The NFL’s 2021 trade deadline came and went without the New England Patriots making any moves: while a total of four trades took place across the league, Bill Belichick and company did not get involved in the action. As a result, the basic foundation of the Patriots’ roster will stay intact heading into the second half of the season.
That is particular good news for some of the players at positions previously identified as potential areas of concern — areas the Patriots might have tried to bolster through a trade. They did not, so let’s take a look at the winners and lone loser from Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Winners: CB Jalen Mills, CB Joejuan Williams and CB Myles Bryant
After sending Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers earlier during the season, the Patriots also lost starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones for the rest of the year due to a shoulder injury. Needless to say that the depth at the position became an issue, with the players outside of CB1 J.C. Jackson all either unproven or inconsistent.
Accordingly, adding another cornerback via trade was seen as a possibility. New England could either have invested in a player like Denver’s Kyle Fuller to add another starting-caliber option on the outside, which would have allowed Jalen Mills to move to the slot, or bring in a more experienced replacement for Jones to take over the slot job held by Myles Bryant the last two weeks.
At the end of the day — whether by design, due to their lack of salary cap space, or both — the Patriots decided to stay put. Moving forward, the cornerback group will therefore continue to see healthy contributions from Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant in their current roles.
Winners: OT Yodny Cajuste and OT Yasir Durant
With quality offensive linemen hard to acquire to begin with, the chances of New England adding a player to replace one of its current depth options — either Yodny Cajuste or Yasir Durant (who himself arrived via trade in August) — were slim heading towards the trade deadline. Still, if the Patriots truly wanted to make a move they probably would have found a way to make it work regardless of financial constraints.
That did obviously not happen, meaning that neither Cajuste nor Durant will have to fear for their jobs just yet. Circumstances can change quickly in the NFL, and the return of starting right tackle Trent Brown off injured reserve will create a different situation for all involved, but for now the two youngsters will stay put as the emergency options at the offensive tackle spots.
Loser: N’Keal Harry’s agent
In early July, Jamal Tooson raised some eyebrows. The agent of third-year wide receiver N’Keal Harry formally requested his client get traded by the Patriots. That never happened, though, and Harry remained on the roster throughout training camp and into the regular season (including a short stint on injured reserve).
Now that the trade deadline has passed without Harry being moved, the former first-round draft pick will remain on the roster for the rest of the year. The Patriots could still move on from him via a release, of course, but it seems unlikely that will happen unless one of the depth wide receivers — Malcolm Perry on injured reserve; Tre Nixon and Kristian Wilkerson on the practice squad — steps up.
At the end of the day, though, Tooson’s request was not granted.
Winner: WR N’Keal Harry
The Patriots could have brought in another wide receiver via trade to relegate N’Keal Harry to the fifth spot on the depth chart, but they did not do it. Instead, their wide receiver corps will stay intact for the time being: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are the top three, with Harry as a rotational fourth option alongside them.
While that role is not as prominent as one would hope a former first-round draft pick would have in his third year, Harry did have some positive moments since his return from IR. Moving forward, the lack of any outside additions will allow him to further prove his value — either to the team down the stretch, or to potential trade partners once the window opens again next March.