Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Sunday, September 6, 2009
Patriots trade looks like master stroke for future




Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The New England Patriots enter 2009 as a Super Bowl contender.

That didn't stop Bill Belichick from trading away one of his best players Sunday for an asset that won't bear fruit for two years.

And he probably strengthened the organization by sacrificing for the short-term.

The Patriots sent five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for their 2011 first-round draft choice.

"Seymour's a great one," Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson said. "I think Seymour's a Hall of Famer. He won't be easily replaced.

"But let's remember: The Raiders pick could be first overall. They're perennially bad."

Seymour was entering the final season of a four-year extension he signed in 2006. The Patriots made a business decision by trading him. Rather than lose him at the end of the season and get nothing in return, they now have more salary-cap space to sign defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who's also entering the final year of his contract and wants an extension.

"Nose tackles are harder to find," Williamson said. "Wilfork is younger. He's in the prime of his career. Seymour's still very effective, but I would rather have Wilfork if you're going to have one or the other."

Seymour, who will turn 30 next month, led the Patriots with eight sacks last year. But he has missed eight games over the past two seasons because of injuries.

"To me, he's not worth the potential first overall pick," Williamson said. "I thought he'd be more of a second-round pick. He was hurt at the end of the year, and how many more good years are you going to get out of him?"

Williamson isn't convinced the Patriots will suffer in Seymour's absence. The Patriots expect to use more four-man fronts. Derrick Burgess, acquired from the Raiders in early August, is a pure 4-3 defensive end.

A four-man front will mean bigger roles for rookies Ron Brace and Myron Pryor. The Patriots selected Brace out of Boston College with the 40th overall pick. They selected Pryor out of Kentucky in the sixth round, and he performed well throughout the preseason.

"It opens the way to play more 4-3 with Wilfork and Brace at the defensive tackles," Williamson said. "That's 675 pounds. Those are two big, beefy bodies in front of [inside linebacker Jerod] Mayo."