No one will be surprised if or when New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio orchestrate a trade.
It could be as simple as shipping away a 6th round pick a month after drafting them (adios, Matthew Wells), or sending away one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise prior to the season (see you later, Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins).
It could happen. Honestly, it’s more probable than not. So one Twitter user got me thinking:
@PP_Rich_Hill would love to see an article on the Pats players that could be traded this summer. L. Ryan/ OL etc— Tom Masiero (@BlendahTom) June 8, 2016
Which players are potential trade bait?
The following is a list, not a ranking. I’d be curious to see your thoughts in the comments section.
WR Aaron Dobson or WR Keshawn Martin: The Patriots already have Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell as roster locks. Matthew Slater is a special teams player, so I won’t group him here. But this means that there is likely just one roster spot left for a wide receiver- so someone is getting released or traded.
Martin has the inside edge because of the signing bonus the Patriots gave him late last season, but Dobson has been turning heads with an extremely productive camp. Factor in that Dobson is unique- Martin’s skill set overlaps with Edelman, Amendola, and Hogan- and that might help him make the roster. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if either player was moved before week 1.
RB James White: New England invested in running backs this year in hopes that someone would take White’s job. That’s honestly been the entire goal. Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden are pretty much locks to make the team, and that leaves just one spot left.
White doesn’t play special teams. He’s one of the worst rushers in the league. The Patriots added veteran Donald Brown and added D.J. Foster as an undrafted free agent. Maybe White has improved as a runner, but if he hasn't I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Saints would be interested in acquiring one of the best receiving backs in the league.
OC Bryan Stork or OC David Andrews or OG Tre Jackson: Both players could make the roster, but this is a numbers game. Stork is more versatile. Andrews might be better. Rookie Joe Thuney has been taking snaps at center, and second year Shaq Mason and veteran Josh Kline have back-up value there. There might be a team interested in adding another interior lineman.
Jackson makes this grouping because he might have the short straw. He was a highly touted draft prospect that fell because of concerns with his knees- and he’s currently working through knee problems that hampered his rookie season. Maybe some team is still high on him and think he's worth the risk.
OT Marcus Cannon or OT Sebastian Vollmer: On the record, I think both players make the team. While Cannon and his crazy contract are likely cap casualties, Vollmer fits the ticket of Patriots veteran possibly past his prime that Belichick sells before his value plummets. I hope this doesn’t happen, but it’s so very, very possible.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Literally only happens if the courts come out and say, “Naw, Tom Brady can play and Roger Goodell should swim with the fishes.” I’d say there’s a 0.00032% chance of Garoppolo being traded. Maybe a team would be more willing to trade for two years of his services, instead of one.
ED Geneo Grissom or ED Trey Flowers or ED Rufus Johnson: I was surprised the Patriots kept all three last year, and each has their own limitation. Grissom is probably the least value on defense, but offers the most on special teams. Flowers is probably the best defender, but offers zero special teams value. Johnson is a mix of the two.
I would expect two of these players to make the team, and I wouldn’t be shocked if one was traded for a back-up long snapper or something.
CB Logan Ryan: The Patriots have Malcolm Butler and Cyrus Jones as locks. Darryl Roberts and Justin Coleman are having great camps, as are undrafted rookies Jonathan Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc. Ryan wouldn’t be traded until the last possible moment (and I don't think they trade him because starting corners are so rare), but if, and only if, Roberts or Jones or Other Jones or anyone steps up in a major way that is reminiscent of Butler’s rookie season during the preseason games, and if a team is willing to offer a 3rd or 4th round pick or an immediate starter, then perhaps Belichick will listen to the offer.
FS Duron Harmon: Second year safety Jordan Richards is having a good camp and, to be honest, putting Richards in the middle of the defense with Devin McCourty as the deep safety is probably the ideal lineup. Harmon is a free agent after this season and is a capable starting safety. He, like Ryan, could fetch a nice trade option for the Patriots.
When I look at the Patriots roster, I don't see too many holes for improvement that Belichick and Caserio haven’t already tried to fill. Assuming everyone is healthy, I'd argue that offensive tackle is the only spot that needs help and that any trade would likely involve a potential starting caliber swing tackle.
If I had to pick a few players to be the most likely traded, I would say Dobson, White, and Flowers. I think all three could have potential in the NFL, but they lack the versatility that Belichick appreciates in his back-up depth options. That trio does not contribute on special teams, so the Patriots would rather take players with possibly less upside, in favor of those that can contribute on the game day roster.