Being a great franchise starts with the owner and Robert Kraft is one of the best owners in all of sports. Of course, you also need people capable of making great personnel decisions and Bill Belichick, Ernie Adams, and Nick Caserio fit this bill perfectly. What other team do you see turn players that other teams do not want into great players like the New England Patriots, or even take players that are "done" and revive their careers?
One of the main factors that helps New England make great roster moves is that they take advantage of a players' strengths and hide the players' weaknesses. Secondly, they know when it is time to move on from a player and thus, are not afraid to cut ties, no matter what the public reaction will be. It may sound simple, but many teams do not follow these rules and this is really what helps the Patriots make such great personnel moves, as you will see in this article.
However, it would be unwise to classify every move New England has made during the Belichick era as a good move. New England has made some head-scratching decisions that often go unnoticed due to the success they have every year.
However, I can argue that some of these moves have put the Patriots from clear cut Super Bowl favorites to just "one of the teams that could win." Some may argue this is an over-exaggeration, but I genuinely believe the Patriots could have more than four Super Bowl titles if these poor decisions were not made. In fact, we may even see some of these roster decisions impact the Patriots' chances this season.
Just to be clear, these moves will refer to personnel moves and not in-game decisions such as the infamous 4th and 2 call against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts a few years ago.
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16 Worst - Signing Reggie Wayne
There is no denying the career of the great Reggie Wayne. He will be in the Hall of Fame and he is a Super Bowl champion. However, when Bill Belichick decided to sign Wayne, it was not his best move as a general manager. It was clear that the days of Wayne being a legitimate receiver were over, as evident in his decline in his final season with the Colts. To make matters worse for the Patriots, Wayne did not even make it to the regular season as he asked the team for his release after the pre-season finale (rumors were that he could not handle the "tough" environment of the Patriots).
Ultimately, this signing may have been justified if the Patriots were a young team and needed a leader in the locker room to mentor younger players. However, this was not the case and the Patriots paid Reggie Wayne $450,000 for zero snaps.
15 Best - Drafting Julian Edelman
Drafting Julian Edelman was a classic Belichick move. Belichick did not even know what position Edelman would play for the Patriots, but he knew one thing: Edelman had a chip on his shoulder and was extremely motivated since no one else wanted him. Edelman was drafted to the perfect situation and he got to learn under a great player with similar skills in Wes Welker.
Overall, it may have taken a while for Edelman to make his mark, but man has he ever been a steal for the Patriots. He can return punts, catch 10 balls a game and even be used as a quarterback in trick plays. In addition, I think it is safe to say that the Patriots would not have won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago without Edelman. He was a beast, making catch after catch and refusing to stay down even after taking bone crushing hits.
14 Worst - Trading Jamie Collins
Some may argue it is way too early to put the trade of Jamie Collins as one of Belichick's worst moves, but you must consider two factors when it comes to this trade: timing and return. The timing of this trade was shocking. If the Patriots knew they were not going to keep Collins after his contract expired, they could have shipped him out of town in the offseason, much like what they did with Chandler Jones. In addition, the return they received for an outstanding linebacker was relatively small. Surely, the Pats could have done better than a third-round pick for a player for which opposing coaches have to specifically game-plan.
Overall, Collins may have had some consistency issues and even "freelanced" at times, but it is very questionable to trade your team's best talent on defense in the middle of a season when you have a great chance to win a Super Bowl.
13 Best - Trading away Richard Seymour
Although trading Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick was shocking to many, it turned out pretty well for the Patriots. The Patriots used the draft pick to select Nate Solder, a mainstay tackle ever since he has been drafted. Meanwhile, Seymour continued to be a good player, but never had the same team success again.
There was also a ripple effect in this trade. With the acquisition of Oakland's first-round pick, the Patriots were able to part ways with their original first-round pick for a first and second the next year. Eventually, after some wheeling and dealing, Belichick was able to land two impact players in the first round; Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. He also used the additional second-round pick received to draft dependable running back Shane Vereen. Clearly, this trade worked out for the Patriots.
