The New England Patriots have a battered and bruised wideout depth chart… are they attempting to find help from the outside before the trade deadline?
Five days ago, we contended that the New England Patriots didn’t really need to get offensive help via trade before the October 29 deadline.
The rationale at the time was that Phillip Dorsett’s hamstring injury was minor and wouldn’t cause him to miss any time, Julian Edelman looked like he’d shaken off his chest/ribs injury successfully, and Josh Gordon was still providing the Patriots an outside vertical threat. On top of these three players, N’Keal Harry was potentially on track to return soon from IR, and New England’s two tight ends – Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo – both showed some promise in a win over the Washington Redskins.
But after the Patriots’ Thursday night win over the New York Giants, New England’s situation has dramatically changed. Both LaCosse and Gordon left the game early with knee injuries. LaCosse has actually missed most of this season due to knee problems, and while Gordon’s injury isn’t reported to be serious, that’s what was said about Dorsett’s hamstring too… and he was inactive Thursday night.
The point of the matter is that New England was forced into one personnel grouping for pretty much the entire second half of the game due to injuries. While the team still managed to move the ball effectively, such a one-dimensional attack isn’t going to cut it against tougher defenses down the road… not to mention it won’t be enough to keep up with some of the more premier NFL offenses like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans.
The Patriots have also notably been without Rex Burkhead the last two weeks, and additionally, they have now lost both of their fullbacks – James Develin and Jakob Johnson – to injured reserve. These injuries at the running back and fullback positions aren’t going to alleviate any of the mounting pressure on Sony Michel, and they only further add to the burden carried by do-it-all weapon James White.
It’s because of all these unfortunate developments that the Patriots are reportedly considered to be actively reaching out to other NFL executives well before the trade deadline to inquire after star wide receivers.
MSN Sports’ Ben Levine cites Jeff Howe from The Athletic in claims that New England reportedly has their eye on a number of players from around the league who may be made available for the right price, including: A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals), Stefon Diggs (Minnesota Vikings), Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta Falcons), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals), Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles), Randall Cobb (Dallas Cowboys), Allen Hurns (Miami Dolphins), Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos), and Demaryius Thomas (New York Jets).
According to Howe, the Patriots want a receiver who can “instantly command a defense’s respect, alleviate Edelman’s burden and help Brady.” Such a player would obviously be an instant boon to any offense, but particularly for a New England unit that’s banged up at every single position except quarterback, it could potentially be a game-changer.
The question, of course, is how the Pats could orchestrate such a trade. They certainly have the draft capital to deal, but what they don’t have is a lot of cap room to work with. New England has almost $8 million in dead money thanks to worthless contracts attached to Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski; beyond that, they have about $7 million in open space left.
That’s obviously not a lot of wiggle room. If the Patriots wanted to free up some more space, they could attempt to rework some of their veteran contracts – Levine suggests Tom Brady, Dont’a Hightower, and Devin McCourty as three players who could potentially be open to adjusting their deals in the name of getting some premier offensive reinforcements.
Brady probably wouldn’t mind Antonio Brown coming back to the team, either, but unless Brown somehow miraculously (and expediently) gets exonerated from all the charges and accusations levied against him, he’s probably not wearing a Patriots uniform again this season. Considering what he tweeted about owner Robert Kraft after he was released by the team, he’s probably not wearing a Patriots uniform again ever, to be honest.
Another option suggested by multiple sportswriters is that New England could seek to trade Michael Bennett for a wide receiver from another team.
Bennett’s snaps have dramatically decreased every week this season, and he certainly seems like the odd man out on this talented, smothering New England defense. Releasing Bennett outright would save the Pats about $6.5 million in additional cap space, but trading him to a team that needs pass rushers seems like a better proposition in terms of return value.
Whatever happens over the next two weeks, Patriots fans will want to stay alert and attentive to news surrounding this team. If all this smoke leads to fire, New England could indeed be very active and maybe make a major splash before the trade deadline arrives.