-- Last April, the Patriots did not make a draft day trade for the first time since Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli took over as the Patriots decision makers. But this year, the Patriots were very active on the trade front, particularly on Day 2.
New England made four draft weekend moves in an effort to unload picks and stock up for next year when there figures to be a stronger pool of talent from which to select.
Belichick admitted that this year's draft was weaker than most, and his scouting department may have predicted the sub-par class a year ago when it didn't make any moves to stockpile picks for 2005.
New England entered the weekend with nine picks and after making three selections on Day 1, made just four on Day 2, two of which were not tradable because they were compensatory. In making four trades on the weekend, New England added three additional 2006 draft picks, one each in the third, fourth and fifth.
"A lot of people we dealt with wanted to acquire picks for this year," Belichick said in explaining how the trades worked out. "Most of those picks we got for next year were up one round from where they were in this year's draft so hopefully we created some value there."
Belichick wouldn't say it but New England figured that few second day players had a chance to make their roster this season so it worked to move the picks into next year to get more ammunition and flexibility for 2006 when the draft figures to be stronger.
The trades started on Saturday when New England dealt its second round pick, 64th overall, to the Ravens for the 84th pick, a sixth round pick and a 2006 third round choice.
On Sunday, New England dealt a fifth round pick (145th overall) and a sixth round pick (206th overall) to Detroit for a 2006 fourth round choice. It also acquired the 175th pick from Green Bay for a for a sixth rounder and a seventh rounder before moving the acquired pick to Oakland for a seventh rounder and a 2006 fifth round pick.
-- The Patriots addressed potential depth problems at linebacker by signing former Chief Monty Beisel two weeks ago and then adding former Giants linebacker Wesly Mallard last week, but they let the top linebackers in the draft slide by as they addressed their offensive line on Day 1.
Neither 'backer has extensive experience outside of playing special teams, but both are young players who the Patriots hope might be ready to contribute defensively much the way Mike Vrabel did after coming over from Pittsburgh, where he was a reserve pass rusher.
Beisel, who started nine games last year and has four seasons of experience, is the more polished of the two and will compete for time at inside linebacker in the Pats 3-4 front and may even draw a starting nod if Tedy Bruschi is unable to return from the stroke he suffered in February.
Mallard played in 35 games as a reserve in three seasons in New York after being selected in the sixth round back in 2002, but tore his ACL last year and was not tendered by the Giants as a restricted free agent.
Signing those two young linebackers, and Beisel in particular, obviously made drafting a rookie prospect at the position less of a priority since the Patriots did not address the position on Day 1 as many predicted they would. They did grab Ryan Claridge at the end of the fifth round to provide some depth and a future defensive contributor.
-- In his pre-draft press conference, Belichick urged people not to read too much into individual picks and try to tie those into any other player's status. He was referring specifically to Bruschi, who may or may not play football in 2005. Bruschi, who was reportedly cleared to begin a more rigorous workout program, does not yet know if he will be able to play next season. But Belichick basically said that drafting a linebacker didn't mean Bruschi wouldn't play just as not drafting one wasn't an indication that he would.
-- "I don't think our current roster impacts too much of our plans," Belichick said. "We draft the board based on what is up there and what we feel like those players can do for our football team. It still comes back to drafting players that can be productive in your system and that is what we will continue to do, not based on any particular player's status or anything else."
-- The Patriots didn't draft a receiver after signing a pair of free agents, David Terrell and Tim Dwight, to one-year deals. While the position group looks solid for 2005 with those two free agents along with returnees David Givens and Deion Branch and unproven Bethel Johnson and P.K. Sam, it may not have much for the future with Givens also on a one-year deal. This group will be fighting for the ball this season as three players look to head into unrestricted free agency on positive notes.
"(Terrell and Dwight) will compete with everybody else and the best players will play, and the ones that don't play as well as the other guys will get less playing time," Belichick said. "All of that will be decided out on the field. We don't control any of that. It is competition. That is what they are all here for and it will all be decided based on their performance."
Belichick did not close the door on re-signing Troy Brown, who remains unemployed. Bringing Brown back would certainly make wideout one of the most competitive in training camp.
-- Belichick was asked who his best ever draft pick was and he didn't hesitate. "I would say in terms of performance and production and where he was picked, it would have to be Tom Brady. But, again, I don't really feel like I've made any draft pick. Whether it was in Cleveland or here. It has been a combination of people. A lot of people (are) involved in the decision-making process and if you want to give me the credit or the blame for whichever ones you want, that is fine. But a lot of people were involved in the entire process, so I don't' really feel like in any way it is somebody I selected without a lot of work and a lot of help from a lot of other people," Belichick answered.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a lot of hype. There isn't much difference between the 254th pick and the 255th pick except the trip to Wally World or whatever it is." - Bill Belichick on picking Mr. Irrelevant
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