12 Worst - Drafting Laurence Maroney in the first round
Laurence Maroney did show glimpses of why the Patriots took a chance on him in the first round. He averaged over four yards per carry in his first two seasons and did just enough to make other teams respect the Patriots run game. However, in the end, Maroney failed to live up to first-round expectations. Maroney became wildly inconsistent after his first two seasons and used to drive Patriots fans crazy by dancing around the line of scrimmage instead of running towards the hole and attacking the defense.
To be fair, part of his struggles can be blamed on injuries, but nonetheless, Maroney is probably an example of why the Patriots will never use a first-round pick on a running back again. Hey, at least the Patriots were able to muster some type of return for Maroney, as he was eventually dealt to the Broncos.
11 Best - Signing Rodney Harrison
Many Pats fans' last memory of Rodney Harrison relates to the David Tyree catch, but ultimately, Harrison was an outstanding safety for the Patriots. Signing him also provided insurance for when the Patriots eventually cut ties with Lawyer Milloy. With Harrison, the Pats' defense continued to be dominant and he helped the team win two more Super Bowls. Harrison was very good in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, recording over 100 combined tackles in both years. Remember, this tackle total is from a defensive back. Additionally, he was named to the All Pro team in 2004.
In the end, you know you are a great player if Belichick calls you one of the best players he has ever coached. After all, how often do you hear Belichick heap praise on his players like that? Belichick is the guy that barely had anything to say after Tom Brady recently broke the all-time wins record.
10 Worst - Drafting Chad Jackson
Not only was Chad Jackson a bad draft choice by the Patriots, but to make matters worse, they traded away assets to move up in the draft to select him. In exchange for the 36th selection in the second round of the 2006 draft, the Pats traded their second- and third-round picks.
Jackson never lived up to the expectations and only played 14 games for the Patriots. During these 14 games, Jackson only accumulated 13 catches for 152 yards. He was then hampered by injuries before being released during training camp. Jackson then went on to spend some time with the Broncos before falling out of the league. I think it is safe to say that drafting wide receivers has not been one of Belichick's strong suits.
9 Best - Trading for Wes Welker
It must feel great for a general manager to rip off a team within their own division. This was the case when the Patriots traded a second and seventh round pick for Wes Welker. To make matters even better, the Patriots got him on a very team friendly contract by agreeing to a five-year extension with Welker. Welker went on to have a very solid career in New England, almost automatically recording 100 receptions a season, assuming good health, of course. He had great chemistry with Tom Brady and was Brady's favorite receiver for years.
Overall, many Pats fans will hold a bit of ill will towards Welker for the drop in the Super Bowl that would have helped the Patriots close out the Giants, but do not dismiss the whole body of work. Welker was terrific for the Patriots.
8 Worst - Drafting Dominique Easley in the first Round
Here was another poor first-round selection by the Patriots. Many people were shocked when the Patriots decided to take the injury-prone Easley in the first round. Most experts had him going in the sixth or seventh round, but Belichick obviously saw something he liked and made the selection. To be fair, Easley did show glimpses of first-round talent. At times, he was the Patriots' best pass rusher from the interior and even could line up on the edge to get pressure on the quarterback.
Unfortunately, Easley continued to battle injuries and as a result, he could not sustain consistency or make a big impact at crucial times. Easley was eventually released after just two seasons. There were rumors flying that he did not fit in with the 'Patriot Way'.
7 Best - Trading for Corey Dillon
A classic Belichick move -- find players that most people think are "done" and revive their careers. After an off year with the Bengals where he was unable to rush for over 600 yards, Corey Dillon was shipped off to the Patriots for a second-round pick. Most people thought this was a silly move by Belichick, as Dillon's time as an elite running back was supposed to be over.
Boy, did Belichick and Dillon prove everyone wrong. Dillon was an instrumental piece to the Patriots' 2004 championship run. In the regular season, he rushed for 1,635 yards with a 4.7 per carry average and 12 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he rushed for 292 yards and two touchdowns in three games. Dillon went on to have two more solid seasons with the Patriots before retiring.
