The NFL's trade deadline is not 48 hours away and at least some moves are expected to take place. And when speculation about trades is heating up one team name is regularly mentioned, the New England Patriots – and for good reason. The defending world champions have not shied away from dealing away supposed core players or acquiring outside help.
Just last year, New England traded All Pro linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional third round draft pick. Not even a week earlier, the team had acquired Kyle Van Noy – like Collins a former second round draft pick – and a seventh round draft choice from the Detroit Lions. In return, the Patriots sent a 2017 sixth round pick westward.
Whether or not New England will be equally active in the upcoming hours remains to be seen. If the team chooses to make one or more moves, there are a lot of different routes it could go – at least if some stories around the world wide web are to be believed. We've taken a look at six proposed trades to dissect them and see how realistic they actually look like.
The Patriots trade RB Mike Gillislee and a third-round pick for Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah
This transaction was first brought up in an article posted by Pro Football Focus called “2017 NFL trade deadline deals that make sense”. From a certain perspective, the move appears to work out for New England: The team would receive a talented player that could help with the pass rush while giving up another player that is part of a deep position group. However, take a closer look and this trade does not make sense at all.
There are two reasons why: 1) Gillislee is New England's only big-body back and losing him would mean losing an integral part of the running back rotation. Also, despite Dion Lewis' recent success, he is still New England's leading rusher. 2) The Patriots currently have $4.68 million in salary cap space and even without Gillislee would not be able to afford Ansah's $12.7 million cap hit. Also, Ansah would hit free agency after the season. In short: This one's not happening.
The Patriots trade for Lions TE Eric Ebron
Our very own Rich Hill proposed this trade in his “4 trade ideas for the Patriots before next week’s deadline” article. Of course, a lot has changed since the story was published – namely, Dont'a Hightower being reportedly lost for the season – so tight end does no longer appear to be the lone position of need on the roster. Still, Ebron would be a nice acquisition for the Patriots and a potential upgrade over Dwayne Allen – who Rich sees as a trade chip – and Jacob Hollister.
The question is whether or not the Lions would be willing to part ways with Ebron to get Allen, who a) has a higher salary cap hit (around $1.0 million) and b) has not been able to match even Ebron's statistical output (13 catches for 103 yards). Then again, maybe this last point is exactly why trading tight ends would make sense for both teams as a change of scenery might benefit both Ebron and Allen.
The Patriots trade a late-round pick to the 49ers for LB Aaron Lynch
The idea of trading for the San Francisco 49ers' Aaron Lynch was brought up by both The Ringer's Danny Kelly and nfl.com's Nick Shook, who also came up with a 2018 late-round selection as a potential compensation. As is the case with PFF's proposed trade for Ezekiel Ansah, this is a direct result of Dont'a Hightower's projected journey to the injured reserve list.
Lynch, more of a defensive edge in the mold of Cassius Marsh than a versatile chess piece like Hightower, has fallen out of favor in San Francisco and could be available for a reasonable compensation like the one suggested by Shook. Furthermore, the economics – a $1.5 million salary cap hit – are also a reason to believe why this trade could actually take place.
Bleacher Report's Sean Tomlinson suggested multiple trades the Patriots could make in his recent story “The Trade Every NFL Team Should Explore at the Trade Deadline” – and three of them involved the team trading away its backup quarterback. Sure, from the perspective of the three teams named, acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo would make some sense in terms of pure roster-upgrading.
However, those three trades should be filed under the “highly unlikely” category. After all, the Patriots currently have only Garoppolo to back up Tom Brady – and the team very well knows the importance of an able backup. Would they potentially jeopardize their entire 2017 campaign for some high draft picks in the upcoming season(s)? Knowing how things are run in New England, the answer appears to be “no”.
The Patriots trade for Saints LB Hau'oli Kikaha
While moving Garoppolo will likely not happen, this trade proposed by Bleacher Report's Sean Tomlinson might. Again, Dont'a Hightower's injury is part of the reasoning behind it. And while Kikaha would not replace the Patriots' defensive captain and how he was used by the team, the 2015 second rounder would add an additional layer of depth and upside to New England's outside linebacker group.
In New Orleans, Kikaha recently failed to crack the rotations at both defensive edge and linebacker and it would not be a surprise to see the team being open to move the 25-year old. If that were the case, New England looks like an ideal destination – also in terms of resources: The Patriots could afford Kikaha's $1.44 million cap hit. And in case of a late-round draft pick swap in the Saints' favor, New England would also not lose one of its only five 2018 draft picks.
The Patriots trade CB Malcolm Butler for Cowboys DL David Irving
Seeing the words “Malcolm Butler” and “trade” in one sentence is nothing new. However, a lot has changed since the first rumors started to surface in March, most notably New England's issues at cornerback, where two of the top three players entering the year have now missed multiple games due to injury – leaving Butler as the top option at the position. One that Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer would trade away.
Arguing that the Patriots need another body like Irving to get after the quarterback is not incorrect; the team has been uneven in this area. However, giving up one of the starting cornerbacks for a rotational player would do more harm than good and is glossing over the fact that while pass defense starts up front, it ends in the defensive backfield. And without Butler, the latter would look much worse.