These days, free agency and the NFL Draft are top-of-mind with the *Patriots Football Weekly *guys, who are fresh off their latest trip to the annual Scouting Combine.
Around the office this week, they've been discussing whom New England could sign in the days ahead and what the team could do with its four selections in the first two rounds of next month's draft (one first-rounder, three seconds). Along the way, Richard Seymour's name came up, along with the first-round pick in the 2011 draft that the Patriots received from Oakland when they traded Seymour to the Raiders last summer.
That's how they arrived at this week's PFW Debate Fridayquestion:
Should the Patriots trade next year's first-round pick from Oakland to help acquire another first-round pick in this year's draft?
Read the arguments from the PFW writers, then cast your vote below in this week's poll.
Erik Scalavino says, "Yes …"
The Patriots, under Bill Belichick, haven't done much trading up in the first round. And, in so doing (or not doing, as the case may be), they've missed out on some quality players. As recently as last year, they had a chance to grab eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin, but decided to trade out of the first round.
Given what I witnessed at the Combine last week (granted, we've yet to watch any film of the prospects … it's due to arrive in a few days, we're told), this could be the year to reverse that trend. By most accounts, this year's crop of new talent could be among the best in a generation.
If that's the case, I'd love to see the team take next year's Raiders pick, package it maybe with one of the three second-round choices this year, and land a top-ten pick in next month's draft. They could put themselves in position to begin rebuilding the defensive line with one of the consensus top players at that spot: Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. Or they could take one of the premier QBs as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Maybe take a flier on an elite running back like C.J. Spiller.
Or they might use it as leverage to slide down a few spots to the middle of the first round, and perhaps acquire another second-rounder (or one in the third, where they currently don't have a selection). The Patriots need help at pass rusher, wide receiver, tight end, cornerback … even o-line. The more choices, the better … the future is now, I say.
Besides, with the 2011 season in doubt because of the labor strife, who knows if next year's draft picks will even see the field right away. Might as well get some extra talent in here now and get them at least a year's experience in the system before a potential lockout occurs.
Andy Hart says, "No …"
I understand that this is supposedly a very good draft, maybe one of the best first-rounds of talent in a couple decades (of course, Charley Casserly said that, and his opinion isn't exactly gospel in these parts). I also understand the urgency to improve the team and maximize the opportunities while they exist with Tom Brady, and to a lesser extent Randy Moss.
But how many rookies are we going to put on the field next season? Are we building a championship team or an All-Rookie Team? The Patriots already have four of the top 53 picks in the draft. That, after drafting four players in the second round last fall. If they hit on the picks they already have this year, and if last year's picks improve, there is already a strong injection of youthful talent in the pipeline. Why rush to give up a commodity to get another pick now?
But the biggest argument I have for keeping the 2011 Oakland pick is the team by the Bay itself. It's the Raiders. I know they made some strides last season. They feel like they have things going in the right direction. Tom Cable is feeling pretty good about himself (and his leather jacket, but that's a different topic for a different day.) But they are still the Raiders. Al Davis is still in charge. And if I'm not mistaken, they still lack a quarterback, at least one who can win games consistently.
All that means the Oakland pick could very easily be a top-five selection, maybe even the No. 1 overall pick next spring. There are great players in the draft every year. So if the Patriots have, say, the No. 3 overall pick in 2011, I think Bill Belichick will put it to good use.
And let's not forget that a great deal of the value of that pick, that trade for Richard Seymour, was that the 2011 selection might come under the parameters of a new rookie wage scale. So you could get a great young player, an elite impact player, under a much more palatable financial umbrella.
That's too valuable to give up for an extra pick this year. Hold onto that commodity; play it out and root against the Raiders even more than you normally do. And maybe, just maybe, we're talking about the Patriots picking No. 1 overall next April with a world of opportunity to work with.
Now it's the fans' turn to chime in on the debate. Should the Patriots trade their 2011 first-round pick (acquired from Oakland in the Seymour trade) to try to get another high pick in this year's draft? Cast your vote now.