A Puzzling Pat: The Curious Trades of Bill Belichick

[I have had the chance to read a couple of great books on the enigmatic Bill Belichick, including The War Room and also the awesome The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam.  ESPN once called him the greatest enigma in sports.  Some of the best sports writers around have tried to crack the code.  

In this piece, Ezra and Roey pair together for an interesting look at some of the trades that have played a critical role in making the Pats one of the most consistently successful football teams of all-time.  We will leave it to the Comment Section to tell us if they have selected the right list and offered readers a window into the great Bill Belichick.] 


The Patriots traded their star linebacker, Jamie Collins, to the Cleveland Browns for, wait for it… a third round pick. Why would they do this? He was to be a free agent after this year, which makes the trade even more puzzling considering they would have received a compensatory third round selection even if they hadn’t re-signed him. The answer is simple: Bill Belichick.

Belichick has a history of making what seemed to be questionable trades at the time, but ended up paying big dividends. We take a look back at some of these trades

I. Randy Moss

Number One: The Randy Moss Trades

In 2007, the Raiders traded WR Randy Moss to the Patriots for a fourth round pick.  In 2010, the Patriots traded Moss and a seventh round pick to the Vikings for a third round pick.  Moss, a former first round pick, had an off-year in 2006 with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders then traded him to the Patriot for a fourth round pick. Over the next three years, Moss showed why he was a first rounder despite all of his off the field problems. 50 TDs, 75 yds/game and almost 4000 yards in just three years (including setting the all-time records for touchdown receptions in a year). Just three years later, they traded him and a seventh rounder for a third rounder in a typical Belichickian move – trading away vets who have had recent successful years, but after they are traded they don’t have much of a career. The same happened to Moss, who played just two more unsuccessful years in the league

II.  Wes Welker

Number Two: Reception Machine

In 2007, the Patriots acquired WR Wes Welker from the Dolphins for a second-round draft pick and a seventh-round draft pick.  The same year the Patriots traded for Moss, they traded for another receiver Wes Welker. At the time, the trade was questionable because Welker was putting up mediocre numbers; however, Belichick clearly recognized his potential and traded for him. Welker went on to finish first or second in receptions in 5 out of the next 6 years. Just like Moss, however, after leaving the Patriots, Welker didn’t have much of a career and retired soon after.


III.  Drew Bledsoe

Number Three: Handing the Reigns to Brady for Good

In 2002, the Patriots traded QB Drew Bledsoe to the Bills for a first round pick.  After the Patriots shocking win in the 2001 Super Bowl, Belichick had a QB controversy at his hands; he had two great quarterbacks in Brady and Bledsoe. Belichick showed his trust in Brady and traded the veteran Bledsoe for a first round pick from the Bills. As we know now the trade was the right move, with Brady going on to win three more Super Bowls (and counting), whereas Bledsoe was out of the league by 2006.

IV.  Corey Dillon

Number Four: Turning Washups into Stars

In 2004, the Patriots acquired RB Corey Dillon from the Cincinnati Bengals for a fourth round draft selection.  Corey Dillon rushed for 541 yards in 2003 when he was nearly 30 years old. He seemed like a washed up running back. In 2004, the Patriots acquired Dillon for a fourth round pick. Dillon produced, rushing for a career high 1635 yards and was the starting running back in fourteen regular season games. Dillon rushed for almost 100 yards per game during the playoffs and was a key part of the Patriots’ Super Bowl run that year.

V. LeGarrette Blount

Number Five: Turning Washups into Stars, Part II

In 2013, the Patriots acquired RB LeGarrette Blount from Tampa Bay in exchange for RB Jeff Demps and a 2013 seventh round pick.  After an unsuccessful year following this trade, Blount was not re-signed by the Patriots and instead signed by the Steelers. The Stealers let him go midway through 2014 and the Patriots re-signed him. He was a key part of the Patriots super bowl run that year.After a solid 2015, Blount has exploded this year, and is currently ranked number five in rushing yards and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with nine.

VI.  Martellus Bennett

Number Six: A Security Blanket

In 2016, The Patriots acquired TE Martellus Bennett and a sixth-round draft pick from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.  In one of his more recent trades, Belichick acquired Martellus Bennett, a well needed security blanket for star tight end Rob Gronkowski, in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. Bennett has produced huge numbers this year and even leads the league in touchdowns for tight ends.


