Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams specialize in taking advantage of teams that aren't as savvy or informed about economic principals. Over the past three seasons, we've seen the Patriots front office trade with some of the worst teams in the league in order to obtain key players.
November 2nd, 2012: Patriots acquire CB Aqib Talib and a 7th round pick from the Buccaneers for a 4th round pick.
The Bucs were 3-4 at the time and finished the season 7-9. The Patriots signed Talib to a one year contract for 2013 and earned a 3rd round compensatory draft pick in 2015 when Talib signed a mega-contract with the Broncos in the 2014 offseason.
The Patriots traded a 4th round pick and received two seasons of play from Talib, a 7th round pick, and a 3rd round pick. It's easy to see who won this trade. These picks turned into EDs Michael Buchanan and Geneo Grissom. The Bucs drafted William Gholston, who was benched this past season for a waiver wire pick-up.
October 29th, 2013: Patriots acquire DT Isaac Sopoaga and a 6th round pick from the Eagles for a 5th round pick.
The Eagles were 3-5 prior to the trade, but managed to swing their season to make the playoffs after a 7-1 finish to the year. The Patriots had been banking on the Eagles draft pick to be at the start of the 6th round, but it didn't work out. Sopoaga still couldn't beat out Joe Vellano or Chris Jones for consistent snaps, but he added depth.
The Pariots drafted ED Zach Moore. The Eagles traded the Patriots pick to the Saints for running back Darren Sproles. The Eagles, in Chip Kelly's rookie season, definitely got the best of this transaction. Imagine if the Patriots had Sproles out of their backfield?
October 22nd, 2014: Patriots acquire ED Akeem Ayers and a 7th round pick from the Titans for a 6th round pick.
The Titans were 2-5 prior to the trade and didn't win for the rest of the season. The Patriots don't win the Super Bowl without Ayers, who played a crucial role as Chandler Jones' replacement. The Titans traded away the second highest pick in the 7th round for the lowest non-compensatory pick in the 6th round. The Patriots hosed Tennessee.
The Patriots traded the Titans 7th round pick, along with the 96th overall, to add draft picks in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds from the Browns. They also traded the Browns 5th round pick for the Packers 5th and 7th round picks. These turned into OG Tre Jackson, LS Joe Cardona, TE A.J. Derby, and CB Darryl Roberts. The Titans selected C Andy Gallik.
Additionally, Ayers signed a long term contract with the Rams, which is projected to net the Patriots a 2016 6th round pick- or at the very least cancel out one of the Patriots lower valued free agent signings.
Add in a Super Bowl and the Patriots earned a pretty good haul. All for a 6th round pick that they'll likely recoup in 2016.
October 29th, 2014: Patriots acquire LB Jonathan Casillas and a 6th round pick from the Buccaneers for a 5th round pick
The Buccaneers were 1-6 and they finished the year 2-14, tied with the Titans. Similar to the Titans picks, the Patriots moved down from the bottom of the 5th round to the top of the 6th round for half a season of Casillas. Casillas stepped in to start during Dont'a Hightower's shoulder injury and was a key special teams player.
The Bucs traded the 6th round pick to Detroit for edge defender George Johnson in a move that was similar to the Patriots trading for the Dolphins Wes Welker back in 2007. The Bucs front-loaded their offer sheet to Johnson, a restricted free agent, and instead of the Lions trying to match, the two teams settled with a trade.
The Patriots selected linebacker Matthew Wells, who is pretty much the same exact type of player as Casillas- a smaller linebacker who can cover running backs, and one who can play heavily on special teams.
Like Ayers, Casillas will net the Patriots a projected 6th round compensatory pick after he signed a long term contract with the Giants.
The Patriots continue to manipulate teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their round on expiring contracts that could convert into compensatory picks if the player works out in the Patriots system.
Maybe these teams are thinking that a tradeable draft pick now is worth more than a future compensatory pick that can't be traded- and that would be fair. But the market is there for the Patriots to recuperate whatever draft picks they trade away to obtain these players, and they can do so by moving down a couple draft slots from the bottom of one round to the top of the next.
Look for the Patriots to try and pick up a midseason cornerback from a team with a losing record, right before the deadline. How about old friend Sterling Moore from Tampa Bay, so he can pair with Malcolm Butler to form the Miracle Duo? What about the 49ers' Chris Cook, who is buried down the depth chart? Or maybe the Rams' Janoris Jenkins is a possibility?
The Patriots could even look at some of the better teams. What about the Eagles Brandon Boykin, who Chip Kelly is more than willing to trade, or the Cowsboy Morris Claiborne, the former 6th overall pick who fell out of the team's graces (and is playing in the wrong scheme)?
There is potential and there is opportunity. Look for Belichick and Adams to make plenty of phone calls before the deadline.