Great read going into Free Agency, Draft For Pioli, Dillon was a perfect fit By Kevin Mannix Thursday, February 3, 2005 JACKSONVILLE - The Patriots [stats, news] have been to the Super Bowl before so it's not like Corey Dillon is leading them through uncharted waters. Still, having the former Bengal runner in their backfield has definitely given the Pats a quality running game to go with their diverse passing attack, a combination that's made this team as formidable as it has been all season. So what would have happened if the Patriots didn't get Dillon in that offseason trade with the Bengals? What if Cincinnati hadn't settled for a second-round pick and insisted on one of the Pats' two first-rounders? What if Bill Belichick [news] and Scott Pioli came away with less than a favorable impression of Dillon following their face-to-face meeting with Dillon back in April? Where would Plan B have taken the Pats' hierarchy as they continued to search for a new lead running back to take Antowain Smith [news]'s place? ``I'm not sure what would have happened,'' Pioli said yesterday at the Patriots' headquarters. ``I don't think there really was a Plan B at the time. That tends to evolve. We would have continued looking at the draft. Maybe we would have found somebody there. Maybe a restricted free agent would have been the way to go. Maybe a player would have come available after June 1. Maybe somebody else would have become available in a trade. ``You never know what opportunities come up. We've used all available vehicles to build this roster and we would have continued to check out every option.'' None were needed. Pioli and Belichick did their research. They trusted Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and he had nothing but positives to say about a guy who was perceived to be a giant pain in Lewis' posterior. So they brought Dillon in for a sit-down. They liked what they saw and heard from him in that meeting. They pulled the trigger on the deal. Today, they're back in the Super Bowl, a healthy favorite over the Eagles. The Dillon trade surprised people because it came just before the draft and the Pats were in prime position to get one of the premium running backs available. Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones were both there on the 21st pick. Both were considered legitimate first-round picks and both had solid rookie years with the Rams and Lions, respectively. Why not stay put and get a young player with a big upside rather than a veteran back who'd taken a pounding in seven years with a team that had no passing attack? ``We just thought it was an opportunity to get better,'' Pioli said. ``We felt Corey was a heckuva player and running back was not the only need we had. Making the trade gave us a chance to get a high-quality player at a tremendous value with a second-round pick (traded to Cincy).'' With the first-round pick they retained, the Pats took defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who has alternated with veteran Keith Traylor at nose tackle. Just what constitutes a ``Patriot'' in Pioli's eyes? Why were Dillon and Wilfork desirable? ``The makeup of the players is very important,'' Pioli said. ``We don't want high-maintenance players. My job is to bring Bill the right kind of players. That means we're always looking for selfless, extremely competitive, disciplined football players. ``When we came here (in 2000), we wanted to build a big, strong, smart, tough, disciplined football team that would consistently compete for a championship. To do that you have to find big, strong, smart, tough and disciplined players. Those are not cliches to us. We believe in those words.''