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The Biggest Names Bill Belichick Has Let Leave the Patriots

It’s tough being a general manager in the National Football League (NFL).  You have to make tough decision on which players to keep and which ones to let get away.  To be honest, the players are all very accomplished by the time they reach the NFL. However, time is undefeated.  And NFL players tend to age faster than most due to the relentless pounding they take week in and week out.  For others, these players want to leave their teams for bigger paydays somewhere else.  The top decision maker determines who stays, plays and who sits on the bench or is traded away. Bill Belichick has done so in a rather flawless manner, with the results that bear this out, year after year.

Agree or disagree, he gets incredible results by making tough decision on getting rid of players who performed incredibly, but needed to go for one reason or another.  Let’s take a look at some of the most popular players.

It all starts with the “Law Firm.”  Green-Ellis was an incredible running back, but then in free agency wanted too much money from the team.  He ended up moving on to the Cincinnati Bengals, but instead of going downhill the Patriots quickly replaced him with someone else who filled the slot just as well.

A very dependable Willie McGinest began his time with the Patriots during the Parcells and Carroll eras, and he frequently started every game of the season.  Belichick used him well during his first brilliant season that fructified into Super Bowl “Titledom.” All seemed to fit together well, until he finally traded him away in 2006 to the Browns to allot the team the salary cap necessary to keep the Patriot budget intact. Once McGinest hit the Browns roster, he never could reach the level he once did as a Patriot.

Being an asset on the Patriots defense as a top linebacker who delivered on key moments for pass rushing and pass defense was  Mike Vrabel, it would seem that the future would always be in the Patriot way. Being a cross over tight end was even a pleasant ‘icing on the cake.’ Yet, this still resulted in one day being given a ticket to Kansas City having been traded to the Chiefs. The fans were baffled and destroyed by this decision that only Bill Belichick could make with the pressures he is under from the ownership who write the checks. What ‘took the cake’ was the piggy back trade of Matt Cassel, the back up quarterback to the Chiefs along with Vrabel. “What was he thinking?” The fans were mystified as the Patriots were completely dependent on Vrabel’s work to win Super Bowls.

What most fans do not understand is that there is always new blood and thirst, hunger and desire in young undeveloped players. The NFL is brutal, and all of those great players have a shelf life. No matter how great they may be, it can be said with consistency that Bill Belichick is a great general manager that knows when to rotate the players in and out.

He is an expert at recognizing expiration dates and has a great way of seizing opportunities as they sprout up from the colleges, universities and even high school levels. This has to be one of the most valuable qualities of a GM. The ability to recognize talent that will deliver upon development from the lower ranks and the ability to trade the most talented and nearly exhausted players before they are completely empty.