6 Worst - Signing Adalius Thomas
I am in no way saying Adalius Thomas was a bad player, or had a bad career. He was even outstanding for the Patriots in his first season with the team. However, after that first season, there is not too many good things to say about the time Thomas spent in New England. He ended up becoming a problem in the locker room after Belichick converted him to a part-time player. Matters were only made worse when Thomas was banned from the facility for a day after showing up to a practice late.
Overall, Thomas received one of the biggest contracts (at the time) Belichick has ever given to a free agent, reflecting how the Patriots felt about him as a player. It worked out for a year, but unraveled after that. I think it is safe to say that Belichick would not give Thomas this contract again if he could go back in time.
5 Best - Trading for Randy Moss
The Patriots trading for Randy Moss still might be one of the best trades of all time. Not only was it a great trade because Moss is one of the best receivers of all time, but the Patriots also ripped off the Oakland Raiders at the same time by only surrendering a fourth-round pick.
What happened with Moss when he went to the Patriots? Domination. Moss and Brady set multiple records together and one can only imagine what the duo would have been like if the Patriots had Moss in his prime. In total, Moss played parts of four seasons with the Patriots, recording three 1,000 yard-receiving seasons (his one non 1,000 yard-receiving season happened when he was traded mid-season). He also set a record in his first season with the team by catching 23 touchdown passes. It will be a long time before we see a combination like Brady and Moss again.
4 Worst - Trading for Albert Haynesworth
I can understand the thinking of Belichick when trading for Albert Haynesworth. When he was at his best, Haynesworth was a dominant defender and could clog the middle of the field. He also had the potential to be a perfect fit alongside Vince Wilfork. He could also allow the Patriots to lower Wilfork's snap count and keep Wilfork fresh for the playoffs. Finally, this seemed like a good risk because the Patriots had a good track record of working with troubled players and turning their careers around.
However, this is one risk that did not pay off for Belichick. Ultimately, the Pats threw away a fifth-round pick for nothing, and if you follow the Patriots, you know they can find many good players in the late rounds. Overall, Haynesworth only lasted around four months with the Pats before being released and eventually, he fell out of the league after a short stint with Tampa Bay.
3 Best - Drafting Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd Round
This is one of the better risks Belichick has made during his tenure with the Patriots. Rob Gronkowski missed his final college season due to injury and many teams saw him as a medical risk. Clearly, Belichick thought the reward would be greater than the risk and even traded up two spots in the second round to draft Gronk. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gronk has already established himself as one of the best tight ends of all time and still has plenty of time to become the GOAT. He does everything the Patriots ask him to and never complains. He catches, blocks, and is one of the most fun players in the league to watch. In the end, you know a man is special if Belichick lauds you as one of the hardest workers he has seen. Let us hope Gronk recovers well from back surgery and continues to dominate.
2 Worst - Trading for Chad Ochocinco
Although I liked the idea of trading for Chad Ochocinco to try and fulfill the role of Randy Moss, it clearly did not work out. Ochocinco could not figure out the playbook during his time in New England. We all know that if you cannot figure out the playbook in New England, Brady will lose his trust in you. It only made matters worse when Ochocinco was tweeting about the "machine" in New England when many Boston-based analysts (eg. Tedy Bruschi) felt Ochocinco should have been more focused on learning the playbook.
Ultimately, Brady lost his trust in Johnson and he only lasted one season in New England. He played 15 games, only started in three and only recorded 276 yards and one touchdown reception. Hey, at least Johnson followed the "Patriot Way" during his tenure.
1 Best - Drafting Tom Brady in the 6th Round
What has not been said about the Patriots drafting Tom Brady already? The Patriots were the only team in the NFL to give him a chance and their investment has paid off greatly. In New England, not many things are constant in terms of player personnel, but Brady has been the exception to the rule. What makes this move by Belichick even greater is that he decided to carry four quarterbacks on his roster at one point (Brady was the 4th string). This is almost unheard of, but Belichick saw something in Brady and like most of the time, Belichick was right.
Overall, Brady has the most wins all time by any quarterback, he has won MVPs, Super Bowl trophies and now all that's left for him to do is try to get that fifth ring and end any debate on who the greatest quarterback of all time is.
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