The New England Patriots won three Super Bowls early in the 2000s, and defensive end Richard Seymour was a big reason why. Seymour was drafted out of the University of Georgia with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Later that season, Seymour helped New England capture its’ first Super Bowl championship with a win over the defending champions, the St. Louis Rams.
Seymour would go on to become one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, and helped lead the Patriots to two more Super Bowl wins after taking one season off by defeating the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles. Seymour had become a beast, and the Patriots seemed to be just in the beginning stages of a dynasty.
But in 2005, entering the final year of his rookie contract, Seymour held out for a new deal, which never goes over well with the Patriots’ franchise. After missing mini-camp and training camp, Seymour was given a pay raise and signed a three year deal worth $30 million prior to the 2006 season.
Over the next couple seasons, Seymour had to battle through various injuries and was sidelined for multiple games from 2006-2007. The Patriots went undefeated in the 2007 regular season with one of the greatest offenses in the history of the game, although the defense was not quite stellar. Seymour was injured and did not play at full strength in New England’s Super Bowl XLII loss to the New York Giants. But in 2008, Seymour appeared to be back to full strength and had a strong bounce back year in New England. But still, no Super Bowl appearance, and now he was getting older and reaching the end of his contract.
On September 6, 2009, the Patriots traded Seymour to the lowly Oakland Raiders for a 2011 first round draft pick. While many questioned the move for New England, having lost one of the top defensive ends and pass rushers in the game, they did acquire what many believed could be a top five pick for an aging and oft-injured veteran on the front line.
Over the past two seasons, Seymour has been one of the best defensive linemen in the game, being named to the Pro-Bowl in each of his last two years in Oakland, which also saw the team become playoff contenders again, only to fall just short in the end.
The Patriots have had a rough go at things from a defensive standpoint since trading Seymour, especially struggling to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. That begs the answer to the following question.
Would the Patriots have won Super Bowl XLVI against those same Giants with Seymour on the defensive front line? Sure, the Patriots were able to record a pair of sacks in the early going against Eli Manning and New York, but their pass rush was relatively absent over the rest of the game.
And given that the pick they secured from the Raiders was not a top five pick, and in fact was only the No. 17 selection that netted them offensive lineman Nate Solder from Colorado University, would the Patriots have been better suited to hold on to Seymour?
Where this has become a quarterback happy passing league, you need either a very strong defensive line or excellent play in the secondary to make up for some of that loss. The Patriots have had neither over the past few seasons, especially in 2011. It was a testament to their offense that they were able to reach another Super Bowl, and while Solder could be a factor on the offensive line for many years to come, was a better acquisition than holding onto Seymour?
Solder could not help protect Tom Brady enough and help the Patriots win the Super Bowl this season. Chances are, Seymour may have been able to put some pressure on Manning on that final drive that could have secured a fourth championship for the Patriots.
We certainly would be discussing different things this week had that happened.
We would not be talking about Gisele. We would not be talking about Wes Welker’s drop or Rob Gronkowski’s partying.
We would be talking about Brady and Bill Belichick becoming the top quarterback-coaching combination in NFL history. We would be talking about a lengthy dynasty that brought four Super Bowl championships to the Patriots in a little over a decade.
With Seymour, New England won three Lombardi Trophy’s. Without him, the team is just 2-3 in the playoffs since with no titles to show.