By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick isn’t perfect when it comes to trades. Nobody is. But it’s especially rare where you could look at a trade the Patriots head coach has made and say he got fleeced – or, in the words of former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner, “fooled.”
Banner, who now works in the media (which automatically makes him an ignorant clod, according to the internet), tweeted on Tuesday about NFL teams’ propensity to hold onto players they plan on cutting. It’s an attempt to swindle other teams into trading away players or draft capital for said players, rather than cutting them loose before the start of the season for nothing in return. “Eagles just did it to Pats,” Banner said, in reference to the Pats’ acquisition of cornerback Eric Rowe for Josh Kline and a conditional 2018 draft pick that could become a third or fourth-rounder.
Banner added in a reply to a fan on Twitter that he doesn’t necessarily think Rowe isn’t a good player, but that the Patriots’ price for him was too high, considering that the Eagles were apparently ready to cut him. Sounds like a nice, spicy little take, except CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran took a bat to that piñata in short order.
The Eagles weren’t alone in their plans to cut ties with Rowe; the Patriots were doing the same with Kline, according to Curran. Also, the teams had been working on the deal since last week, so this wasn’t a last-minute, knee-jerk kind of decision.
It’s reasonable to argue that Kline, who struggled as a starter on a depleted Patriots offensive line in 2015, works best as a reserve guard. It’s realistic to then assume that he will be as much with the Eagles and the conditional pick will end up a fourth-rounder and not a third – still a potentially valuable pick, but it’s only a steep price if Rowe ends up contributing nothing to the Patriots secondary.
Speaking of Rowe … he’s a former second-round pick – from last year. Who knows if the Eagles even gave him a reasonable, viable amount of time to develop? If he can become even a solid third cornerback for the Patriots and solid special teams player, and Kline continues to play like the backup guard he is, who really got fooled here?
The ultimate answer is that nobody got fooled. Both teams were going to cut the players, and Kline was undrafted while Rowe was a relatively high draft pick, so the Patriots had to give up a little something for him. Almost regardless of the outcome, it’s a fair swap. The trade could blow up in Belichick’s face like it did when he traded for the likes of Albert Haynesworth or Chad Ochocinco – or even when he traded Richard Seymour just before the start of the 2009 season, if you want to go back that far – but even if a trade does blow up, how much would it ultimately hurt the Patriots?
Suggesting Belichick got “fooled” is to suggest that he got out-Chess’d by another GM, which isn’t an abject impossibility but isn’t exactly a safe bet, either. If anything, the safe bet is that Kline pulls the same disappearing act as just about every other player the Patriots have jettisoned under Belichick and that the coach can find out what Rowe does best and put him in a position to succeed. But even if he can’t find a way for Rowe to play his best football, the odds are quite low that Belichick will miss out on a franchise-altering player with that draft pick.
If anything, Belichick fools himself at times. He has made his share of coaching and personnel mistakes over the years and, yes, sometimes he deserves criticism, even if it’s expressed over something minor and delivered in retrospect. But when it comes to trades, how many times has he truly been “fooled,” to the point where it tangibly hurts the team and does something drastic like costs them a Super Bowl? Can you count it on one finger?
The Rowe trade is, ultimately, a low-risk move that has a chance to work out for both teams. Neither player is consequential enough to really judge that one team got “fooled.” Banner may have just been looking to cook up a steaming take for Patriots fans to devour, and in this case, it appears he did his job.
In that sense, Belichick would be proud – but certainly not fooled.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.