By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
March 01, 2009

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It's the kind of curious personnel move that makes you throw an empty plastic grocery store bag harmlessly across the kitchen when you hear the news. Your initial reaction is that it is the modern-day equivalent of Haywood Sullivan forgetting to mail Carlton Fisk a new contract.

It's the kind of sinking feeling that you haven't felt from this team in a while. Very similar in some ways to the time Lawyer Milloy was released in 2002 or when Curtis Martin was swiped away by the Jets. "Surely, there is more to this than what that ticker is showing," you say to yourself as you shove the yogurt into the fridge. "This time, the smarty pants Patriots have been fleeced."

Over the coming days, we will be told that there was no market for Matt Cassel and that a 34th overall pick was as good as the Patriots were going to get. Perhaps the truth, like most things, is somewhere in the middle. Your initial reaction would have been less inflammatory if say the Patriots landed the Arizona Cardinals first round pick (31st overall) for Cassel. "Hey, we got a first-rounder for Cassel," would be the text message to your buddy.

But emotionally, just three picks down the road at 34 makes it "just" a second round pick. My guess is that if it was just Matt Cassel for a 34th overall pick in the draft, most Patriots fans would have grudgingly been okay with the deal. On the draft value scale, it is just about right. Not too pricey but not too far down the line that a blue chip prospect is out of reach. But where emotions and plastic grocery bags get thrown around is when a longtime team leader like Mike Vrabel is tossed into the deal like a few extra croutons onto your lunchtime salad.

There is little doubt the $4.5 million that trading Mike Vrabel clears up will be used in good fashion by the Patriots. You could easily make the case that this is the money that re-signed a promising young safety in the form of James Sanders. Perhaps, it is a dignified move by the organization that did not want to embarrass the long-time team leader by cutting him and still allowing Vrabel to make his full 2009 salary.

Such a move as this one by the Patriots once again let's me know that I would never have the stomach for a NFL general manager job. I would always keep a player one year too late instead of letting them go one year too early due to emotional attachments to past triumphs. I wouldn't have the guts to walk away from the security of locker room leadership and the sure-bet starting slot that Vrabel represented. And I certainly would have a tough time taking the risk that the young linebackers of Mayo, Guyton, Crable and Redd are the long-term answers at linebacker.

But my question to you is this: Doesn't the bounds of good taste dictate that the Patriots should have received at least a 2010 Kansas City seventh-round pick to go along with the 34th overall pick that they received?

We are constantly subjected to lectures about the fact that draft picks are commodities. So wouldn't it make sense that a seventh-rounder in next year's draft would sort of round things off a bit in this case? And I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but sometimes a seventh-rounder can turn into a halfway decent player. You may recognize a name or two from this perch. After all, the main player in this trade was a seventh-rounder himself in 2005.

So in the coming days, I'll be looking for an explanation as to just why a throwaway seventh rounder wasn't included. Perhaps there was a better package on the table that the Patriots turned down. And maybe, a verbal commitment with Kansas City was made just before this alternative offer. Perhaps the Patriots maintained their integrity in a pretty slimey, gritty business. If indeed they reneged on their Kansas City deal, the Patriots would have been taken for task for once again being the evil-doers of the NFL. In that case, the Patriots would be damned if they do, damned if they don't. That soap opera is the minor story on this one. The missing seventh-rounder is the blockbuster that Patriot Nation should demand answers on this episode.

I'll be looking for "according to a reliable team source" or a "Patriots insider communicated that…" in a news story in the coming days with the satisfying explanation as to why two established NFL players are worth just one second-round pick. To not gain an extra throwaway pick in the Cassel/Vrabel trade is inexcusable.

Sort of like using plastic grocery bags instead of those schnazzy $1 reusable bags that they have at the front of the checkout line.


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