Patriot Games? Pats Trade Raises Questions around the NFL

Ryan BurnsAnalyst IMarch 2, 2009

For the better part of a decade, Patriots fans have seen a great deal of roster moves, free agent signings, draft day deals, and contract re-negotiations in the front office. 

The Patriots' front office wizardry has not gone unnoticed: Happen to remember them trading a second-rounder for Wes Welker and a fourth-rounder for Randy Moss? They seem to have an uncanny ability for assessing a player's value and, more importantly, what those players can bring to the team itself. 

With the possible exception of letting CB Asante Samuel test the free agent market last offseason, the Patriots have been extremely smart (and a little lucky) in their front office dealings. Castaways like Roman Phifer, retirees like Junior Seau, and over-the-hill veterans like Otis Smith have all come on and performed. 

Free agency is an integral part of any team's offseason planning. Second only to the draft, free agency is where teams look to improve right now.

With this in mind, the Patriots finalized a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, shipping quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for the 34th overall pick in the 2009 Draft.

Some fans are complaining that the pick isn't enough for those two players, and they might be right. But it's not wise to second-guess Bill Belichick, and here's why:

  1. Trading Cassel now takes the $14.5-million franchise tag off of Brady's replacement, and gives the money back to the Patriots.  With free agents seemingly getting scooped up by the minute, the Patriots realized that they had to act swiftly.
  2. This trade allows the Pats to focus not only on bringing others in from free agency, but also helps them keep the guys that they already have, like James Sanders, a free agent who started for the Patriots last season and has big-game experience. With the state of the Patriots' defensive backfield, there is no way you let someone like Sanders go.
  3. How about Vince Wilfork, who is a free agent after next year? The Patriots will more than likely try to hammer out a deal with him, ensuring the run-stopper stays in New England.
  4. And let's not forget about Randy Moss, who had his contract restructured recently.
  5. And what about the $1 million roster bonus that the Pats owed Mike Vrabel today, which they don't have to pay anymore.
  6. The draft pick (34th overall) can still provide the Patriots with great value; they'll likely take the best player available, as that has been their practice recently. We all know that Belichick is not big on giving first-year players those enormous top-10 draft-pick contracts that financially handcuff teams each year (see Smith, Alex), but they'll get quality.


But if the Patriots are involved, of course there has to be controversy.

So, they reportedly turned down the No. 12, instead opting for No. 34. If it is true that New England turned down this pick, it is strictly because of economics. 

Some might say Belichick was just helping out his friend Pioli. And?

No one complained when former Celtic Kevin McHale sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics.  Getting rid of Cassel and Vrabel gave the Patriots over $17 million in economic freedom.

Now, Jay Mariotti wants the NFL to investigate.

Are you kidding me? This trade makes perfect sense to the Patriots. Getting rid of Vrabel and Cassel allows the Patriots to sign all their draft picks or go after someone like Julius Peppers. 

Not to be outdone, Denver is quickly moving into the spotlight, as new coach Josh McDaniels allegedly was shopping quarterback Jay Cutler. Now Cutler is upset, whining about not being wanted.

Guess what? This is the NFL, where everyone is trying to get better right now. Of course McDaniels would want to work with Cassel again—he helped mold him into the quarterback we see today.

Get over it, Pats haters. This is a business, and when the smoke settles and the Patriots are working out their draft picks and signing more free agents, no one will remember this nonsense.

"In Bill We Trust" is more than a mantra, but because he's "cold" and "callous toward the media", there has to be controversy.



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