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First, it was Mike Vrabel, then Rodney Harrison, then Tedy Bruschi, and now Richard Seymour. All four players were longtime Patriots defensive stalwarts, and now find themselves out of New England. Now a member of the Oakland Raiders, Seymour will be missed by Patriots fans all over.
Seymour has been selected to five Pro Bowls, named to four All-Pro teams and was part of all three New England Super Bowl squads. He was a staple in the 3-4 defense, drawing double teams and bringing out the best in his teammates. Many have said that he was the best defensive lineman in football, and every Sunday he proved it. So why would New England let him go?
Originally selected as the sixth pick in 2001, Seymour played hard all the time. However, at 29, he is now playing in what is typically the twilight years for an NFL player. Also, he is a free agent at the end of the year, with several other players, including Vince Wilfork, playing for contracts, someone had to be the odd man out at season’s end. Finally, although he started 15 games last season, he did have knee surgery that kept him out of a good portion of 2007.
Still, he was a dominating force that congested the line and improved the defense with his presence. Seymour amassed 357 tackles and 39 sacks in his career. More importantly, teams were forced to double team him, opening other ends, linebackers and safeties to come in for a sack or a rush at the quarterback. How can the Patriots replace him?
Unless the Patriots make another trade before next Monday’s season opener, which is not happening, Seymour will probably be replaced by Jarvis Green. Green started 10 games for the Patriots in 2007 and has experience playing with the squad. Having 27 career sacks, he could be what the Patriots need for the season. He is also in a contract year, so he will be playing hard to get the “green” in the offseason.
While guys like Mike Wright and Tully Banta-Cain might get the chance to earn a starting spot, the guy most likely to steal the spotlight could be the recently acquired Derrick Burgess. Burgess has 47 career sacks and 227 tackles (187 solo tackles). He was brought in to be a run-stopper and another piece to the defensive puzzle. With Seymour gone, the new defensive end slot could be up for grabs, and Burgess’ for the taking.
There is also the presence of a rookie who has been gaining some attention. Ron Brace will become a regular and a run defense specialist. During his time at Boston College, Brace was the anchor of a defense that ranked second in the nation in yards per game,during his junior year. He could be another second round steal the Patriots have been accustomed to drafting.
It’s hard to say who will fill in. With Wilfork also playing for a contract, the Patriots will have plenty of guys playing hard to get paid. Should guys such as Green and Burgess play to their potential, the Patriots line might not be missing Seymour as much as you’d think.
The best way to describe Seymour’s move to Oakland is that he is entering a “black hole.” Since they made it to Super Bowl XXXVII, Oakland has not made it to the playoffs or even amassed more then five wins during the regular season. Seymour leaves a team that was the model of perfection, for a team that has been nothing more than dismal.
Seymour will occupy the right end, while Greg Ellis, who was signed earlier this offseason, will be his counterpart. With both guys in need of a good double team, guys like Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren could see career years. However, lets not forget that this is the Raiders and something will most likely go horrible wrong.
The Raiders really do not have strong linebackers or a defensive back core, except for Nnamdi Asomugha, so teams will be more than likely to beat them through the air. Acquiring Seymour could be the next step in rebuilding the team, but was it worth the Raiders trading an unprotected first round pick for Seymour, who might not sign an extension and leave Oakland at season’s end? This is another bad decision from owner Al Davis, who has made a series of trades and signings that have ruined Oakland Raiders football for many.
For New England, they have players to fill the void temporarily, but in the long term, expect big things. Priority No. 1 will be to re-sign Vince Wilfork. If a deal can get done before the season ends, perfect. If not, New England can get caught into a bidding war. Jarvis Green could stand to earn a monster contract and New England could be the one paying, but there will be other options come free agency next season.
Guys like Chicago’s Adewale Ogunleye is an imposing force who knows how to rush the line. Tennessee’s Kyle Vanden Bosch has emerged as an outstanding player for the Titans. He is a team captain and someone who will more then likely receive a franchise tag, but if not, he will have some great market value. The most interesting will be Carolina’s Julius Peppers. There were rumors that Peppers could join the Patriots this season, but he ended up signing his franchise tag. Should next offseason play out like this one, the Panthers might look to ship him away, and New England is a possibility.
The biggest impact could be the 2011 unprotected first round pick from Oakland. Although Oakland believes they will be a top tier team, it’s hard to see them being anything more then a pretender. The pick will most likely lie in the top 10, where they picked for the past five seasons, and should the Raiders have another 4-12 season, it could potentially be a top three selection.
There are talks that should 2010 be an uncapped season, a deal could be reached to put a cap on rookie contracts for the 2011 season. First round picks, in theory, will no longer get the ridiculous salaries they now receive. If rookie contracts get capped, New England will most likely keep the pick instead of trading it down like they usually do. It’s hard to say who will be a top pick, players names can rise and drop at a moments notice. Florida’s Carlos Dunlap is considered to be the best defensive end come 2011, but guys like Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford (Quarterback) and Gerald McCoy (Defensive Tackle), Tennessee’s Eric Berry (Full Safety) and Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer (Running Back) have been projected a top players in the 2011 draft.
Should Oakland struggle in the next two seasons and hand New England a top pick in a capped draft, Al Davis’ days as a decision maker for the Raiders could be numbered. New England now has options, and one of those could always be to re-sign Richard Seymour next offseason, and the future looks bright once again.
The Patriots and Raiders do not play each other this season. Sadly, we have seen the last of Seymour for a while and possibly for the last time ever. His contributions to the team were unforgettable and he was a star player for New England. However, all Patriots fans know that no player is greater then the team.