A third consecutive loss now has the New England Patriots in an unusual position for late October. After seven weeks, the Patriots sit at 2-4 on the season, which places them third in the AFC East.
The last several weeks have been a mess in New England; as the Patriots have been hit with a wave of injuries, Coronavirus cases, practices delays, and rescheduled games. The result? Poor play on the football field.
Patriots quarterbacks have thrown just three touchdowns on the year compared to 11 interceptions, both ranking dead last in the NFL. After the Week 2 game against Seattle in which New England scored 30 points and threw for 397 yards, they have averaged just 16 points and 161.5 passing yards per game.
While the offense has been bad, the defense had been keeping the Patriots in games. But even that wasn't the case on Sunday against San Francisco, who piled up 467 total yards (197 rushing yards) against the New England defense while scoring 33 points.
So while times appear dark in Foxboro, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” according to Cam Newton. The Patriots sit three games behind the division leading Buffalo Bills, but still have two matchups with Buffalo remaining this year (including Week 8). If New England believes they can make a push to win the division, things much change and they must change fast. That leads us to the trade deadline, which is now officially just one week away.
In a similar situation last year, New England moved a second-round pick for receiver Mohamed Sanu at the trade deadline. That move failed, mightily, as Sanu was hobbled by an ankle injury and failed to perform; he was eventually cut this offseason. The questions that now rise are will Patriots move draft capital for a potential rental this season? If they do, how much of an impact will that even make? Or, could another loss this week turn them into “sellers” at the deadline, potentially moving pieces like Joe Thuney or Stephon Gilmore? It’s tough to imagine Bill Belichick being one to sell, but they might not even believe adding a piece or two to the current roster would be worth the draft capital.
If Belichick and co. do believe adding a rental or two is worth it for the Patriots this season, here are six trades with a “buyer” mentality for the Patriots to try and turn their season around:
1. Patriots trade for Texans wide receiver Will Fuller
Patriots get: WR Will Fuller
Texans get: 2022 third-round draft pick, 2021 conditional fifth-round draft pick
The Patriots’ wide receivers do not deserve all of the blame for the team’s recent struggles. Don’t read into the narrative that they “are not separating”, as more of the blame should fall on poor quarterback play. But, the team certainly needs more talent at the position. Damiere Byrd has been solid but is not, and should not be, a No. 1 option. Julian Edelman is clearly not the same player while N’Keal Harry has still not produce as expected. So, if the Patriots are serious about contending for the division, wide receiver should be the first position they look to improve.
Enter Will Fuller.
Fuller has been healthy all year which has transitioned into a career season so far. The speedster has hauled in 31 receptions for 490 yards and five scores on the season. He would instantly bring a much needed element of speed to New England’s offense, while providing them a downfield threat who offers big play ability (15.8 yards per reception on the year).
So why would Houston deal the 26-year old? Fuller is in the last year of his rookie deal with the 1-5 Texans, who appear to be in the middle of an overhaul. They need all the draft picks they can get after dealing valuable draft capital in recent years for players like Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks. They should be able to recoup a mid-round pick from New England, who could then recoup a mid-rounder if they let him walk in free agency.
2. Patriots trade for defensive end J.J. Watt
Patriots get: DE J.J. Watt
Texans get: 2021 second-round draft pick, 2022 conditional third-round draft pick
While we are on the phone with Houston, it would make perfect sense for the Patriots to check in on J.J. Watt. New England has not been great defending the run this season, while ranking towards the bottom of the league with just nine sacks on the season.
Belichick has raved about the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in the past, putting him in the same conversation as Lawerence Taylor. While he’s certainly not the same player he once was, Watt would instantly become New England’s best pass rusher while providing them a smart, moveable piece along the defensive line.
Trading the 31-year old Watt would be one of the best moves to accelerate Houston’s rebuild. Houston will prioritize shedding salary and adding draft capital, which is exactly what this move will do. Dealing Watt will save Houston $17.5 million next season and should bring back a high draft-pick. This deal would be beneficial to Houston’s rebuild while the Patriots would add a top-talent to their defensive line.
3. Patriots trade for Browns tight end David Njoku
Patriots get: TE David Njoku
Browns get: 2021 fifth-round draft pick
It feels like Njoku has been on the trade block for two years now, as more conflicting reports about whether the tight end wants out have been swirling lately. Either way, Cleveland paid tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason and can easily move on from the underutilized Njoku.
