Does Bill Belichick consider emotional impact on locker room before making trades?

Phil Perry
·3 min read

Perry: Does Belichick account for locker room impact when making trades? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick, in part, because of his ability to remove emotion from the equation. 

He can analyze what's happening to Pete Carroll on the opposing sideline during the defining moment of a Super Bowl because he refuses to get caught up in the moment. He can trade wildly popular players in his locker room -- Jamie Collins, Logan Mankins -- and his team can still go on to win championships.

But Belichick was asked on Tuesday if he considers the emotional impact on his locker room before trading away a player, and he didn't dismiss the notion entirely. 

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"Well, it's certainly something that is going to come up if you were to do that," Belichick said. "I mean, it would come up immediately. It would come up the next time the team’s together. So, you have to address it in some fashion. 

"Does it have an impact? I mean, you know, it would have some, certainly in the management of the team. Would it ultimately affect the decision to trade or not trade or acquire or not acquire? I don’t know. I guess it could if it was big enough."

It's a fascinating topic in the here-and-now. Belichick's team is 2-5. He's said they're dealing with cap issues that have hurt the team's depth relative to other years. He's said younger players are playing more than they might normally because the roster's depth is lacking.

Belichick could be looking to set up his team to be in the best possible situation in 2021, knowing that competing for a playoff spot in 2020 is a longshot. There's an easy argument to be made that's what he should be doing. That may mean trading off valuable assets from this year's club. 

Stephon Gilmore has reportedly been made available. Maybe others will be on the move. 

In other years, with the team in the hunt for titles, a Gilmore-esque trade might be viewed as shocker to players left on the roster. But the buy-in would remain because the group had a Lombardi Trophy-sized carrot dangling in front of them.

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This year, though, a move like that could be viewed as yet another signal that Belichick has his eye on next year. That's unfamiliar territory for this team and many of its players, including veterans who've opted in to play this season in the middle of a pandemic. 

Would those players be willing to begrudgingly accept a Gilmore trade the way they did when Collins or Mankins were sent away? Would an admission that the team is looking to next year ever create less buy-in from locker room leaders? 

It may not matter. Draft capital is important. And if the Patriots can acquire something significant in a trade involving a big-name player, the reaction of the human beings in the locker room may not sway Belichick one way or the other. There's an argument to be made that it shouldn't.

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But what if a percentage of the team's buy-in goes away with that kind of trade? Is it worth it? Would Belichick lose too much when looking at his team's culture -- built largely on fanatical effort and competition -- to make the return in a Gilmore trade worthwhile?

Belichick the roster-builder may have to wrestle with Belichick the culture-builder as the NFL trade deadline approaches. The Belichick who wins out may determine whether or not Gilmore is on the team by the end of the day Tuesday.