a new CBA and a pay scale for rookie contracts. That is, no Matthew Stafford type payouts for players who haven't played a down in the pros. So that's why it's 2011 and not 2010. Plus I assume in Al Davis' mind the team would not have been picking in the top 10 two years from now.


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