Who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned trade speculation?
Actually, Bill Belichick doesn’t.
He despises speculation of any kind — at least publicly. But you would be hard pressed to find a man in the NFL more responsible for generating as much trade-related conjecture than the Patriots’ head coach. Since his arrival in Foxbororugh, his propensity for executing trades has been unparalleled.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss in a piece from November of last season, Belichick had made a total of 121 trades as a member of the Patriots. That number now stands at 128 following the recent acquisitions of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, and Dewayne Allen, in addition to the four draft-day trades that were executed.
Bill’s bartering bombardment has left the masses in a state of perpetual readiness — always scouring the NFL landscape for signs of a potential Patriots target in an attempt to forecast the next impending roster shake up. Yet time and time again this exercise has been proven to be a futile one.
With that said, it’s June. So let’s throw on our Patriots prognostication hats anyways.
Which Patriots player could present enough value to another team to make him a trade candidate? And what would the Patriots be looking for in return?
To keep from completely going off the rails by exploring landing spots and compensation for guys like Nate Solder and Jimmy Garoppolo (we've been down that road enough as of late, no?), let's delve a little deeper into the roster and uncover a more realistic scenario.
Patriot on the trade block: Justin Coleman
Coleman finds himself in a tougher spot with than he may have anticipated heading into the offseason. The departure of Logan Ryan did nothing to advance his status on the depth chart after arrival the of Stephon Gilmore and the retention of Malcolm Butler. The reported emergence of Jonathan Jones’ improvement in the slot along with his prowess on special teams, would presumably place Coleman in a battle with Cyrus Jones for the team’s fifth cornerback spot — a battle which would require an extremely tough decision on the part of the team, given the draft capital invested in the former Alabama corner.
Coleman, a former UDFA out of Tennessee, should still carry a bit of value. Corners with serviceable NFL experience aren’t easy to come by -- especially ones from perennial league powerhouses. If Coleman can flash some solid play early in camp and perhaps into the preseason, he could provide the Patriots with the ammunition needed to acquire some depth at a position on the roster where they are decidedly thinner.
Trade target: Mychal Kendricks - LB, Philadelphia
The Patriots need at linebacker has been well documented throughout the offseason, including Tuesday morning’s piece detailing a potential veteran free agent solution. Mychal Kendricks, a former second-round selection out of Cal, also garnered some chatter prior to the Patriots’ signing of Dont’a Hightower to his current five-year extension.
The rumors concerning the Eagles’ willingness to trade the veteran linebacker haven’t gone away. Under the new Doug Pederson regime, Kendricks has been the odd man out in Jim Schwartz’s “Wide Nine” system - logging just twenty-seven percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2016.
With Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks producing at a high level, and the addition of SS/LB hybrid player Nathan Gerry in the fifth round out of Nebraska, the writing is certainly on the wall as far as Kendricks’ future is concerned. The issue, as it so often is, is the money.
Kendricks’ $4.85 million 2017 salary became fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of the league year. He is also under contract through 2019 with salaries of $5.85 million and $6.85 million over the next two years. According to overthecap.com, the Eagles are still strapped for cap space. They currently have roughly $1.3 million in breathing room — not nearly enough to cover in-season expenditures.
The Patriots have just over $15 million in cap space currently, making Kendrick’s 2017 salary a bit easier to absorb. However, the contract contains no guaranteed money after this season, so the Patriots wouldn’t be on the hook for his future salaries should he prove to be a poor fit in Matt Patricia’s defense.
However, Kendricks’ athletic ability is fantastic. At a slimmer 240 pounds, his terrific lateral quickness and straight line speed allows him to take aggressive angles to ball carriers. He also has excelled in the past at generating pressure, whether off the edge, or on A-gap blitzes — something the Patriots have certainly utilized with success under Matt Patricia.
Bottom line: If given the opportunity to flourish in a new scheme, Mychal Kendricks still possesses Pro Bowl upside and a contract with three seasons of reasonably economical team control remaining.
The abysmal production of Philadelphia’s corners in 2016 led to the signing of Patrick Robinson and the drafting of Sidney Jones, who is likely to the start the year on PUP, and Rasul Douglas in the second and third rounds of the draft respectively.
Would adding a player like Justin Coleman while simultaneously shedding Mychal Kendricks’ contract be enough for Eagles GM Howie Roseman to pull the trigger?