Every week SB Nation team sites will be answering the same question. This week: What would be the one trade you want your team to make before the deadline on Tuesday, October 31st at 4:00 PM ET?
The New England Patriots are always busy before the trade deadline and this year shouldn’t be an exception. The Patriots have only made one real roster move so far this regular season- when they placed DT Vincent Valentine on the injured reserve and promoted DL Geneo Grissom to the active roster- so there is plenty of room for potential changes.
In 2016, the Patriots made at least nine roster moves before trade deadline week when they cut DL Anthony Johnson, traded LB Jamie Collins and TE AJ Derby, acquired LB Kyle Van Noy, and signed RB Tyler Gaffney. In 2015, the Patriots acquired WR Keshawn Martin, LB Jonathan Bostic, and DL Akiem Hicks in the months prior to the deadline and made numerous roster changes due to all the injuries.
While the Patriots have historically been active before the deadline, there’s no indication that head coach Bill Belichick will feel the need to make more trades this year, especially after making four big roster moves prior to the start of the regular season.
“Each situation is different,” Belichick said about acquiring players through trades. “There’s no book on this. I think the acquisitions that you make at the beginning of the season, in the spring or in the offseason, you’re looking at roster building. You’re looking at players that you feel like would be competitive in a certain position or in a certain role or in a combination of roles that would be competitive for your team. That role might be starter, it might be as a rotational player, but whatever that [is], you’re looking for a guy that’s going to be competitive in those roles.
“When you acquire a guy at the beginning of the season or in the season, like [Kyle] Van Noy or [Cassius] Marsh or [Johnson] Bademosi or Akeem Ayers or [Jonathan] Casillas or [Aqib] Talib or guys that we’ve done that with, you’re usually acquiring that player to fill a specific role at that time. He’s not like in competition with eight other guys for something. I mean, the reason you’ve acquired him is because A, he’s available and it’s worked out and all that, but B, you see a role for that player that you can use.”
“I’m saying if you trade for a guy, you’re definitely giving up something to get somebody to put into a certain position or role, whatever that happens to be,” Belichick added. “So, I’d say that’s a little bit of a different – it’s different than when you get a guy in March...[when] you’re still trying to see how it’s all going to play out. Well, in September or October, you have a lot better idea how it’s playing out and if you acquire a player, generally it’s to put that player into a role that you feel is necessary and that he can do.”
So when we look at what positions the Patriots might address at the trade deadline, we need to ask:
1. What role is necessary for the Patriots to upgrade?
“Why would you bring a guy in if you already have two guys that can do this job?,” Belichick asked hypothetically. “You don’t really need a third guy to come in and do that. Look, depth is always good to have, but you know what I mean. Realistically, how many guys do you need in a certain role? There’s probably going to be other things on your team that you need more.”
Example: Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen has been underproducing, but the Patriots aren’t going to add another depth tight end on the same level as Allen or Hollister. The only reason they’d add another tight end is to improve the position well above what Allen or Hollister brings to the table.
2. What players are available to fill that role?
“[Johnson Bademosi and Cassius Marsh] have worked very hard to come in and you can include [Marquis] Flowers in there, too,” Belichick said. “Those guys have worked hard. They have tried to – and [Phillip] Dorsett – they’ve tried to learn our offensive and defensive and special teams systems as it applies to their position, have taken a lot of extra work on the practice field with what we call the basic groups – the guys on the practice squad and so forth – to build their reps and experience up in our system.”
Example: It’s one thing to say that the Patriots need to improve at offensive tackle. It’s another to find a player that would present an upgrade. Who could the Patriots add right now? Joe Staley of the 49ers is one, but that might be it- and the cost would be steep.
3. Is the cost worth the value added of the player?
“When you get a guy the first of October, there’s no process,” Belichick said. “You’ve got a game that week. I mean, you’ve got to get the guy ready to play a role – Akiem Hicks – and then a month later or two months later his role might be different, you know, and there’s possible growth there...But, usually you bring a guy in if you have a role for him.”
Example: Let’s say 49ers EDGE Aaron Lynch is on the trade block and San Francisco wants a 2018 fourth round pick. Is that price worth the Patriots upgrading over Deatrich Wise or Adam Butler or Cassius Marsh? Or would they prefer to use Shea McClellin and keep that fourth round pick over adding Lynch?
So with these questions in mind, what are the possible positions the Patriots could look to improve, and who are the players that could fill those needs?
On defense, I think that Alan Branch had a strong outing against the Atlanta Falcons and he joins Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy to form a stout interior. With Vincent Valentine possibly able to return later this year, it’s hard to see the Patriots adding a player in the defensive interior. The same logic applies to the linebacker and edge defender position with Shea McClellin scheduled to return around the bye week.
In my opinion, tight end is the only clear option with Allen and Hollister both available to be upgraded, and that might be the only obvious position unless a star at another position becomes available. The Patriots could use an upgrade to help on offense and in case of an injury to Rob Gronkowski, but they would need to find a tight end capable of being an immediate and obvious improvement over Allen or Hollister.
A possible idea: 49ers TE Garrett Celek is an option. While he doesn’t have the statistical production (61 career receptions for 715 yards and 7 touchdowns), he can line up anywhere on the formation and can provide at least the same value that Allen has. Celek could fail to pass the first question of, “would the new player be an upgrade.”
A reasonable idea: Lions TE Eric Ebron is an option due to the Patriots familiarity with Detroit general manager Bob Quinn. Ebron racked up 711 yards in 2016, but has underwhelmed in 2017 with just 13 catches for 102 yards. Ebron and Allen could both benefit from a change of scenery, so why not swap the two, with the Patriots also tossing in a 2018 fifth or sixth round pick?
Moonshot: What about Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham? The Seahawks offensive line is abysmal, so what if the Patriots gave Seattle one of their prized offensive tackles in Cameron Fleming or LaAdrian Waddle and some extra change (Dwayne Allen?) for Graham. The NFL owes it to the world to have Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham on the same team.
Super wild idea: With quarterback Aaron Rodgers out for the season, what about bringing home Packers TE Martellus Bennett? We know Bennett can play at a high level in New England, so why not try and bring him back? It all comes down to the cost.
Which player would you want the Patriots to acquire?
This poll is closed
49ers TE Garrett Celek
Lions TE Eric Ebron
Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham
Packers TE Martellus Bennett