The NFL trade deadline is fast approaching. Officially, teams have nine more days to make deals before the Nov. 1 deadline.
Naturally, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots, winners of two straight games with the Bears on tap Monday night, will be buyers. Or could they try and sell some of their spare parts for future draft picks?
With a 3-3 record, and the soft stretch of the schedule stretching over the next four games, it looks like the Pats will need to bolster the roster before hitting a brutal stretch of games in December and January.
Right now, the AFC East is pretty close with the Bills at 5-1, followed by the Jets (4-2), Dolphins (3-3) and Patriots (3-3).
One-third of the way through the season, this is one of the better and tighter divisions in the NFL from top to bottom.
Movement at the deadline could make the difference for one of the Bills’ chasing teams. At the very least, a deal or two could help ensure a playoff spot.
We’ll find out soon if the Patriots, who are likely returning quarterback Mack Jones to the Bears, will be one of those teams.
Former NFL general manager Mike Tenenbaum, now an ESPN analyst, wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick made some moves if the right situation presented itself.
“You have to be opportunistic if and when those opportunities come,” Tenenbaum said Friday. “They’ve earned the right to play meaningful games. I think they’ve had an underrated team all year and I expect them to continue to play really good football.
Historically, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the Patriots being aggressive, or standing up at the deadline.
After Tom Brady, Belichick isn’t inclined to do too much. Last season, his team was on a seven-game winning streak before the deadline, but he didn’t make a single move. Coincidence or not, the Pats flamed out at the end of the year.
In 2020, they acquired wide receiver Isaiah Ford from the Dolphins for a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick. Ford was waived a month later, but the Patriots were in no danger of making the playoffs during Cam Newton’s lone season.
Going back a decade, the most impactful trade for the Patriots came in 2016, acquiring linebacker Kyle Van Noy from Detroit for a seventh-round pick. In 2014, acquiring linebackers Jonathan Casella and Akeem Ayers; And in 2012, bringing cornerback Aqib Talib aboard after a trade with Tampa Bay.
So how will Belichick approach it this year?
There is already a team that has jumped ahead of the steps in the seller category. That would be the 1-5 Panthers, who just dealt star running back Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers and top receiver Robby Anderson to Arizona. In the coming days, there will definitely be more impact changes.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at where the Patriots stand.
What are their needs?
The Patriots don’t have a ton of holes that would qualify as needing a major upgrade, but they could benefit from cutting a couple positions.
Linebacker: The fact that the Patriots drafted several of their inside linebackers who missed the 2021 season due to injury — Cam McGrone and Raekwon McMillan — used any of the 10 draft selections on linebacker. Instead of doing, a painful place is created.
Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh said he’s “really excited” about the group and confident in the depth they have in-house at the off-ball linebacker position. Along with McGrone and McMillan, it included McWilson Jr., a trade acquisition, as well as veterans Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai.
But the way it has turned out after six games, McGrone is on the practice squad, while McMillan and Wilson have been decent, but not exactly game-changing.
Perhaps if they had preferred to select a top linebacker in the draft — Devin Lloyd (Jaguars) or Quay Walker (Packers) — they still wouldn’t have had to. As it is, they re-signed veteran Jamie Collins to try and shore up the group.
Aggressive Competition: Isaiah Wynn has been a problem. The move to right tackle has been a disaster, with Wynn committing a league-leading eight penalties and three sacks on fumbles. The Patriots bring back Marcus Cannon, but still lack quality depth. Yodny Cajuste is on injured reserve. They could move forward Michael Onwino to tackle him, but he’s having a great season at right guard. So adding a tackle makes sense. Protecting either McJones or Bailey Zappa should be a priority.
Cornerback: Moving Jonathan Jones from the slot to the boundary, using both rookies Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, has proved effective. But even with veteran Jalen Mills, the possibility of injury leaves them less likely, not to mention inexperienced. It would be beneficial if the Patriots could make a move like Talib, or at the very least, provide veteran depth down the road.
What can they offer?
Isaiah Wayne: He’s playing on the final year of his contract, and going right is not a recipe for success. As mentioned above, Winn has rightly struggled. Pro Football Focus has consistently given him the worst pass blocking and run blocking grades. A change of scenery, and a move back to left side might help him and attract some guys, but the problem is he’s making $10 million this season, which will be hard to move. .
