It's pretty clear that the Patriots are going to trade Matt Cassel at some point over the next couple of months. When the Pats do get around to trading him, I wouldn't be surprised to see Belichick and the new Pats' brain trust target a 2009 second round pick and a 2010 first round pick in exchange for Cassel.
Trading for future draft picks is consistent with Belichick's longstanding philosophy of stockpiling picks for the long-term benefit of the franchise. It seems like other teams don't think long-term like the Pats and thus devalue picks from future drafts.
In just the past two years, the Patriots have traded the No. 28 pick of the 2007 first round to the 49ers for a 2008 first round pick—which the Patriots used to select NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo. Last year the Patriots traded a third pick to the Chargers for the Chargers' second pick this year.
That sets up a situation where the Pats could get really good value.
The Pats already have two second round picks this year (their own and the aforementioned Chargers pick) and their own first round pick. Adding another second round pick would give them ammunition to be able to move around and get a bunch of players who they like. That would give the Pats four of the top 58 picks.
And drafting second round picks is much more cap friendly.
Then in 2010, the Pats would control the first round draft pick of a team that would be lucky to make the playoffs. That's the exact rationale that the Patriots used when they traded their late first round pick to the traditionally woeful 49ers.
Most of the teams that are looking for a QB have high first round draft picks this year. For example, I can't see the Lions, Rams, or Chiefs trading a top three pick for Cassel.
The Lions (No. 1 overall), Rams (No. 2), or the Chiefs (No. 3) would all be attractive trade partners for the Pats. Getting one of those team's second round draft picks would be a pick in the No. 33 to No. 35 range, and essentially the equivalent of first round talent for second money.
The Pats don't need much to re-load for the 2009 season—perhaps a right guard or right tackle who could step in and push Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur. Or maybe a linebacker to pair with Jerod Mayo in the middle, or a safety to replace Rodney Harrison and/or James Sanders. Those are probably the three biggest need areas. And they can always use more cornerbacks.
The Pats could get a really good LB their first round pick (Laurinaitis, Maualuga, Maybin, or Cushing), and a great S is bound to be on the board at the top of the second round. With their other two second round picks they could get an OL and a CB, and historically Belichick loves to draft CBs in the second round.
When you factor in the compensatory picks they'll get for losing Asante Samuel, Donte Stallworth, and Randall Gay to free agency, they'd then be in a situation where perhaps they could deal their third pick in 2009 for a second pick in 2010—setting themselves up with two first and two second picks in 2010.