Bill Belichick and the Patriots always execute deals on draft weekend. Some of them are seismic in nature -- Randy Moss and Drew Bledsoe, for example. Some of them are for future considerations -- the deals that secured Ty Warren and Jerod Mayo fall into this category. And some of them are smaller deals that really don’t end up making much of an impact.
So with a boatload of picks heading into this weekend -- 11, tied for most in the NFL -- there’s a feeling of anticipation in the air around Gillette Stadium. There are going to be deals. Since he arrived in 2000, the Patriots have always made a trade on draft weekend, with most years seeing multiple moves, and there should be some more this weekend. Belichick himself said Tuesday there have already been discussions (albeit preliminary ones) with teams “who see our multiple picks and have interest in acquiring two for one.”
History tells us that something is going to happen this weekend that involves New England. It’s just a matter of where and when. As Belichick himself said Tuesday, “Be prepared.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever been in a draft with the potential flexibility that we have this year,” the Patriots coach said in his annual pre-draft press conference.
This year’s draft is nothing like last season, where New England had just two picks in the first two rounds. This year, they have four of the first 58 picks and six in the first 97, more than anyone else in the league. That kind of hand can go a long way in the card game that is draft weekend, and Belichick is well aware of what he’s holding.
This weekend, if he so desires, he has a chance to be the league’s premiere power broker.
“This year, if you go by the generic trade charts -- the charts that pretty much everybody used or has access to -- if you do the numbers we could probably trade a combination of our picks and in the first round get up maybe as high as 10,” he said.
Hmmmm. Considering the fact that this isn’t one of the bigger and better drafts in recent history -- there are few consensus top picks at each position, a point Belichick hit on a few times Tuesday afternoon -- it creates intriguing possibilities for what New England might do.
Money aside, the Patriots and Panthers look to be intriguing dance partners: Providing Julius Peppers signs his deal, does New England -- which has four picks even before Carolina is on the clock for the first time -- swing a deal with the Panthers that involves Peppers and multiple picks? Do they bank them, trading down or into next season, trying to find a sucker convinced they can get rich quick off the Patriots? Or do they go all in, trying to land a spot in the Top 10?
While history tells us the Patriots will make a deal, it’s not likely they push all their chips to the middle of the table in search of one player. Instead, they treat the picks like currency, moving deliberately through one of Belichick’s favorite parts of the team-building process.
“We hope we’ll be able to use our picks productively, in whatever way that is. Sometimes we’ve used our picks to take players at the end of the draft, like the Matt Cassel’s, Patrick Pass, Tom Brady’s, guys like that who have come in the sixth and seventh rounds,” Belichick said.
“Sometimes we’ve taken those picks to move up, like the fifth-round pick we used to move up and take Ty Warren. Sometimes we’ve traded them into next year. ... I hope we’ll be able to use them productively. What that’ll be would just be a guess at this point in time. We’ll just have to wait and see what the options are.”
In the end, Belichick’s draft motto of “be prepared” will also apply to Patriots fans tuned in for a weekend of team building. Be prepared, because something is going to happen.
“The best example I could give would be that it’s like studying for a final exam,” Belichick said. “You have a semester’s worth of information and material. Which five questions are going to be on the exam? I don’t know. You have to study all the material. You hope you are on the target for the ones he asks.
“When it is over, you probably wish you would have studied more on something else and maybe spent a little less time on another area. But that is the way it is in the draft every year.”
Christopher Price covers the Patriots for WEEI.com.