"Any transaction we make is with the goal of what is best for our team and, as difficult as it is to part ways with a player of Richard's stature, many factors were taken into account when we considered this trade. As an organization, we feel the trade with Oakland brings sufficient value and is in the long-term interest of the club. We are extremely grateful for the huge impact Richard's elite level of performance had on our success and we wish him the very best during the rest of his career."
-- Bill Belichick, in a press release
The Patriots traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday for a draft pick they won't cash in until Tom Brady is almost 34 years old -- and that's only if they don't flip it ahead for a couple of draft picks in 2012 the way they'll almost certainly be tempted to do.
First things first: Nothing about this deal makes the Patriots a better team this season. Nothing about trading Richard Seymour for a future draft pick gives the Patriots a better chance to win this season. Ron Brace and Myron Pryor might have spectacular rookie seasons, but the Patriots still would have been a better team with Seymour part of the rotation on the defensive line than without him.
Second things second: Everything about this deal positions the Patriots to be a better team down the road. Seymour wasn't the only player whose contract was due to expire after the season -- defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has made quite a bit of noise this offseason about his desire for an extension -- and the Patriots likely made the decision they were unlikely to re-sign Seymour after this season. Rather than allowing him to walk away for nothing, they acquired what likely will be a draft choice in the first half of the first round.
There aren't many who are skeptical that the Raiders' draft pick will turn into a key contributors, but for those who might be, here's a look at the players who still were on the board when the Raiders drafted in each of the last five years:
2009 (No. 7): B.J. Raji, Michael Crabtree, Malcolm Jenkins.
(The Raiders chose Darrius Heyward-Bey.)
2008 (No. 4): Jerod Mayo, Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
(The Raiders chose Darren McFadden.)
2007 (No. 1): Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis -- and every single other player available.
(The Raiders chose JaMarcus Russell.)
2006 (No. 7): Jay Cutler, Haloti Ngata, Antonio Cromartie.
(The Raiders chose Michael Huff.)
2005 (No. 7): DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman.
(The Raiders traded their first-round pick plus a seventh-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Randy Moss. In true Al Davis form, the Raiders flipped Moss to the Patriots two years later for a fourth-round pick.)
That's a stunning amount of talent.
We probably can agree that if the Patriots don't get an impact player with the pick they receive for Seymour, it's their own fault and not the fault of the trade not working out.
Back then, to the point of this discussion. The Patriots did not make themselves better this year by trading Seymour. They did make themselves better down the road -- keep in mind that they still could flip the 2011 first-round pick for a 2010 first-round pick and assorted other stocking stuffers come April -- by trading Seymour.
That's the dichotomy every personnel director in every professional sport must consider: Is the goal always to win the Super Bowl -- or is the goal to set your team up for a high level of success year in and year out?
Theo Epstein faces the same dilemma Belichick does, and he comes at it from a similar perspective. Both Belichick and Epstein have won enough championships in recent years to ward off any fan revolt if their teams fall short of the ultimate prize -- or even short of the playoffs every once in a while. Both Belichick and Epstein operate in a market and within a budget that renders rebuilding almost impossible. Red Sox fans and Patriots fans don't expect to win a championship every single year -- but they expect to go into every single season with realistic aspirations of a championship.
Epstein had a chance to bolster his team for a short-term run at a championship in July. He did trade for Victor Martinez, surrendering Justin Masterson and a pair of minor-league pitchers, but he had a chance to add then-Cy Young Award front-runner Roy Halladay at the expense of half his farm system. There's almost no question a deal for Halladay would have improved the Red Sox's chances of winning a World Series this season, but it also would have set the Red Sox back a few years in terms of player development.
The Red Sox might not win the World Series this season.
The Patriots might not win the Super Bowl this season.
If either happens, it would be easy to blame Epstein for the move he didn't make and to blame Belichick for the move he did make.
But both did what they could to set their team up to contend every year. Both have won championships in the recent past, and thus both have to focus more on perennial success than on going for broke in any particular year.
Some franchises -- the Cleveland Indians, for example, or the St. Louis Rams -- have endured roller-coaster rides over the last decade or so. The Red Sox and Patriots have turned their philosophies into a steady diet of consistent success, and the trade of Seymour to the Raiders is just another example.