Kendrick Bourne: While it’s hard to see the Patriots parting ways with a receiver as talented as Bourne, he’s currently underutilized, and would reportedly be open to a trade. He’s also cheap with less than $9 million over the next two seasons. The Pats have made calls on him, but so far, haven’t budged. See if someone makes them an offer, they can’t refuse.
Nelson Aguilar: While he had a great game against the Steelers (6 catches, 110 yards, TD), he has lacked consistency this season, his second with the team. He has also committed two costly fumbles, and has suffered drops, a problem that has plagued him throughout his career.
With free agency hitting next year, he would be the most logical guy to move. Like Wayne, his contract is not favorable. Some team will have to be willing to pick up his $9 million salary.
Jacoby Meyers is also in the final year of his contract, but it’s doubtful he’ll be shopped. He should be a top priority to re-sign. Basically, the return of Tyquan Thornton makes Bourne or Agholor expendable.
Damian Harris: He is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Patriots typically don’t re-sign a running back beyond their first contract.
He’s likely to draw interest, though he’s still a long shot to be dealt even if the Pats don’t plan to extend too much to keep him.
While Rhamondre Stevenson is on the rise, and looks capable of being a top back, the tandem of Harris and Stevenson works well together. They are the powerhouse of the offense and if the Pats are serious about making a playoff push, they will need both Harris and Stevenson. It’s too early to count on Pierre Strong or Kevin Harris, members of their 2022 draft class, to be the No. 2 pick.
Bailey Zippe: With Zappe playing well in relief of Mack Jones and Brian Hoyer, winning two straight games, it’s possible he could be a valuable trade chip, with the Patriots moving him while his value is high. At least, that’s what Pro Football Focus offered last week. It’s an interesting idea, sure, but highly unlikely, as in not happening. Tenenbaum agreed.
“I can’t imagine they would trade him,” Tenenbaum said. “He’s very young (23) and very valuable. I think he’ll obviously be an upgrade over Brian Hoyer, so I’d be really surprised to see that.
Draft Capital: The Patriots could hand over draft picks as compensation. That’s usually what bottom-feeding teams are looking for in a rebuild. The Panthers received multiple picks (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) from the 49ers in exchange for McCaffrey. In the 2023 draft, the Patriots have additional picks in rounds four through seven to use if needed.
Who can be available?
Usually, the worst teams end up being sellers before the deadline. Already the Panthers have started moving players. A winning Texans and Lions could join them, among others.
So who could be dealt that could pique the Patriots’ interest?
Seattle CB Sidney Jones: He’s not being used much in Seattle’s defense. He suffered a concussion early in the season, but has been a healthy scratch in games since.
Last season, Jones, a 2017 second-round pick, started in 11 games, and allowed an opposing passer rating of just 84.3 in coverage. He could be viewed as a depth piece by the Patriots. As for his contract, he is currently on a one-year, $3.6 million contract with a base of $1.6 million.
Washington CB William Jackson III: He reportedly requested a trade last week, preferring to play in a man-to-man scheme like the Patriots use. He hasn’t been particularly reliable since signing with the Commanders, but he was once a big-ticket free agent. Perhaps a change of scenery would inspire a better performance, even if he refused to ask.
Cleveland OL Joe Hague: He was a healthy scratch for last week’s game against the Patriots. The 29-year-old veteran, who is 6-foot-6, 304 pounds, can play tackle or guard. He was with the Steelers last year, and was a reserve on Tampa Bay’s championship team. The Pats might get him for a sixth-round pick — if the injury-plagued Bucs don’t trade him first.
Carolina T. Kim Erving: He can be a depth piece and backup at tackle. Erving started nine games at left tackle for the Browns in 2021, but has yet to play a snap this season. The Patriots saw him at the combine drills in August. He started at left tackle for eight games with the Chiefs during their championship season in 2019.
He has about $2.9 million left on his base salary this season. The Panthers will probably take a late round draft pick for him.
Carolina DL Matt Ioannidis: He has experience playing both defensive end and defensive tackle. Ioannidis, who has 15 tackles and a sack this season, could help bolster the run defense and interior pass rush for the Patriots.
With Christian Barmore out with a knee injury, and Lawrence Guy missing the last three games with a shoulder injury, the Pats could use reinforcements. They also saw him during joint exercises.
Ioannidis is playing on a one-year, $9.5 million contract, but has a base salary of $1 million in 2022. So he will be cheap.