Uncapped Year Unlikely to Impact Bill Belichick’s Draft Strategy

Uncapped Year Unlikely to Impact Bill Belichick's Draft Strategy If a new collective bargaining agreement is not struck by March 5, 2010 will be an uncapped year for the NFL. Might this impact whom and how the Patriots draft?

Over the last several years, there have been three sure things in New England: death, taxes and Bill Belichick trading draft picks.

Year after year, Belichick has made an art of hoarding draft picks, only to swap them for future picks once draft day approaches. Things may be shaping up to be much the same when this April’s draft rolls around as the Patriots already hold three second-round picks.

They also picked up two seventh-round picks while trading away their third-, fifth- and seventh-rounders. In 2011, they have an extra first-round pick from the Richard Seymour trade along with New Orleans’ seventh-round pick. If history is any indication, Belichick will be sending some of these picks away for 2011 and 2012 slots.

Why does Belichick trade away draft picks? Usually, it’s because he feels there’s no one worth taking at that spot, not with the cost in salary. He rarely subscribes to simply taking the best player available. If no one fits Belichick’s ideals and budget at that spot, the pick gets traded for future picks that might meet Belichick’s constraints.

However, with the uncapped year looming, might Belichick be a bit more willing to “reach” and take a player where he might not normally do so?

In a word, no.

While an uncapped year would offer New England far more flexibility to draft players and pay them more than Belichick evaluated them to be worth, it doesn’t mean it would be the right choice to do so. Running a successful team isn’t about taking risks — it’s about taking calculated risks. If a player isn’t good enough for New England under a capped system, why is he any better uncapped? Belichick will value the players exactly as they should be and will refuse to break the bank for anyone who isn’t worth it.

An uncapped year won’t change his philosophy of paying what a player’s
actually worth, not what he can get on the free market. A perfect example of that approach was in
the Seymour trade last fall.

And even with that move, Belichick was already thinking ahead. Consider the Patriots’ first-round pick they got from Oakland in the 2011 draft. The pick figures to be a high one.

Whenever the new CBA gets signed — and there will certainly be one in place for 2011 — it will likely carry with it a hard-slot system for draft picks, meaning players can’t dictate how much they are paid. The round and number they were picked will determine their salary figures for them. Belichick wanted no part of an era where draft picks have been paid a great amount more than Pro Bowl veterans simply because of the leverage they hold. But in this new era? He should be all in.

And if the new CBA doesn’t hard-slot draft picks? Don’t be surprised to see Belichick trade down again.

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