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How the Patriots Utilize the Trade Market and Compensatory Pick System as an Alternative to Free Agency

Instead of overpaying for talent, the Patriots look for talent in need of a fresh start and acquire them through the trade market.

Buy low for incredible talent, use that talent to win, profit.
Buy low for incredible talent, use that talent to win, profit.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

As we see every year, the initial free agency wave yields contracts that have ungodly amounts of money and the Patriots avoid that scenario for the most part. The Patriots are always looking for market inefficiencies that allows them to put the best and deepest roster possible under the salary cap. With the prices in free agency, the Patriots turned to the trade market to fill out some of their needs, acquiring G Jonathan Cooper and TE Martellus Bennett this week. It's no different than it has been in the past when the Patriots have acquired other high-risk players like Randy Moss, Corey Dillion, etc.

The Patriots will typically attempt to trade a low value asset, whether it's a bottom of the roster player or a late draft pick, for a talented player that's in a contract year and in need for a fresh start. The Patriots did it in 2004 with Corey Dillon, 2007 with Randy Moss, 2012-13 with Aqib Talib, 2014 with Akeem Ayers, 2015 with Akiem Hicks, and are looking to repeat the success with both Cooper and Bennett. For the Patriots, they can try to coach up the player to play to his potential and for the player they acquire it's a chance to build up value to get a big FA contract the next season or re-sign with the Patriots. The Patriots benefit with either a 3rd/4th compensatory selection or they keep the player. It's a win-win for all parties involved.

Cooper's problem in Arizona was never about ability, but rather health. Cooper has had an unlucky string of injuries that have never allowed him to get his career off the ground. He'll be getting a fresh start in New England and gets to learn from one of the best teachers at the position. For Cooper, he just needs to stay healthy because he will be a big asset to the OL. I would not be surprised if he signed another short-term deal with the Patriots to further build up his FA value if 2016 is a successful year.

Martellus Bennett is a Pro Bowl caliber TE built from the same mold as Rob Gronkowski. He's a strong blocker, dynamic receiving threat, and terrific after the catch. If Bennett works out, then he and Gronk will the best TE duo in the BB era and arguably NFL history. The question will come down to if Bennett can figure out the playbook and stay healthy. In the Patriots offense, he's going to be either the first, second, or third option on a given play. If anyone remembers that 4 TE set against the Steelers, imagine the same thing with Gronk on one side of the formation and Bennett on the other. For the opposing defense, that formation basically means an automatic TD.

Instead of overpaying in the free agent market, the Patriots went to the trade market to fulfill their 2016 needs. With the trades for Cooper and Bennett, the Patriots are hoping to solidify the guard and TE positions for the 2016 season. It's an opportunity for the Patriots to receive elite talent at less than elite prices and for the two players to build their value to other teams playing on the best team in the NFL. These moves also fortify the Patriots' standing as the team to beat in the AFC in 2016. Here's to more record setting levels of offensive production.