(I'm sure you can tell from the headline, but this is barely, barely related to baseball. Sometimes I go on random tangents about other sports, especially when it comes to drafts. That's what you see here, if that's not your cup of tea, please move on.)
A while back I mused on the Houston Rockets and how their draft strategy refreshed my appreciation of the N.B.A. draft. I made a mention of the New England Patriots and their keen awareness of turning picks into second round selection. Well, today they turned something else into a draft pick.
Something else in this case refers to defensive end Richard Seymour. He is a 29-year-old who the Patriots selected sixth overall in the 2001 draft. In exactly a month he will turn 30-years-old and this season will mark his ninth in the league. He recorded eight sacks last season - matching a career high - in 15 games and notched 34 tackles. A fan favorite and a stellar player he was traded today, to the Oakland Raiders for a first round pick in the 2011 draft.
This is bewildering and captivating to me.
The Patriots are hands-down the smartest front office in the N.F.L., they realize that victory is more important than sentiment in the long-run, and have executed to such mantra in numerous cases over the seasons. They let Ty Law walk, Lawyer Milloy, Willie McGinest, numerous offensive lineman, they traded Deion Branch, and so on.
Oakland is the most dysfunctional team in the league. People make jokes about the retirement destination for older players. That's not really true with Oakland, it's not a retirement home, it's more like the community from The Giver. The "Black Hole" nickname has never been more fitting than in recent seasons. Al Davis' act seems histrionic at times, but it appears his insanity knows no bounds with this move.
It's a first rounder. Since their Super Bowl run in 2002, the Raiders have selected 2nd, 23rd, 7th, 1st, 4th, and 7th for an average of picking seventh overall. Could the Raiders turn it around within this season and the next? Sure. Is it likely? Not at all. Maybe the pick won't be first overall, or second, or fifth, but I'd say there's a 85% chance it comes in the top 10.
Next: it's a 30-year-old defensive end (in a 3-4 defensive system, which Oakland does not run as of now) who will reach free agency following this season. This is why the Patriots were shopping him, because their massive defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is also a free agent and the Pats can only afford to keep one given the silly boundaries of a salary cap.
I know very little about N.F.L. aging curves and frankly I should just leave the analysis to the smart people but here goes nothing.I do know how to use Pro-Football-Reference, so I went and looked at year-by-year sack leaders. Now just sacking the quarterback isn't the only responsibility for players like Seymour, but it's the RBI of football. People look at it to judge instant value and while I'm not condoning it and I'm fully aware there are better measurements around.. Plus, we already established that Seymour tied a career high in sacks, so presumably the Raiders realized this.
2008 - 26
2007 - 25
2006 - 22
2005 - 27
2004 - 24
2003 - 32
2002 - 28
2001 - 30
2000 - 26
1999 - 26
10 seasons and two had leaders aged 29 or over.
Now I don't want to say this bodes poorly for the Raiders ... okay yes I do. This bodes poorly for the Raiders. Maybe you can argue the Raiders know how to evaluate defensive linemen better than the Patriots* but nobody believes that except maybe Oakland themselves and we know they have the foresight of a fruit fly.
Next: this first round pick. We don't know the name or position or even the pick number. However, there's really only three scenarios that could possibly take place. A) The N.F.L. doesn't fix the rookie pay scale and the Patriots move out of the slot and pick up some cheaper picks in the process, B) the N.F.L. does fix the rookie pay scale and the Patriots take the best player available, or C) the Patriots trade it for some megastar unhappy with his current team.
What are the odds that Seymour is still a Raider by the time the pick dresses for the Patriots? 10%? Add that with the unlikelihood of Seymour making a significant difference for the Raiders and I fail to see much upside in this deal for the Raiders.
I think that can be said anytime they attempt to deal with the Patriots.
*This concept is also more intriguing when you ponder that the Patriots just acquired a Raiders defensive end a few weeks ago. They traded a third and fifth round pick for Derrick Burgess. He is 31 and prior to last year had some impressive numbers for Oakland. A first and Burgess for Seymour, a third, and a fifth? Some would call this a Madden trade, but the CPU Raiders actually rejected it.