The first big domino of the NFL trade deadline dropped in major fashion with the Denver Broncos sending longtime star Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams. Might the Patriots be next to make a splash?
Most likely not.
Though Bill Belichick gave his usual “We’ll consider our options” word salad when asked about how active New England will be ahead of the 4 p.m. deadline Tuesday, one of his responses seemed to reverberate more than others.
“If around the league there are 100 trades being talked about, there’s probably four of them that will be made,” Belichick said of the chatter around trades.
That would seem to suggest the Patriots won’t be making too many splashy moves at this year’s deadline, though the likelihood they might be buyers certainly looks higher after they beat the Chargers on Sunday to improve to 4-4.
That said, Belichick has already pulled off a couple surprise moves this season in trading Stephon Gilmore to Carolina, cutting Cam Newton before the season, and acquiring cornerback Shaun Wade and tackle Yasir Durant via trade.
Also, if the Patriots want to make the postseason this year, there’s no denying they could use a bit more help.
Here are a few positions of need the team could be watching closely as the deadline countdown ticks down, as well as some names that are reportedly on the trade block.
This one is obvious.
J.C. Jackson has performed just fine as the team’s No. 1 cornerback and has the confidence to match his game. But things are getting thin at the other corner spots.
The Stephon Gilmore trade and the season-ending shoulder injury to Jonathan Jones have left Jalen Mills and Myles Bryant playing full-time roles the Patriots never intended for them to play at the outset of this season.
Mills, in particular, has been getting lit up in his last four games after a strong start to the season, with teams seemingly intent on attacking him each week.
Of course, the Patriots already traded for Wade prior to the season, but he has yet to play in a game and has been out for weeks after sustaining a concussion.
An actual outside cornerback would be a nice acquisition at the deadline. The problem is there aren’t many obvious ones that make sense.
The Broncos would probably like to get rid of Kyle Fuller very much, but he might not be worth even a late-round pick to bring in. He’s struggling badly this season, is expensive, and has never been a great man coverage corner, which is what New England asks its corners to do more than just about any team in the league.
Could the Patriots get cornerback A.J. Bouye back from the Carolina Panthers on the cheap now that Gilmore is there and already picking off passes? Bouye can play outside and in the slot, which is something New England values from its defensive backs. But he’s also 30 years old and is more of a name than a player at this point.
Someone like Philadelphia’s Steven Nelson or Houston’s Vernon Hargreaves would be cheaper options the Patriots have seen up close during joint practices and the regular season, but neither are elite players.
Bringing in a cornerback via trade might look awful given that they just sent a pretty good one away and rode with a far inferior backup. But the Patriots simply can’t ride with Mills outside for the rest of the season and expect it to end well.
You’d love to see Wade step in and contribute, but one also has to remember he’s a rookie who has barely even practiced in the NFL yet.
Belichick and Co. don’t have anyone to blame but themselves for being in this position.
So far, this revamped receiving room for the Patriots hasn’t been much to write home about.
Jakobi Meyers leads the team in receiving and is Jones’s clear favorite target.
After that, Kendrick Bourne, who had been coming on with big plays in the last few weeks, landed in the doghouse Sunday after losing a fumble against the Chargers.
Nelson Agholor had a touchdown against the Jets and a 44-yard grab against the Chargers but has largely been invisible for big stretches of games.
The Patriots could use another pass catcher, especially one with some speed.
In theory, someone like the Rams’ DeSean Jackson could provide some extra juice if nothing else. He’s 34 and only has eight catches on the season, but two of them were for 60 yards or longer—a trademark of his. Jackson, one of the great big-play threats of all time, can still run and punish defenses who don’t honor him down the field, which is something not many players on the Patriots can say.
A cheaper potential option might be Arizona’s Andy Isabella, who has swiftly fallen behind DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Christian Kirk in the Cardinals’ wider receiver room.
You know what might be really sweet? A Brandin Cooks reunion. As bad as the Texans are, he might well be available. He’s not too expensive and would likely be the team’s best receiver from the moment he showed up, meaning no disrespect to Meyers.
Plus, Cooks isn’t that redundant with Agholor; Cooks is more versatile than Agholor in terms of mixing in the slot as well as outside the numbers and is a superior route runner. Plus, you can offload Cooks after a season if you want to avoid his 2022 price tag.
That’s a sneaky move the Patriots just might have some interest in that could certainly benefit Mac Jones, especially if they can get N’Keal Harry out of town before the deadline. Otherwise, New England might just keep waiting to see if Harry can contribute anything before getting cut or traded in the offseason.
On its face, this doesn’t seem to make much sense. Why would you give up a pick for a running back when you have Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson sitting behind him?
The answer might rest in how much the Patriots trust their current stable of running backs to pick up the blitz and catch passes out of the backfield.
Both Harris and Stevenson have given up sacks due to poor protection this season, while Brandon Bolden, who’s more reliable as a pass protector, doesn’t really scare teams as a runner or receiver at this point in his career.
New England will most likely just ride out the season with who they’ve got, but it’s worth asking if they could do better behind Harris.
Houston has already sold away one veteran running back in the past week, dealing starting back Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps the Patriots could find Texans’ backups David Johnson or Phillip Lindsay interesting; either of them would be better change-of-pace backs than Bolden or J.J. Taylor and perhaps more trustworthy than Stevenson at this point in his career. Bolden could then play a purely special teams role in that case.
But bigger names on the market like Indianapolis’ Marlon Mack or Denver’s Melvin Gordon probably aren’t on the Patriots’ radar. They’d cost too much, and the Patriots should still be trying to get Stevenson some carries rather than burying him completely behind a newcomer.
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