VII.  Aqib Talib

Number Seven: Resurrection

In 2012, the Patriots acquired CB Aqib Talib and a seventh-round pick from Tampa Bay for a fourth round draft choice. Talib, after a solid start to his career, had an off year in 2011, so the Bucs traded him to the Patriots midway through 2012. Though Talib didn’t have a great year that year, he exploded the next year and was awarded a huge contract by Denver that offseason. He is now an integral part of the Broncos defense which won them a super bowl last year.

VIII.  Deion Branch

Number Eight: Star Receiver?

In 2006, the Patriots traded WR Deion Branch to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round selection. In 2006, the Patriots got rid of a solid receiver in Deion Branch. The super bowl MVP just two years prior, Branch looked like one of the league’s up and coming receivers. The Patriots traded him for a first round pick to the Seahawks and he was never the star receiver he looked like he was going to become.

IX. Chandler Jones

Number Nine: Off the Field Issues

In 2016, the patriots acquired G Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round draft pick from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for DE/LB Chandler Jones.  Just last year, Belichick traded away a player who finished in the top 5 in sacks the year before. Jones was one of the leaders of Belichick’s stingy defense and the trade puzzled many. Belichick was able to overlook his skill and realized he would be detrimental to the team because of his off the field issues, so he traded him away. The Patriots defense hasn’t suffered though, ranking 3rd in points allowed per game (16.5) as opposed to 10th last year (19.7) .


X. Logan Mankins

Number Ten: I Don’t Care How Many Pro Bowls You Made

In 2014, the New England Patriots G Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick.  Due to Mankins unwillingness to take a paycut, Belichick shipped him to Tampa for Tim Wright and a fourth rounder. While Wright never developed to his full potential in New England, Mankins was never the same and retired the following year after the trade. Mankins was a seven time pro bowler with New England, but Belichick’s genius led to a major money saver for the Patriots.

Ezra Troy and Roey Herzfeld

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7 comments on “A Puzzling Pat: The Curious Trades of Bill Belichick
  1. Brady for President says:

    Brady may be supporting Trump, but I am writing in Brady. He has 12 TDs and zero –zero–picks since coming back from his suspension. I literally have never seen him play like 2016-2017. Amazing!

    He also has at least 200 yards passing in every game, a completion rate over 70% AND a QB rating of 134. You can’t make it up. I like Belichick a lot and it is amazing what they have done in the games where he has been the coach and Brady hasn’t played. In the end, I still give a lot of credit to Brady.


  2. Haters says:

    No, I didn’t say Raiders. I said Haters. Everyone loves to hate on my Pats. Could it because they are the team to beat in the AFC East? Could it be because they are the team to beat in the AFC? Could it be because they are the best team in the NFL? I think we know that the answers are yes, yes, yes…

    Pats are the best. Full Stop. End of story…

  3. Pats Rule! says:

    You guys have been hit in the head too many times. If the league test for concussions actually worked, I would give it to you both.

    You are just angry because we are winning and teams like Miami are on the outside looking in every single year. Tough break. #talent #brilliance #winners #2017superbowlchamps

  4. Don Shula says:

    Hey, Hate-riots. I loved your comments. I am a big Miami fan. My only comment would be that I think the snow thing happened a long time ago when like Don Shula was the coach. It was before Belichick was even there. I remember seeing Shula interviewed once and saying it was the worst thing/most unfair thing that happened to him the whole time he was in the NFL as a coach. So, I guess it is just a Patriots thing or maybe every NFL team cheats, but Patriots get more scrutiny because of their success.

  5. Hate-riots says:

    Belichick is great unless you care about small, minor, tiny virtues like integrity. This guy doesn’t just put in hard work and bring a brilliant mind to the NFL. He breaks the rules. I guess it doesn’t matter if you live in Boston or just care about backing a winner.

    #snowplow game

    I can’t believe the bias on this site.

    • Roey Herzfeld says:

      Hate Riots,
      I am a die-hard Jets fan. Every week I root against the Patriots and rejoice if they lose. However, you must recognize the genius of his coaching that led them to four superbowl wins. Of course he cheated a few times but I’m sure the Jets have cheated multiple times too and even if they deflated their footballs they wouldn’t win. I do not like Belichick at all but I understand how impressive his accomplishments are in the NFL and I want to understand what makes him great.

  6. Alfred says:

    The Wes Welker example is a great one. He won on both sides. He made a brilliant decision to go after him. Then, more importantly, he didn’t fall in love with his idea, pay a ton of money to keep a fan (and Brady) favorite and let him depart for Denver. His impact was fine, but not breakout once he left as you guys suggest.

    Great piece, guys. I agree with the set up: BB is a great coach and no one seems to be able to figure out 100% of what makes him so successful.

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