Bill Belichick usually treats draft picks like they’re black licorice, and he really likes red licorice. He has no use for the the inferior black product, and just wants more of the good red stuff.
So over the years, he’s stockpiled a lot of red licorice, routinely trading down to accumulate more picks, and more versatility in future drafts. Last year’s deal with New Orleans that set Mark Ingram to the Saints added depth to the Patriots’ backfield in the form of Shane Vereen, which is crucial now after the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Combined with the rookie wage scale that’s made trading up more appealing, that versatility also gave Belichick options, and he used his surplus of first-round picks to pursue Chandler Jones through a rare trade up. On the other end was the Bengals, a team that also had two first-round picks. In addition to moving down to No. 25, the Bengals also received the Patriots’ third-round pick.
He didn’t stop there, as once Belichick tasted black licorice, he liked it. He liked it a lot.
Belichick traded up again, swapping the Patriots’ 31st overall pick with the Broncos for Denver’s 25th pick to take linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Two swift, uncharacteristic moves addressed a glaring need in New England, as Jones and Higtower will fortify a pass rush that lost Mark Anderson, and Andre Carter may not be back either.
The Patriots struggled mightily while trying to stop the pass last year, but keeping the ball in the opposing quarterback’s hands and keeping his rear end planted on the ground will work too.