Titans blockbuster trade-down has a Belichick feel


Titans blockbuster trade-down has a Belichick feel

For those who understand Jon Robinson's background, it should come as no surprise that he opted to trade down to build roster depth. After all, the Titans general manager spent 12 years under Bill Belichick. 

Robinson was one of the architects behind Thursday's blockbuster deal between Tennessee and Los Angeles that sent the No. 1 overall pick to the Rams (as well as a fourth and a sixth-round pick) in exchange for four picks in the top 76 of this year's draft, including No. 15 overall. The Titans also received a first-round pick and a third-round pick in next year's draft.

The move gives Tennessee four of the first 45 picks this year and six of the first 76. In a draft that is considered to be top-heavy for the first 15 or so selections, the talent level seems relatively homogeneous through the next 40 or 50 picks. 

"I think [the trade] was a chance to really bolster the depth of our football team," Robinson told the Titans team website. "Having six shots at the top 76 players in this draft -- and then not to mention five next year with the extra one and the extra three -- it was a chance to bolster the depth of this football team and add a lot of good quality players that are going to be at the top of the draft."

To hear Robinson explain it, the motive behind trade sounds utterly Belichickian. 

As a Patriots area scout (2002-05), regional scout (2006-07), then their assistant director of college scouting (2008) and director of college scouting (2009-13), Robinson saw first hand the importance of building quality talent throughout a roster. He also learned the value of being able to manipulate the draft board with multiple selections.

Landing the Titans a player like Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil at No. 1 overall must have been enticing, but the prospect of grabbing several contributing players for the price of one was too much to let slip away.

"We wanted to maximize the value of the pick," Robinson explained. "I've talked about that for a long time, being able to take that pick and use it for what we thought was the best decision for the football team. To acquire that many players and give us the ammunition to move up and down in the draft . . . I would say it doesn't knock us out of moving back up into the first round. Obviously it knocked us out of one player, but only one player."

Belichick, of course, has long been known for his willingness to make moves as the draft unfolds. During his Patriots tenure he has traded down 19 times and traded up 17 times during drafts. The only year in which he did not make a draft-day trade was 2004. 

Last year the Patriots traded down twice, acquiring the No. 111 overall pick (which netted them guard Tre' Jackson), No. 147, and No. 202 (tight end AJ Derby) from Cleveland for a third-rounder (defensive lineman Xavier Cooper) and a seventh-rounder (linebacker Hayes Pullard). They also got No. 166 (long-snapper Joe Cardona) and No. 247 (corner Darryl Roberts) from Green Bay for No. 147 (quarterback Brett Hundley). 

New England's most successful haul as a result of a recent trade down came in 2013. Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio dealt pick No. 29 to the Vikings in exchange for No. 52, No. 83, No. 102 and No. 229. The Patriots ended up with linebacker Jamie Collins, corner Logan Ryan and receiver Josh Boyce. Then they traded No. 229 for running back LeGarrette Blount. With the 29th overall selection, Minnesota took receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

While over the last 16 years Belichick has traded up and down on almost an equal number of occasions, since 2010 he's trended in one direction more than the other. In that time, he's traded up four times and down 12.

It's no wonder Robinson chose to craft the deal that he did.

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

File Photo

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

There's one gigantic hole to fill on the Patriots offensive line.

Replacing Nate Solder is no easy task and it's not exactly clear how the Pats will yet.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport was first to report the Patriots would like to bring back Waddle or Fleming.

It now appears that one of the former backup tackle is taking a serious look elsewhere, according to Ian Rapoport. 

It's not the best offensive line free agency market this season, so the Pats may prefer to bring back a guy they are familar with.

If Fleming is off the board, Waddle still remains as an option for New England.



How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

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How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason.