Bill Belichick has finally been outfoxed. By himself.
Sunday's trade of Richard Seymour is certainly not the first time the hooded mastermind has shipped a local superstar out of town, though it is easily the most puzzling.
When Lawyer Milloy was released prior to the 2003 season, the Patriots already had Rodney Harrison in place to fill the void. Ty Law's departure was softened by Asante Samuel waiting in the wings. Terry Glenn was a chronic pain in the you-know-what. Mike Vrabel is nearing the end of his career. Willie McGinest was more than a little long in the tooth as a free agent. Deion Branch was a holdout. Asante Samuel was seeking the type of money the Patriots will forever refuse to invest in a corner back.
The list goes on and on, but the release, trade, or failure to resign almost every player on it made sense on at least some level. Except Seymour.
Seymour hasn't even turned 30 yet (his birthday falls on October 6th) so there's still tons of gas left in the tank. The eventual Hall of Fame candidate is still in the prime of his career, which is scary considering he made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2002-2006 and was elected first team All-Pro three straight years from 2003-2005.
His 39 career sacks are more than anyone else currently on the Patriots roster and 10th all-time in a Patriots uniform. He lead the team with eight last season. When healthy, he is one of the best defensive linemen in football and easily the best player on the Patriots defense.
The 6th overall pick in the 2001 draft was the first player to instill the northeast's trust in Belichick. The fans wanted a flashier pick (namely WR's David Terrell or Koren Robinson), but Seymour dominated from the start and was a major reason the upstart Patriots captured their first title that season.
He is a versatile player who can play anywhere along the line and dominate both the running and passing games. He's done everything Belichick has asked of him and then some, and now he's being casually tossed aside. New England's resident voyeur is throwing him to the Raiders like I would throw a piece of scrap meat to my hungry dog.
And all New England gets in return is a first round pick? In 2011? When the Raiders have had another season to rebuild and actually compete?
Yes, I said it, the Raiders will compete. Seymour is that good. His presence alone will account for four or five extra wins in the next two years before the Patriots can even net any return for losing him.
Now, the Pats will still be a good team, and still should be considered the favorite to win the Super Bowl thanks to incredible depth along their defensive line. Jarvis Green can be a disruptive pass rusher at times and Derrick Burgess has played at high levels in the past. They should pick up the slack nicely, especially if they get Ron Brace involved and switch to a 4-3 scheme as has been rumoured.
But losing Seymour will hurt. Forget about even approaching an undefeated season again. Forget about trouncing the rest of the league in landslide victories. If the Patriots can't score 30 points per game, they will be in trouble, because Seymour changed the game just by being on the field. The Patriots have allowed 17.8 points per game since Seymour joined them (good for third-best in the NFL), and he was a huge reason why. Expect that number to linger somewhere closer to 26 this year.
The Patriots lose out this season, and next season, and probably the season after that just based on the unreliable nature of rookies. In fact, the Patriots could easily just lose out. Period. The draft is such a crap shoot, even for gurus like Hoodie Bill, that the odds of getting a fair return on Seymour are slim to none.