It was September 6, 2009 – the last Sunday without football. Perfect day. I was walking with a bucket of baseballs in my hand and my three sons in front of me. We were going to hit.
And then we weren’t. My cell phone rang. The Patriots had traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders.
“Are you s******* me?!”
Not only had Bill Belichick harpooned my last free Sunday, he’d pawned off a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team. Seymour joined Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi on the list of great Patriots who’d been shown the door or chosen to retire in the preceding five months.
“Everybody back in the car, Dad’s gotta do some work.”
Seems so long ago. The oldest of my three sons is just finishing his freshman year of college. The other two are 16 and 17. They were 13, 11 and 10 when Belichick dealt the 29-year-old Seymour.
What’s really interesting is that, all these years later, the Patriots aren’t close to done enjoying the rewards of that trade because of the direct compensation they got for Seymour and the freedom the extra first-rounder afforded them.
The direct compensation from the Raiders – Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (which turned out to be the 17th overall) – was spent on Nate Solder.
Solder’s entering his fifth NFL season and hasn’t missed a game.
But the ripple effect from that deal is really where the Patriots cleaned up. During the 2011 draft, the Patriots dealt their own first-round pick – the 28th overall selection – to the Saints in exchange for the Saints first-rounder in 2012 and a second-rounder, the 56th overall pick.
Had the Patriots not made the Seymour deal, they wouldn’t have had just that 28th pick and probably wouldn’t have been inclined to deal out of the first round. But they did and with the 56th pick they took Shane Vereen.
The Saints first-rounder in 2012 wound up being the 27th overall pick so entering the 2012 draft, the Pats had the 27th and 31st overall picks.
Not for long. First, the Patriots swung a deal with Cincinnati to move up to 21 by sending the Bengals the 27th overall pick and a third-rounder (93 overall). The Patriots took Chandler Jones with the 21st pick.
The Patriots then packaged their own pick with a fourth-rounder to move up six spots and select Donta Hightower. The ripple from Seymour on that trade and selection isn’t very large. But you still have to project that entering that draft with two first-rounders allowed them an aggressive first-round mindset if the board went their way.
And it did.
Over the course of Seymour’s four seasons in Oakland, the Raiders went 25-38. Seymour hauled in more than $40M in salary and bonuses. He played 53 games.
There were plenty of people who didn’t love the trade at the time. Our very own Mike Felger hated it two years later when Solder was in the first few games of his career.
“After two years, you can really gauge whether this was a good trade or not,” Felger said in October of 2011. “You can tell how they played in his absence, what they got in return and how it all played out since then and looking at it like that, two years later, how can anyone say that this was a great trade and worked out the way you wanted it to work out?”
Felger was also concerned about two years of Tom Brady’s “prime” being spent without Seymour.
The Patriots went to the Super Bowl at the end of that season and played in the AFC Championship in 2012 and 2013, losing to Baltimore and Denver before breaking through in January against the Colts and beating the Seahawks in February.
Dealing Seymour in 2009 for a 2011 first-rounder was a tacit admission by the Patriots that they were starting to rebuild, and that’s the way that season played out. It was probably the most dysfunctional team of Belichick’s tenure in New England.
So judging the deal then or a few weeks into the career of Nate Solder was waaaaay premature. Now, though, you can see the full scope of what trading Seymour brought. How can anyone say that wasn’t a great trade and that it worked out really well?