Coming off their second Super Bowl win in two years, the New England Patriots were trying to upgrade their football team on the offensive side of the ball by targeting a productive and experienced running back: Corey Dillon, who the Cincinnati Bengals were looking to trade after an inconsistent and injury-riddled season.
In order to get a better feel for a player they might acquire, the Patriots’ lead decision makers — Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli — held a secret meeting with Dillon. Earlier this week, Pioli appeared on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football to tell the story of that meeting.
“It was about a week before the draft started. It was back in 2004, there was only a two-day draft — it was Saturday and Sunday,” Pioli said. “About a week before the draft, Belichick and I get in my car and we do a little road trip down to Rocky Hill, Connecticut. At the Residence in Rocky Hill, Connecticut we meet with Corey Dillon and his agent Steve Feldman.
“The Cincinnati Bengals wanted to trade him, but Bill and I were in a situation where we spent time with Corey to make sure that he was going to understand our culture, understand everything that we did. So there we were in this little room in Rocky Hill, Connecticut; Feldman, Corey Dillon, Belichick and myself, and we were having this conversation, trying to get to know Corey a little bit more than what we knew as a football player.”
The meeting was a success for the Patriots, and ultimately Dillon as well. He had the most productive season of his career, carrying the football 345 times for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season — being a key cog in New England’s offensive machinery. The team eventually went on to reach the Super Bowl and win its second straight title by beating the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dillon, who had not appeared in a playoff game until this point, played a big role in the Patriots successfully defending their title — all for the price of a second-round pick in the 2004 draft.