The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots first-round trade during the 2023 NFL Draft was frowned upon by several executives and general managers across the league, according to Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post.
The compensation just didn’t add up, as the Steelers gave New England a fourth-round pick (No. 120) to move from 17th overall to No. 14 to select Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. That’s essentially giving up nothing in regards to a first-round trade up.
La Canfora said the timing of the trade raised eyebrows around the league: because of the compensation, the player involved and some of the connections between franchises. The Patriots AFC East rival New York Jets had the 15th overall pick and were in need of a left tackle to protect Aaron Rodgers’ blindside. So was this old-fashioned gamesmanship by Belichick? It sure sounds like it was.
“They should have had to give up a [third-round pick] and not a four to move up there,” said one NFL general manager who had been keeping tabs on a potential trade up with the Patriots. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to cause potential conflicts with either team. “Belichick did it just to f— the Jets. He sold low because he knew the Steelers were going to take the kid the Jets wanted to take.”
A personnel executive from a team also picking around the middle of the first round said: “Bill will try to screw them over any chance he gets. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Belichick has a long murky history with the Jets franchise, dating all the way back to 2000 when he was the head coach of the Jets for one day before resigning. Belichick proceeded to accept the Patriots head coaching job just 23 days later. Ex-Jets head coach Eric Mangini also ignited the Patriots’ Spygate scandal in 2007.
La Canfora notes that Steelers assistant general manager Andy Weidl had to be well aware whom the Jets were targeting at No. 15, their new first-round selection after the Rodgers trade. Weidl knows the Jets organization inside-out from his time spent alongside New York general manager Joe Douglas in Philadelphia. According to La Canfora, some within the Steelers organization were concerned the Packers might just nab Jones themselves at No. 13 — they could use line help as well — but the prevailing feeling was that Green Bay would go tight end or wide receiver. (The Packers took Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness.)
Devon Witherspoon was the only cornerback off the board at the time, so Belichick felt good about getting a top cornerback if he moved back three spots. New England ended up getting Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at 17th overall. Meanwhile, the Jets were put in a tough spot with the offensive tackle position left dry.
The Jets selected Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald IV at No. 15, a pick that La Canfora heard around league circles was labeled as a panic move.
“I think the trade totally blindsided them,” the GM said. “They were scrambling.”