Following whirlwind path of Thomas trade

With Tuesday's news that the Saints released tight end David Thomas, it sparked the following question: How did things shake out for the Patriots after trading Thomas to the Saints in 2009?

As is usually the case with all the wheeling and dealing that Bill Belichick often does on draft day, it's never an easy answer. Consider this ...

1. The Patriots acquired a 2011 seventh-round draft choice (226th overall) at the time of the deal. ...

2. But when Thomas hit certain performance marks in 2009, the pick upgraded to a 2011 sixth-round selection (189th overall) ...

3. The Patriots never made that pick, instead trading it to the Broncos along with RB Laurence Maroney in exchange for a 2011 fourth-round draft choice (99th overall).

4. And with that 2011 fourth-round draft choice, the Patriots selected ... nobody.

5. They traded it to Seattle during the 2010 season, after a need arose following Randy Moss' exit via trade, in exchange for receiver Deion Branch.

This is a snapshot of how Belichick sometimes works the draft board to improve the standing of a pick. Looking at how the 229th overall pick became the 99th pick is pretty impressive.

As for the results of the trade, it's never black and white, but let's highlight some of the key factors.

The Saints made out well when considering Thomas' production (81 catches from 2009-2012) and the modest cost of a sixth-round pick.

The Patriots used the pick to acquire Branch, who totaled 109 receptions from 2010-2012 and came with some big plays for them in '10 and '11. It probably wasn't the Patriots' intention to use the pick as trade ammunition, but the extra chip helped address an unexpected need.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned the pick into linebacker K.J. Wright, who looks like a keeper.

The big loser was the Broncos, as Maroney never panned out and the sixth-round pick in that deal, linebacker Mike Mohamed, didn't emerge for them either.