While the Globe’s Tony Massarotti questions whether not New England “did themselves more harm than good when they used the franchise tag on Matt Cassel”, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen claims the Patriots passed on a chance to acquire Denver’s first-round draft pick in favor of a lower selction from the Broncos’ division rivals in Kansas City.

This one defies logic, but a source I really trust tells me it’s true: The Broncos were willing to offer their own first-round pick (12th overall) to the Patriots for Cassel. Obviously, it was conditional upon Jay Cutler being traded and Tampa Bay was the most likely destination, the Bucs willing to part with their first- and third-round picks.

But Belichick never embraced a trade with the Broncos, even though it was a head-scratcher on the value part (second-rounder versus a first-rounder). It suggests two or three speculative thoughts:

Belichick has always valued second-round picks (he now has three) and didn’t want to be stuck at No. 12 financially for whatever reason;

Belichick had an agreement with Scott Pioli all along and wouldn’t break his word;

Belichick isn’t about to help another former assistant.

I’m going to go with “C”, on this one.  As such, I’m in the rare position of having to offer genuine credit to AOL Sports’ Jay Mariotti, who raised this very point two days before Mortensen.

What better way to thank Pioli, who tag-teamed with Belichick to mold three Super Bowl-champion teams, than by setting him up with a dramatic personnel boost in his first winter? Problem is, it smacks of an integrity issue when Belichick earmarks business with a pal and doesn’t maximize his return in a big trade. You think other teams aren’t irked today at The Gray Hoodie’s unusual graciousness?