We’ve talked about the Patriots wide receivers, but their tight end production has been the worst in the NFL. They’ve refused to target rookie Devin Asiasi on the year while Dalton Keene had one catch in his debut against the 49ers. Ryan Izzo has been the units most productive player, posting just seven catches for 90 yards on the season.
Cam Newton was at his best in Carolina with Greg Olsen working the middle of the field. Adding a talented player like Njoku would give Newton a strong, dynamic target in that role. The former first-round pick is one of the most talented young tight ends in the league and has his fifth-round option still available for the Patriots in 2021, which would pay $6.013 million.
4. Patriots trade for Cardinals EDGE defender Haason Reddick
Patriots get: EDGE Haason Reddick
Cardinals get: 2021 fifth-round draft pick
Reddick is another name that seems to have been floated in trade talks in recent years after three coaching staff’s failed to unlock his potential. A move back to his traditional outside linebacker role in recent weeks have him playing like the 13th overall pick he was in the 2017 draft. Reddick has piled up three sacks and five quarterback hits over his last two games - playing a season-high 95-percent of Arizona’s defensive snaps Sunday night against Seattle.
It seems the Cardinals have finally found success using Reddick, but his value is also at an all-time high. Originally, I would have said Reddick could get Arizona a sixth-round pick in return, but we’ll bump it to a fifth-rounder for now due to his recent progression.
So why would Reddick be a strong addition on New England? The 26-year old is an elite athlete at the position, running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He is able to rush the passer, set the edge in the run game and drop back in space when needed. Reddick would provide Belichick another versatile piece to use on the defense.
The Cardinals declined Reddick’s fifth-year option before the season, so he will hit free agency when the year comes to an end. If New England can convince Arizona to swing a deal, Reddick would be a strong addition in Foxboro.
5. Patriots trade for Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen
Patriots get: WR Adam Thielen
Vikings get: 2021 second-round draft pick, 2021 fifth-round draft pick
Now, let’s get juicy. Thielen is one of top wide receivers in the league and is stuck on a 1-5 Minnesota Vikings team that appears to be entering a rebuild. A report on Sunday from CBS’ Jason La Canfora mentioned that the Patriots are looking for pass catchers and Thielen may be an option.
Thielen posted back-to-back 1,000-yard plus Pro Bowl seasons in 2017 and 2018, finishing with a combined 204 catches, 2,648 yards and 13 touchdowns. A hamstring injury limited him to just 10 games last season, but Thielen has bounced back nicely so far in 2020, leading the league with seven touchdown receptions through seven weeks.
The 31-year is know for his ability to create space in man-to-man coverage and would be an ideal addition for Newton and the offense. Thielen is also under contract through 2024 at a reasonable price, allowing New England to avoid the rental route.
If the Patriots were to trade for Adam Thielen his cap numbers for them would be— Cap Space = $22,895,723 (@patscap) October 26, 2020
2020 - $2,848,529 this week $2,559,926 next week
2021 - $11.7M
2022 - $12.645M
2023 - $13.65M
2024 - $16M
Above includes annual 100K offseason workout bonuses and 500K in active roster bonuses https://t.co/xx2P0PuLTc
Minnesota is not very good and will be looking to shed salary and add picks. Thielen is one of their best trade chips and could potentially bring back a first-round pick. Perhaps due to last year’s hamstring injury and his age, New England could get the Vikings to bite on a second and fifth-round pick.
6. Patriots trade for Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook
Patriots get: WR Dede Westbrook
Jaguars get: 2021 seventh-round draft pick
Before we broke down trade targets, we stated this:
“[The Patriots] might not even believe adding a piece or two to the current roster would be worth the draft capital.”
Sitting at 2-4, Belichick might completely view his draft picks as more valuable then any player they might add, especially a rental. If New England wants to hang on to their higher draft picks and instead make a cheap move, look no further than Dede Westbrook.
Westbrook would be an intriguing boom-or-bust piece in New England. After posting back-to-back solid seasons with 66 receptions, the 26-year old has been inexplicably leapfrogged on the Jaguars depth chart. This year, he has appeared in two games catching just one ball for four yards.
Acquiring him would cost next-to-nothing for the Patriots, while they would be able to add a speedy wideout to their own roster. Perhaps a change on scenery could do wonders for Westbrook, who is in a contract year.
Update: Dede Westbrook has been placed on IR with a torn ACL
What do you think the Patriots should do at the trade deadline? Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @iambrianhines