The Oakland Raiders took a big step toward improving their struggling run defense by acquiring five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour from the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The move does not come without its risks as the Raiders gave up a first-round pick in 2011, which could be in the top 10 based on Oakland’s recent history, to acquire a lineman who turns 30 next month and is in the final year of a contract paying him $3.7 million this season.
Raiders owner Al Davis wanted immediate help for a defense that has struggled to stop the run in recent seasons. Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, Oakland has had the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 141.7 yards per game on the ground and 122 touchdowns rushing. The Raiders have allowed a 100-yard rusher in more than half of their games the past three years.
Article continues below ...
“It shows the commitment of this organization,” defensive end Greg Ellis said. “You can’t guarantee we’re going to have a great, great season this year. But the commitment is definitely there so players don’t have to question that when you’re making those kinds of moves to make something happen and hopefully win right now.”
Seymour has been a stalwart in New England since being drafted sixth overall in 2001. He played on three Super Bowl winners with the Patriots, recording 39 career sacks and being selected to the Pro Bowl for five straight seasons beginning in 2002.
“From nearly the day he arrived in 2001, Richard Seymour established himself as one of our premier players for nearly a decade,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “His presence has been felt as a force on the field, a respected man off it and a multiyear champion.”
The move is only the latest as the Patriots continue to get younger on defense.
Linebacker Mike Vrabel was traded to Kansas City in the offseason, safety Rodney Harrison retired, and more recently Tedy Bruschi officially called it a career after 13 seasons. Seymour was the last member of the 2001 Super Bowl championship defense still with New England.
Earlier this summer, Oakland sent two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess to New England for a pair of mid-round draft picks. The Patriots also acquired receiver Randy Moss from Oakland in 2007 for a fourth-round pick, and the teams have swapped draft picks in recent years.
“Any transaction we make is with the goal of what is best for our team and, as difficult as it is to part ways with a player of Richard’s stature, many factors were taken into account when we considered this trade,” Belichick said.
“As an organization, we feel the trade with Oakland brings sufficient value and is in the long-term interest of the club,” he added. “We are extremely grateful for the huge impact Richard’s elite level of performance had on our success and we wish him the very best during the rest of his career.”
Seymour goes from a team that has gone 77-19 the past six seasons to one that is an NFL-worst 24-72 over that span. The Raiders became the first team to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons when Seymour and the Patriots beat them 49-26 last December.
The addition of rookies Myron Pryor and Ron Brace to a defensive line that also includes veterans Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Mike Wright made Seymour expendable.
“It’s the nature of the business,” said veteran running back Kevin Faulk, the longest-serving player on the team after Bruschi’s departure. “They have an agenda upstairs, and the coaches decide who comes and goes. You can’t do nothing about it.”
Faulk said the team will miss the way Seymour carried himself as a person and a player.
“He was a quiet leader,” second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “He led by his actions. He’ll be dearly missed as a teammate and as a player on the field. But we have players that are ready to step up.”
Seymour will primarily play right defensive end, shifting to tackle in some passing situations. The move gives the Raiders the run-stuffing end they have lacked in recent years and helps strengthen the pass rush up the middle.
The Raiders had the worst run defense in the NFL in the preseason, allowing 192 yards per game. They had hoped to have fixed their problems against the run by bringing in coordinator John Marshall, who put a heavy emphasis on fundamentals.
But after watching the preseason, the Raiders decided they needed an upgrade in personnel as well and made the move for Seymour.
“He brings a lot of versatility to the defense. Plus, I mean, if we can’t stop the run now?” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “It definitely upgrades us.”
Oakland released defensive tackle William Joseph to make room for Seymour.