FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the New England Patriots recently elected to forgo the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Danny Shelton’s contract for 2019, it created a dynamic where Shelton’s time with the club could be a one-and-done situation.
Shelton’s initial reaction to that?
“Obviously, it sucked at first,” he said Thursday. “But at the same time you’ve got to think of it as an opportunity. For me, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here for the year, to try my best to dominate, and see what happens after that.”
Of course, there’s nothing that says the Patriots can’t re-sign Shelton to a long-term extension at any time. But the club’s actions suggest there is also comfort in a possible one-year arrangement.
If that’s ultimately the way it unfolds, one obvious follow-up question is whether the Patriots would have received good value from their March trade. In acquiring Shelton and a fifth-round pick from Cleveland, the team gave up a third-round pick.
In that type of deal, which involves a swap of picks, the club often views compensation as splitting the difference, which in this case would be a fourth-round pick.
In Bill Belichick’s 19 years as coach, history shows the Patriots are indeed comfortable trading that level of compensation for a veteran player who ultimately might be a one-year rental.
They've had some success in that area, but also some notable missteps.
Ted Washington, Part II? In the deal that most closely resembles Shelton based on the player acquired, the Patriots landed Washington from the Bears for a fourth-round pick in 2003. Washington, a hard-to-move nose tackle, was a key piece of the team’s Super Bowl championship season before departing after one year as a free agent.
Hopefully not Duane Starks, Part II. Two years later, the Patriots pulled off a similar trade to the one they made for Shelton, shipping third- and fifth-round picks to the Cardinals in exchange for cornerback Starks and a fifth-round pick. Starks played seven games for the team in the 2005 season, wasn’t effective, and ultimately departed after one season.
Or Andre' Davis, Part II. In need of receiver depth late in 2005 training camp, the Patriots shipped a fifth-round pick to the Browns for Davis, who played in nine games that year in his only season with the club. He had nine catches, which wasn’t a great return on the investment.
Doug Gabriel was a little better, but not much. Faced with a similar receiver situation in 2006, the club shipped a fifth-round pick to the Raiders for Gabriel, who had 25 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns, but didn’t make it through the entire season with the club. He falls into a similar category as receiver Keshawn Martin, whom the Patriots acquired for a fifth-rounder in 2015 and who had 24 receptions in one season in New England.
Randy Moss was the bonanza. When the Patriots acquired Moss for a fourth-round pick in April 2007, he was entering the last year of his contract. He dazzled that season (23 receiving TDs) and almost departed to the Eagles as a free agent in 2008 before signing a three-year extension to remain in New England.
Alex Smith was not. In April 2009, the club acquired tight end Smith for a fifth-round pick, hoping that he could find the form that made him a 2005 third-round pick. Smith never played in a game for the team as he was released in the final cuts of preseason, which was a lot to give up for no return.
Derrick Burgess was better, but still cost a lot. In August 2009, the Patriots traded third- and fifth-round picks to Oakland in exchange for Burgess in looking for some pass-rush help. Burgess played in every game that season, totaling five sacks, before departing as a free agent in 2010.
Deion Branch, Part II. The chance to bring back the 2002 second-round pick, who had been traded to Seattle in 2006, cost the Patriots a fourth-round pick when they struck that deal in 2010. Branch stuck around through 2012 and was worth the investment.
Big Al was a big fail. In 2011, the Patriots acquired defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for a fifth-round pick. He played in six games, and when it was clear it wasn’t working out, he was cut during the season.
Ochocinco didn’t work out, either. In the same year, the Patriots shipped fifth- and sixth-round picks to the Bengals in exchange for receiver Chad Ochocinco, who played in 15 games and had 15 catches. It didn’t work out as planned and he was gone after a year.
Aqib Talib was a good one, though. One of the Patriots’ best trades under Belichick was landing cornerback Talib and a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder in November 2012. That had the potential to be a half-year rental situation, but Talib re-signed for one more season in 2013.
So, too, was Marty B. In March 2016, the Patriots shipped a fourth-round pick to Chicago in exchange for tight end Martellus Bennett and a sixth-rounder. Bennett had 55 receptions and was a key part of New England's Super Bowl championship team before departing as a free agent to Green Bay (and later returning to New England). That was a sound trade.
Dwayne Allen still coming into focus. The Patriots made the same trade in the 2017 offseason for tight end Allen, acquiring him and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder. Allen has been a good locker-room presence and high-end blocker, but hasn’t emerged as a pass-catcher. He is due $4.5 million in base salary in 2018, which could put his place on the roster in question.