There is an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the argument that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a football genius. The events of July 28, 2011 are at least one point for the "cons" column.
On that fateful afternoon, Belichick's team traded for both Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, sending a 2013 fifth-rounder to Washington for Haynesworth and a pair of picks (2012 fifth-rounder, 2013 sixth-rounder) to Cincinnati for Ochocinco.
Haynesworth didn't even last the season in New England and was cut in November. Ochocinco, meanwhile, rode his teammates' coattails all the way to the Super Bowl, despite a horrible season in which he caught just 15 passes and was made inactive for the AFC championship game against Baltimore.
Thursday, Ochocinco met the same fate as Haynesworth -- New England cut the mercurial wide receiver after reportedly trying (and failing) to trade him.
Ochocinco agreed to reduce his base salary for this upcoming season from $3 million to $1 million, but even that move couldn't save his roster spot. The 34-year-old Ochocinco struggled throughout the 2011 season trying to grasp New England's high-flying offense and, even into recent minicamps, reports told of him screwing up even the most basic premises of the playbook.
The Patriots are never averse to wheeling and dealing draft picks -- they jumped up to grab the Nos. 21 and 25 selections this year, while also unloading the 27th, 31st, 67th, 93rd, 126th, 163rd, 166th, 200th, 223rd and 238th picks in a flurry of other deals. And the fact that New England made it to the Super Bowl in spite of the moves for Hayesworth and Ochocinco makes it pretty easy to write off those transactions as meaningless.
Washington and Cincinnati would argue otherwise. Both were able to shed the contracts of players who were causing locker-room headaches, while also adding valuable extra draft picks.
The Bengals turned that 166th pick this year into Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones, who is in the mix to win a starting spot opposite A.J. Green. As things stand right now, the Patriots also don't have a pick in Rounds 5 or 6 next season -- in recent years, New England's landed contributors like Dan Koppen, Matthew Slater, Zoltan Mesko and, oh yeah, one Tom Brady in either Round 5 or 6.
So the Haynesworth and Ochocinco trades may not have crippled New England in 2011 and it may not hamstring the Patriots too much in 2012 to have released those guys, but there's value to be had in traded draft picks.
No front office is going to achieve perfection on roster moves. There are just way to many variables for every key signing, draft pick or trade to pan out as teams hope. But Belichick and the Patriots have pulled off more than their fair share of fast ones. The Haynesworth and Ochocinco trades still go down as terrible misses, even if they're rare outliers on Belichick's sparkling resume.