I’m going to start off by saying the New England Patriots don’t need a 32-year old offensive tackle. All Patriots offensive tackles- whether it’s LT Nate Solder, RT Marcus Cannon, or swing OT Cameron Fleming- have been pretty good all year.
But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t at least kick the tires on a possible trade.
Pro Football Talk (PFT) reports that the Patriots have shown the most base amount of interest in Browns OT Joe Thomas and in 49ers OT Joe Staley, in sense that if either the Browns or 49ers “are willing to take whatever they can get,” then the Patriots are interested. I’ve included a history of the Patriots trades for players in exchange for top draft picks at the bottom of this post.
PFT highlights the Vikings, Giants, Cardinals, and Seahawks as other teams interested in trading for either Thomas or Staley. Both are considered in the top three offensive tackles in the NFL, along with Cowboys LT Tyron Smith.
Thomas is in his 10th season. He turns 32 in December and has been named an 8-time All Pro in his 9 completed seasons. The Browns were looking for a pair of first round picks to trade Thomas last season, but were willing to take a 1st, 3rd, and 4th after negotiating with the Broncos. Browns head coach Hue Jackson says Thomas isn’t available for trade, but I’m not sure if that is anything more than a coach trying to keep his team together.
The Browns appear to want a 2nd round pick for Thomas this year. Thomas is under contract through the 2018 season with cap hits of $10 million in each of the next two seasons.
Staley is also in his 10th season and he turned 32 in August. He has been a 3-time All Pro and will forever be linked to the Patriots; New Engand traded their 1st round pick in 2007 to the 49ers so they could select Staley. In return, the Patriots received picks that turned into LB Jerod Mayo and WR Randy Moss.
Staley was also on the trade block last year, but discussions didn’t make it as far as they did for Thomas and the Broncos. The 49ers are looking for a late first round pick as Staley is under contract through the 2019 season. Staley has a cap hit of $9 million in 2017, but that drops to $5.5 million in the subsequent two seasons.
The Vikings and Cardinals have the least and 4th-least amount of cap space this year, which makes a trade very difficult for either tackle. The Giants and, to a far lesser extent, the Seahawks could make the trades work. The Vikings, Cardinals, and Seahawks have all shown a willingness to trade top draft picks for proven players, too.
I don’t think I have to explain why the Patriots won’t be trading their first or second round pick for a 32-year old offensive tackle, but at what price would Belichick and company be willing to listen?
Here are the Patriots projected draft picks:
4th round (Seahawks)
5th round (Broncos)
5th/6th round (compensatory for DT Akiem Hicks)
7th round (Lions)
The Patriots have never traded their 1st round pick straight-up for a player. RB Corey Dillon (2004) and WR Wes Welker (2007) are the only two players that the Patriots have acquired for a 2nd round pick. Dillon was about to turn 30-years old and Welker was 26-years old.
CB Duane Starks (2005) and ED Derrick Burgess (2009) were both 31-years old and were acquired for 3rd and 5th round picks. They were both only around for one season.
The Patriots have had the most success when dealing their 4th round picks, as they were able to acquire the 35-year old DT Ted Washington (2003), the 30-year old WR Randy Moss (2007), the 26-year old CB Aqib Talib (2012), and the 29-year old TE Martellus Bennett (2016).
The Patriots are unable to trade their 4th round picks until after the end of the season, per their DeflateGate punishment, although I’m sure the team could trade “the lesser of their 4th round picks” since the team will lose “the earlier selection.”
Belichick has traded away more 5th round picks for players, but none of those trades seem to have worked out for New England. These trades have included WR Andre Davis (2005), WR Doug Gabriel (2006), WR Greg Lewis (2010), and WR Chad Johnson (2011).
The Patriots have traded away their 5th round pick for six straight seasons because Belichick and company think it’s better to get players with NFL experience for what are essentially the scraps of the draft.
I could see the Patriots putting their 4th round pick on the table for both the Browns and the 49ers and walking away. If neither team is able to get a better offer from a competitor, perhaps they’ll come back to New England and accept the offer. Maybe the trade could include Marcus Cannon or Cameron Fleming as additional compensation (and to free up a roster spot for New England).
Belichick has expressed his appreciation for Cannon and continuity on the offensive line, so perhaps a trade is low on his list of priorities.
“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick said on Tuesday. “He has played a lot of good football for us. We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.
“Like everybody else, like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better. I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we have; than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.
“But I think Marcus has done a good job for us. Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing. It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”
Would the Patriots want to disrupt the offensive line continuity? Are Thomas and Staley great enough talents at this late stage of their careers to be worth adding?
The trade deadline is Tuesday, November 1st at 4:00 PM EST. We’ll have to wait to find out.
History of Patriots acquiring players for draft picks in first five rounds:
2003: DT Ted Washington for 2004 4th rounder
2004: RB Corey Dillon for 2004 2nd rounder
2005: CB Duane Starks for 2005 3rd rounder, swap 5th rounders
2005: WR Andre Davis for 2006 5th rounder
2006: WR Doug Gabriel for 2007 5th rounder
2007: WR Wes Welker for 2007 2nd and 7th
2007: WR Randy Moss for 2007 4th
2009: WR Greg Lewis for 2010 5th
2009: TE Alex Smith for 2010 5th
2009: ED Derrick Burgess for 2010 3rd and 2010 5th
2011: DT Albert Haynesworth for 2013 5th
2011: WR Chad Johnson for 2012 5th and 2013 6th
2012**midseason: CB Aqib Talib and 2013 7th for 2013 4th
2016: TE Martellus Bennett and 2016 6th for 2016 4th
2016: LB Barkevious Mingo for 2017 5th