Potential Trade Threatens to Further Expose the Brutal Truth About Bill Belichick’s Resume
During the first decade and a half of Bill Belichick’s tenure, the New England Patriots found many key contributors via the draft, including franchise icons like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Dont’a Hightower.
By landing so many long-term building blocks from the college ranks, Belichick built a largely homegrown roster that dominated the NFL at an unprecedented level.
Yet even though his Canton-worthy resume features six Super Bowl titles as a head coach, it’s impossible to look past the growing list of players who’ve failed to provide much of anything after arriving in Foxborough as early-round selections.
And with trade rumors swirling, it might not be long before another disappointing draft pick finds himself playing for another team.
While that may not affect Belichick’s reputation as the greatest coach of all time, the brutal truth about his work as a general manager speaks volumes about why the Patriots are no longer considered viable Super Bowl contenders after annually competing for the Lombardi Trophy for two straight decades.
Isaiah Wynn’s future with the Patriots remains a mystery
Having already moved on from 2018 first-rounder Sony Michel and 2019 first-rounder N’Keal Harry, the Patriots appear primed to show another Day 1 selection the door. Instead of locking down the left tackle position for 10 years, Isaiah Wynn looks destined to become the latest draftee who failed to prove he belongs in New England for the long term.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the former Georgia Bulldog opened the 2022 season as a member of another NFL team.
Despite his first-round pedigree, Wynn hasn’t come close to providing what the Patriots expected when they made him the 23rd overall pick in 2018. The oft-injured tackle has been solid in spurts, but occasional lapses in pass protection, too many penalties, and durability issues have made it difficult to depend on him.
Combine that with a $10.4 million cap hit, and it’s easy to see why the idea of dealing Wynn seems not just realistic but inevitable.
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, the Patriots have talked with other teams about the fifth-year offensive lineman. However, because Wynn is “still seen as a tackle/guard tweener” and has an expensive salary, it’s been tough for New England to move him.
With Week 1 rapidly approaching, it will be interesting to see if Belichick elects to trade Wynn before the regular season begins. On one hand, doing so would open up cap space for a team that currently ranks 28th at $3.25 million.
On the other hand, a deal would also represent a blatant admission that investing in Wynn was a mistake.
Then again, swinging and missing in the draft have become far more routine for Belichick in recent years.
Trading another former first-round pick will only open Bill Belichick up to more well-deserved criticism
Want to know why the Patriots have gone from ruling the AFC to being perhaps the third-best team in their own division?
Just look at their draft history.
A franchise that prided itself on maximizing value by securing cost-effective starters has simply missed out on too many opportunities to continue that trend. Rather than re-stocking the pipeline with young, cheap talent, Belichick devoted early-round picks to players who couldn’t cut it in New England for a multitude of reasons.
In some instances, he made massive reaches. That was certainly the case with 2015 second-round safety Jordan Richards and 2020 third-round tight end Dalton Keene.
Other times, the prospects Belichick targeted quickly proved they couldn’t translate their collegiate success to the pro level. From second-round corners Cyrus Jones (2016), Duke Dawson (2018), and Joejuan Williams (2019) to epic first-round bust N’Keal Harry, the Patriots got a poor return on several early-rounders who were expected to develop into starters.
Ironically, if Wynn gets traded in the coming weeks, he and Michel will have gone from starring at Georgia to becoming first-round picks by the Patriots to getting shipped out of town before their rookie contracts expire.
Not exactly the ideal formula for sustained success, right?
Ultimately, Belichick’s resume as a GM looks far less impressive the longer he remains in charge. Sure, nobody can take away the success he enjoyed most of his career. After all, the Patriots wouldn’t have become the most successful dynasty in NFL history without coaching brilliance and his strong work in the draft—plus some help from that Brady guy.
However, how can Robert Kraft not be concerned about what the future holds, given Belichick’s staggeringly lousy track record in Rounds 1-3 since 2015? (Don’t forget about 2014 first-round bust Dominique Easley, either.)
Bad personnel decisions necessitated a record-setting spending spree that somehow still has the Patriots looking several steps behind some of the elite teams in their conference.
Now, just making the playoffs seems like a difficult goal to achieve.
Are brighter days ahead for the Patriots’ recent draft classes?
Will New England earn a postseason berth for the second year in a row? Or will 2021 prove to be an outlier?
The answer hinges largely on how much production the Patriots get from their last three draft classes. Luckily for Belichick, there appear to be at least a few potential stars among the crop of players who’ve joined the organization since 2020.
Obviously, Mac Jones stands out as the most pivotal and high-upside draft pick. Coming off a rock-solid rookie campaign, he has a chance to cement his status as the face of the franchise–provided Matt Patricia and Joe Judge can competently coach offense.
In addition to Jones, fellow 2021 draftees Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson looked poised for big year-two leaps.
The former possesses the power and athleticism to become one of the league’s top defensive tackles. The latter brings a unique blend of power and agility, which gives Belichick further incentive to explore trading contract-year running back Damien Harris.
Although the 2020 class has been a mixed bag thus far, the arrow points up for a group that could feature as many as five significant contributors. Kyle Dugger could earn his first Pro Bowl berth if he continues progressing as a coverage player.
Fellow second-rounder Josh Uche faces a make-or-break year, and his pass-rush potential should excite Patriots fans. While the third-round tight end tandem of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene never materialized, No. 87 overall pick Anfernee Jennings has been terrific in training camp and preseason action.
And it wouldn’t be a surprise if he earns significant snaps as the edge-setting complement to Pro Bowl sack artist Matthew Judon.
Meanwhile, sixth-round offensive linemen Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron should each serve valuable roles. Onwenu plays both guard and tackle and should open the season as a starter. Herron, who tips the scales at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, has appeared in 28 games (10 starts) since the Patriots selected him 195th overall.
Of course, if Bill Belichick pulls the plug on the Isaiah Wynn era, Herron may play a lot more snaps than he’s used to.