Mere days before the 2009 season, the New England Patriots shipped veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a 2011 first round draft pick. The two teams have had a history of being trade partners, the most famous of which was the Raiders sending Randy Moss to the Patriots for a fourth round draft pick. Needless to say, the public perception is that the Patriots have been on the winning end of many of these deals.
The media crowed that the Patriots once again and made the Raiders look like fools. Considering the recent history of the Oakland Raiders, that first round pick was most likely going to be in the top 10. According to the pundits, the Raiders, desperate for help in their run defense, were once again taking a chance on an over-the-hill player.
Two years into the deal, these notions could not be any more false.
Seymour was 30 years old at the time of the trade, but he was coming off of a season where he matched his career high for sacks in a season, eight. The question remained, would Seymour accept a long-term extension with the Raiders? In a six year span, the Patriots were 77-19 while the Raiders, meanwhile were a league-worst 24-72.
Initially blindsided by the deal, Seymour eventually handled the move with aplomb. He embraced his role as a veteran leader to a team that had gone so long without one. In his first season, Seymour started all sixteen games and recorded four sacks, but it was more what he did not do. Despite going 5-11 on the year, Seymour never once publicly trashed the organization that took a chance on him. He accepted the challenge of trying to change the losing culture of a once proud franchise.
In 2010, a young defense got even younger after the team drafted linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston. Seymour was once again called upon to lead by his example, and here was when the trade started to pay dividends for Oakland.
Seymour compiled five and a half sacks and led one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. As a team, the Raiders were second overall in sacks. The shift in mentality was evident. It started in the middle with Seymour and emanated out to his counterpart, Tommy Kelly, who had a career year in 2010. Houston also benefited greatly from Seymour's fire and passion and had a productive rookie season.
The Raiders finished with an 8-8 record. The New England Patriots ended up with the seventeenth overall pick. After trading him away, New England has not been able to generate a consistent pass rush. Still think the trade wasn't worth it for Oakland?
So far this season, Seymour already has two and a half sacks, which is on pace to top his career best of eight sacks on the year. Yet statistics were not the reason Seymour was brought in from New England. The only stat the matters to Al Davis is wins.
The Raiders stand at 2-1 after beating the New York Jets, a team that had reached the AFC Championship game the past two seasons. However, a daunting task is at hand for Oakland this coming Sunday. The Patriots are coming to town.
While Seymour insists that this game does not mean more to him than the other fifteen games, you can't help but wonder if he harbors any resentment towards the Patriots. Seymour is a passionate guy, so we should be able to tell exactly how he feels come Sunday.
The better question is whether or not New England will regret that he is now on the other sidelines. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders have a player that has shown what he can do on the ground, to the tune of 171 yards against the Jets.
Both teams are 2-1 so the game is big enough as it is, yet given the history between these two teams we can be treated to a great game. Look for big 92 to put his stamp on this one.