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Trading Spaces: The Unlikely Duo of Bill Belichick and Al Davis

The Patriots traded a fourth-round pick for pro-bowl WR Randy Moss in 2007. (Photo on finkleandfaybomb.com)

Since 2005, the Patriots and Oakland Raiders have made nine trades involving draft picks. In those nine trades, 25 players were involved, led by household names Randy Moss and Richard Seymour.

Despite a relationship that has seen Al Davis accuse the Patriots of tampering with Randy Moss, the two teams have been active trade partners for six years. But, don’t think it’s because they’re buddy-buddy.

Bill Belichick smirked when talking on ESPN about the 2011 draft day trade between the two. The Patriots traded a 2011-third (Joseph Barksdale) and a 2011-fourth rounder (Taiwan Jones) for a 2011-seventh (Malcolm Williams) and a 2012-second round pick. The deal was made 20-plus picks in advance, which Belichick later said was one of the oddest trades he’s ever seen.

Odd is a good word to describe the trades made by both sides.

One of the most lopsided trades in NFL history saw Randy Moss land in New England for a 2007-fourth round pick. The Raiders went on to select Cincinnati defensive back John Bowie, who is currently on the Cleveland Browns. Bowie has two career tackles.

Davis tried to justify why he gave up the future Hall of Famer for such a low draft choice.

“You know how many teams turned him down?” Davis said. “That guy in Green Bay thought he couldn’t run any more. Even Denver, where they’ll take anybody, turned him down.”

The year before, another Raiders receiver joined the Patriots. Oakland dealt Doug Gabriel for a 2007-fifth round pick. Gabriel caught 25 passes for 344 yards and looked like a solid addition for a wide receiver-hungry team. However, after a poor showing against the New York Jets, Gabriel was released. He later joined the Raiders, again.

2-0-1, Belichick. We’ll call the Gabriel deal a wash.

Before we give credit, where credit is due – the tide turning in Davis’ favor — let’s look at the first deal that sprung this trading partnership.

In 2005, the Raiders received a sixth-round pick, who was Anttaj Hawthorne, and gave up a 2005-seventh and 2006-sixth. That ’05 selection was quarterback Matt Cassel. As you know, Cassel went on to start the entire 2008 season for New England before being dealt — with Mike Vrabel — to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2009-second round choice (Pat Chung).

3-0-1, Belichick.

After being laughed at for the Moss trade, Davis finally redeemed himself in the 2009 draft. The Patriots, for whatever reason, traded up seven spots in the second round to select Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace, who mind you wasn’t even the best DT on his own team. The Raiders got the Patriots second, fourth and sixth round picks.

Oakland surprised everyone — go figure — and drafted Ohio safety Michael Mitchell, a late-round prospect to ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper. Last season Mitchell had 51 tackles and started three games for Oakland. Don’t laugh, but Mitchell will start for the Raiders in 2011. In the fourth round, Oakland got playmaker Louis Murphy. Murphy has started 18 games and has performed better than top 10 selection Darrius Heyward-Bey.

3-1-1, Belichick.

Last year the two made a similar second-round trade. New England jumped ahead of the Baltimore Ravens to select Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski. This time the Patriots only moved up two spots. The Raiders selected Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, who started 15 games last season. Oakland also received a sixth-round selection (Travis Goethel). Both players have had unexpected success in their rookie seasons.

3-1-2, Belichick. Another wash, for now.

We have three more trades to explore. WARNING: If you’re a Patriots fan, you may want to stop reading now.

The Patriots desperately needed a pass-rusher heading into the 2009 season. So, in desperation, Belichick parted ways with a 2010-third and fifth round picks for the declining Derrick Burgess. Burgess’ stay in New England was a quiet one. He went on to record five sacks in 2009 and was re-signed by New England in May 2010. However, Burgess was a no-show and eventually released by Belichick and co.

The Raiders ended up trading both picks they acquired for Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves. The Cleveland Browns drafted Colt McCoy in the Wimbley transaction.

3-2-2, Belichick.

Let’s quickly get one more trade out of the way before we talk about the Seymour deal.

Come back with me to 2007. The Patriots traded their third-rounder (Mario Henderson) to Oakland for a 2007-seventh (Oscar Lua) and 2008-third. The 2008-third was then traded to the San Diego Chargers, who took LSU running back Jacob Hester, in exchange for a 2008-fifth and 2009-second.

Are you with me?

The 2008-fifth (Josh Johnson) was then traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so the Patriots could move up and select Matthew Slater. The 2009-second rounder, still stemming from original Oakland deal in 2007, was traded to the Raiders for their 2009-second — we talked about this deal above. There the Raiders got Mitchell, Murphy and Stryker Sulak while New England drafted Brace.

I know that’s confusing, let’s paint it this way.

Raiders get: Mario Henderson, Michael Mitchell, Louis Murphy, Stryker Sulak
Chargers get: Jacob Hester
Buccaneers get: Josh Johnson, Cory Boyd
Patriots get: Oscar Lua, Ron Brace

3-3-2.

Now to the big one.

On the eve of the 2009 season, the Patriots traded Richard Seymour to Oakland for a 2011 first round pick in a move that at the time looked great for New England. Seymour was entering his final year of his contract, so it was unlikely that the Patriots would have re-signed him.

Plus, a Raiders’ first round selection? That was virtually a lock for a top 10 pick. Right? Wrong.

The Raiders decided to have their best season since 2002 and came one game away from making the playoffs. Across the country, New England went 14-2 and looked poised for a long playoff run. But, as we know, the Patriots fell to the Jets in the AFC Divisional Round.

But, there’s more that meets the eye. All season, even dating back to 2009, the Patriots struggled upfront. Ty Warren has been either ineffective or injured and Jarvis Green and Mike Wright were just serviceable. As matter of fact in 2010, New England’s defensive front was crippled with injuries and name’s like, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick and Landon Cohen were forced onto the field.

With the 2011-first rounder many thought New England would finally fill the Seymour hole. Instead, Belichick went with offensive tackle Nate Solder over California defensive end Cameron Jordan.

4-3-2, Davis.

Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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