Bill Belichick's best free agent signings and trades with Patriots

Bill Belichick's best free agent signings and trades with Patriots

Bill Belichick's best free agent signings and trades with Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots drafted really well during Bill Belichick's tenure with the franchise, particularly in the 2000s.

But he didn't build six Super Bowl-winning teams through the draft alone. Belichick made a bunch of tremendous signings and trades during his 24 years in charge of New England's roster. In fact, if you were building a list of the best trades in NFL history, many of the deals listed below would be included.

Belichick's remarkable 24-year run in Foxboro ended Thursday. So it's a great time to look back at Belichick's best signings and trades with the Patriots.

Best Signings

Mike Vrabel, 2000

Vrabel was an important piece of the Patriots teams in the 2000s that won three Super Bowl rings. Whether it was sacking the quarterback, making a clutch third down stop or forcing a turnover, the veteran linebacker consistently made winning plays. He also was a reliable pass-catcher with 10 career receptions that all resulted in touchdowns, two of which came in Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XXXIX. Vrabel was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2023.

Rodney Harrison, 2002

Harrison was at a crossroads following his release from the Chargers after the 2002 season. Many thought he was no longer a top-tier player, but the veteran safety landed with the Patriots and proved everyone wrong. Harrison was a great replacement for Lawyer Milloy and won two Super Bowl titles in six seasons with the Patriots. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame but hasn't gotten in yet.

Rosevelt Colvin, 2003

Colvin was an underrated linebacker on the 2003 and 2004 Patriots teams that won the Super Bowl. He tallied 26.5 sacks over six seasons in Foxboro.

Rob Ninkovich, 2009

Ninkovich's arrival didn't generate much fanfare, but he was a dependable and productive linebacker for eight seasons. He was particularly good in the playoffs and tallied 60 tackles, six sacks and seven passes defensed in 64 postseason games. Ninkovich won two Super Bowl titles in New England before retiring in 2017.

Danny Amendola, 2013

The Patriots giving Amendola a five-year, $35 million deal in free agency was a bit of a surprise, but the team got a lot of value out of that deal. Amendola was great in the playoffs, where he tallied 57 receptions for 709 yards and six touchdowns. His performance in the 2017 AFC Championship Game win over the Jaguars is one of the best by a wide receiver in Patriots history.

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the AFC Championship Game against the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jacksonville Jaguars;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jacksonville Jaguars</a> at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Darrelle Revis, 2014

Revis was nearing the end of his career in 2014, but he was still a very good cornerback and played at a high level for the Patriots in his lone season with the team. Revis never won a championship with the rival New York Jets, but he got a ring with the Patriots after beating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. The 2014 Patriots had a loaded secondary featuring Revis, Brandon Browner, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

Best trades

Second-round pick to CIN for Corey Dillon (2004)

Dillon was a great running back on some awful Bengals teams and tallied six 1,000-yard seasons from 1997 through 2002. He finally got a chance to be on a good team in 2004 with the Patriots and took full advantage of it.

Dillon ran for a team-record 1,635 yards, plus 12 touchdowns. It's arguably the greatest season by a running back in Patriots history, and it ended with a Super Bowl title.

Dillon struggled to make a huge impact over his final two seasons in New England, but the trade was a massive success purely for what happened in 2004. That team might be the best in Patriots history.

Deion Branch to Seahawks for 2007 first-round pick (2006)

Branch had an excellent five-year career for the Patriots. He tallied 10 receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown in a Super Bowl XXXVIII win. Branch could have won MVP of that game, but he won the award the following season after his 11 receptions for 133 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Getting a first-round pick for Branch was tremendous value.

Second- and seventh-round picks to MIA for Wes Welker (2007)

The slot receiver position was changed forever when the Patriots traded for Welker and put him in that role. Welker had five 1,000-yard seasons and a total of 37 receiving touchdowns in New England. His 672 career receptions remain a Patriots record.

Despite having an excellent career for the Patriots, the memory of Welker that sticks out in a lot of fans' minds is his drop late in Super Bowl XLVI.

Fourth-round pick to OAK for Randy Moss (2007)

It's hard to find many trades in league history better than this one. Tom Brady and Randy Moss immediately became a prolific duo their first year together in 2007. Brady threw for a then-league record 50 touchdowns, and 23 of them went to Moss, which remains a record to this day.

Moss was very productive for the Patriots before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings during the 2010 campaign.

Dec 14, 2008; Oakland, CA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss (81) taunts the crowd during the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2008; Oakland, CA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss (81) taunts the crowd during the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports

First-round pick to SF for 2007 fourth-round pick and 2008 first-round pick (2007)

The Patriots, as noted above, traded the fourth-round pick (110th overall) to the Raiders for Moss. They traded the 2008 first-rounder (No. 7 overall) to the New Orleans Saints for the No. 10 overall selection, where New England selected linebacker Jerod Mayo.

In total, Belichick turned one first-rounder into Moss and Mayo.

Third-round pick to JAX for second- and seventh-round picks (2009)

This trade produced two cornerstones of the Patriots dynasty. The Patriots used the seventh-round pick in 2009 to draft Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman, who became one of the best wide receivers in team history and a Super Bowl MVP.

Belichick used the 2010 second-round pick in a package to trade up in the draft to select tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski is arguably the best tight end in league history. Turning one trade into two Hall of Fame-caliber players is pretty amazing.

First- and fourth-round picks to DEN for first-round pick (2012, Dont'a Hightower)

The Patriots already drafted a stud linebacker prospect in Chandler Jones in the middle of the first round. They had another pick at No. 31 but packaged it with a Day 3 selection to move up to No. 25 for Alabama star Dont'a Hightower, who wound up being one of the most clutch defensive players of his era.

First-round pick to MIN for second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks (2013)

The Patriots traded a first-round pick for four selections and used them to add several key players on Super Bowl-winning teams. They used the second-round pick to draft linebacker Jamie Collins and the third-round pick on defensive back Logan Ryan. The seventh-round pick was part of the package that landed running back LeGarrette Blount, who started on two title-winning teams.

Ironically, the player the Vikings drafted with that first-round pick, Cordarrelle Patterson, joined the Patriots for the 2018 season and won a Super Bowl that year.

Sixth-round pick to DET for 2016 seventh-round pick, Kyle Van Noy (2016)

Van Noy was a starting linebacker for two Super Bowl-winning teams in New England. He played quite well in the Patriots' 13-3 win over the L.A. Rams in Super Bowl LIII. The fact that they got a quality starter for almost nothing is pretty impressive.

Sixth-round pick to CLE for Jason McCourty (2018)

The Patriots gave up almost nothing to unite Devin McCourty with his twin brother Jason. Jason was a productive player in one season with the Patriots and made one of the pivotal plays of Super Bowl LIII when he broke up a surefire touchdown catch by Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks.