Bill Belichick gave a long explanation for how teams approach the trade deadline during a conference call on Monday morning.
A brief synopsis: 1) You're probably not going to deal with a direct competitor, meaning someone in the division or a rival in the conference -- although the Patriots sent AJ Derby to the Broncos last season. 2) Players who are inactive on game days or who've seen their playing time diminish? Those are typically your targets. 3) Things can change in the period of minutes so don't try to predict what's going to happen.
Noted. No one could have predicted that the Patriots would deal Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick, but that's exactly what happened. And ESPN reported that the talks that eventually led to the deal began not long before Belichick gave his trade-deadline dissertation.
Here's the question, which I posed to Belichick about the importance of having working relationships with opposing front offices in order to execute trades, and Belichick's answer in full.
PP: With the trade deadline coming up, is it important to have a good working relationship with a front office you might be negotiating with? Do you find yourself exchanging calls with front office people you may know a little better, or does that not play a huge factor in your opinion?
BB: "Well, generally speaking, I think there are some teams that most teams aren’t going to be involved with – you know, probably their direct competitors in this type of a situation. Not saying it can’t happen, I just would say that’s a little more unusual. I mean, beyond that, some teams you have more conversations in the league with them than others, but in the end, I’m sure personnel departments in the league are doing the same thing.
"You look at your roster, you look at the players who are not on your roster – whether they’re on your practice squad or whether they’re on some other team’s practice squad or whether they’re not on anybody’s team – and you put together a list of players that, if you had a need arise, would be the group of players that you go to. And, in conjunction with that, you look at the rosters of the other 31 teams in the league, and based on what you know, other information that you gather, the inactive list every week and the play time, you can start to see which players have a diminished role in another team’s system, for whatever those reasons are. And, a lot of times if a team has a need in an area and they match that up with another team who’s not making a player active that the team with the depth issue feels like that player could give them depth, well then that’s a potential conversation. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but that’s a potential conversation.
"So, for example in the [Akeem] Ayers trade with Tennessee a couple of years ago, Akeem wasn’t getting much playing time down there, was inactive for – I forget however many games it was, but it was for a couple games – and when we inquired about him or they mentioned it to us, however it went – I mean, look, if you’re making a player inactive every week and you can gain something in return on a trade, then maybe there’s something to talk about there. I don’t know. So, again, every situation is different, every team is different, every player’s situation is different.
"I mean, there’s no go to the book on trades. OK, chapter one, here’s how it goes. It just doesn’t really work that way. It’s a very fluid situation. Things can change literally in a period of minutes, and I mean, that’s the world we live in, and there are a lot of things in that situation that are out of our control, out of any team’s control. I mean, anytime you’re trying to exchange players, you have to find somebody else that you can find the right or fair exchange with that both teams feel is fair so that they’ll do it. So, that’s, I would say, in this business, not the easiest thing to do. There’s a lot of learning and communication and system pick up or familiarity that plays into the whole player exchange, so in a way, the player that you have that knows the system, knows what he’s doing, knows everything that he needs to do in your system has a good value to you. That’s what you put all the time and training into.
"So, if you get another player that doesn’t have that, there’s got to be enough to offset it or enough of a need to go through that. So, each one’s different. I wouldn’t try to read too much into any of it. I think trying to predict what’s going to happen this time of year is – I don’t have any idea. I’m sure a lot of the other experts out there do, but I don’t. So, you just take it as it comes. If it makes sense and it works, then great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t."