Earlier today, Tom Pelissero reported that the New England Patriots are looking to trade wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Former Boston Herald Patriots beat writer Ian Rapoport provided additional context on the team’s justification for moving on from a once-promising receiver:
Makes sense. They are high on Kenny Britt at that spot... https://t.co/r3M7YiPt71— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 23, 2018
The Patriots “are high on Kenny Britt” at the outside receiver position, per Rapoport, which is solid praise for the former 1,000-yard veteran. It also reveals a bit of the Patriots depth chart.
The Patriots have typically had three different types of receiver roles on their roster. They have their standard outside receiver (Randy Moss, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon LaFell, Brandin Cooks), their flex-receiver (Troy Brown, Julian Edelman), and their slot receiver (Wes Welker, Danny Amendola). Now the team doesn’t have to have all three positions filled at a given time, but there is a starting job at each role if a capable player exists.
Britt and Mitchell fall into that “outside receiver” category.
There isn’t a veteran pure-slot receiver on the roster, although an easy case that both Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson should be kept inside. Rookie Braxton Berrios and former practice squadder Riley McCarron are both pure-slot youngsters. Add in Julian Edelman (when he returns from his suspension) and Chris Hogan and you have six players that can play both inside and as the flex player.
Hogan also has proven his ability on the outside, too, which must be factored into the roster calculus.
Imagine, Matthews in the slot, Edelman as the flex, with Hogan on the outside, while Patterson makes the team due to his All Pro special teams ability. So when the Patriots hold five wide receivers on the roster there could be a fierce competition for just one final outside receiver spots among Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, and Cody Hollister (just to be thorough).
If the Patriots are high on Britt, or feel like Dorsett could really take over for Brandin Cooks’ old speedster role, then where does Mitchell fit in? One of the most common Belichickisms is “the most important ability is avail-ability” and Mitchell has has to overcome an enormous mountain of injuries. Britt and Dorsett might have the edge simply by being healthy.
What would a team be willing to trade to acquire Mitchell? Not much, probably, especially if Mitchell is likely to be cut at the end of the summer. A conditional sixth or seventh round pick is most likely, but perhaps we could see the Patriots make a swap of players at a position of need (linebacker, anyone?).
Hopefully Mitchell has a lengthy career because he has a fantastic story and is a great member of the community. That career just might not be in New England.