By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Bill Belichick might as well be a living, breathing Wells Report In Context.
Instead of crying over spilled milk (or writing passive-aggressive blog posts), the Patriots' head coach and head personnel man is doing what he can to build the best roster possible for 2016.
And though Roger Goodell took away Belichick's first-round pick as a punishment for the nonsense known as "DeflateGate," Belichick is doing the next best thing to drafting a first-rounder.
He's signing every former first-round pick that he can.
On Tuesday afternoon, Belichick traded away Chandler Jones (a first-round pick in 2012, coincidentally) for a second-round pick and Jonathan Cooper, a guard who was taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
On Tuesday night, he signed free-agent defensive end Chris Long, who was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft.
On Wednesday, he signed free-agent running back Donald Brown, who was drafted 27th overall in 2009*.
And on Wednesday night, he signed free-agent linebacker Shea McClellin, who was selected with the 19th pick in the 2012 draft.
OK, Bill. Message received. Loud and clear.
*An astute Twitter follower made the distinction to me that Brown was a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts, so he may not REALLY count as a first-rounder. And with first-round picks like Bjoern Werner, Anthony Castonzo and Phillip Dorsett, that's a fine point. But we'll deal only in the concrete for the time being.
**Belichick also acquired Martellus Bennett, a former second-rounder, who's been among the best tight ends in the sport over the past four years.
This is entirely new ground for Belichick. Even when Goodell stripped his first-rounder in 2008 over Spygate, Belichick still possessed San Francisco's first-rounder, which happened to be the No. 7 overall pick. Belichick ended up trading that pick to move down to No. 10, where he drafted Jerod Mayo, who became a defensive captain, made an All-Pro team and two Pro Bowls, and was named defensive rookie of the year. The Patriots have averaged 12 wins per year since then, and they've won a championship, made it two Super Bowls, and made it to three more conference championship games.
So, Goodell's punishment didn't really work. Stripping the Patriots of the 31st overall pick in 2007 did nothing to set them back. So, this time around, he included language that essentially prohibited the Patriots from picking in the first round at all. Not only was their 29th overall pick taken away, but if the team made a trade for an earlier pick in the first round, that newly acquired pick would be the one taken away, thereby killing any reason to actually make a trade for such a pick.
This time around, Goodell took an extra step to ensure the Patriots could not acquire a top-flight player in the first round of the draft. So, as he always does, Belichick has sought alternate routes.
Of course, former first-round draft picks only become available if they're due to make more money than a team deems them worthy of making, or if they've underperformed, or if they're getting old, and so on and so forth. But ... the draft itself is a crapshoot, even in the first round. Granted, Belichick himself manages to bat around .850 when it comes to picking a player in the first round, but still, a draft pick is never a guarantee to work out.
And by acquiring four former first-round picks, Belichick is stacking the deck to ensure that he's infusing a sufficient amount of talent into his team for the coming season.
Expect the NFL to launch an investigation into this devious misbehavior any day now.
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