The draft is the time for the next generation of players to enter the NFL, but they might not be the only ones on the move during the three-day event. It also frequently sees veterans change teams, either in exchange other players or draft selections.
The New England Patriots have never shied away from using this method of talent acquisition, and there is a chance that they look at the veteran market again this year. After all, there are some candidates who at least might be worth exploring to bolster the overall depth of the current roster.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five players who appear to be realistic targets if the Patriots want to go that route.
CB Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
Talk about a big swing to improve the cornerback position. While adding Alexander would require some serious salary cap gymnastics — his cap hit for the 2022 season is $13.4 million — the former first-round draft pick would be a perfect fit in New England. He has good size and proven production, and is a scheme-flexible defender capable of performing at a high level in both man and zone-based coverage shells.
So, why would the Packers be willing to part ways with him? There are three basic reasons they might at least entertain the idea: 1.) He is entering the final year of his rookie contract; 2.) His cap hit; 3.) The emergence of fellow outside cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas.
If acquired, Alexander would immediately jump to the top of the Patriots’ cornerback depth chart and give the team the CB1 it lost when J.C. Jackson left for the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. The move, which likely would involve a Day 2 pick, would also allow New England to use its remaining draft capital elsewhere.
WR Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals
Isabella has been connected to the Patriots even before he entered the draft in 2019. It is not hard to see why: he played college football at UMass and his athletic profile fits what New England is looking for in its interior receivers. He eventually ended up in Arizona as a second-round selection, but now might be on the move.
After all, Isabella has never quite emerged in the Cardinals’ offense and is currently a depth receiver with no clear outlook for improvement. A change of scenery appears necessary for the 25-year-old, and recouping some value along the way would be in Arizona’s best interest.
A late-round pick or player-for-player exchange — looking at you, N’Keal Harry — might be able to do the trick.
OL Connor McGovern, Dallas Cowboys
At the moment, the Patriots’ interior offensive line is a work in progress. After losing left guard Ted Karras in free agency and trading right guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay, the team is looking at a starting lineup featuring Michael Onwenu and James Ferentz. While Onwenu is a solid player, Ferentz is a backup at best.
New England therefore has a definitive need to find an upgrade, and Dallas’ Connor McGovern might be the guy. For starters, the former third-round draft pick has started 14 games in his two seasons in the NFL and has played some solid football.
That said, the Cowboys are rumored to be looking for an upgrade in the draft; Boston College’s Zion Johnson or Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green are popular projections to end up as Cowboys. With the team a candidate to trade up in the first round, adding McGovern to a package deal might make some sense and would allow the Patriots to field a bridge-starter on a reasonable contract.
CB Trayvon Mullen, Las Vegas Raiders
With Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler leaving New England to take over as head coach and general manager in Las Vegas, respectively, their former club has a direct connection to the organization now. As a result, the two sides have an open line of communication when it comes to setting up trades.
One possible move involves cornerback Trayvon Mullen. A former second-round draft pick entering the final year of his rookie contract, Mullen has had an up-and-down career as a Raider. With the team in the process of rebuilding after adding McDaniels and Ziegler, moving the 24-year-old for an early Day 3 selection might make some sense.
Mullen would not be a big-name addition such as Jaire Alexander, but he would give New England a starter-level player with some upside at a fraction of the cost.
DT Daron Payne, Washington Commanders
With the Commanders not expected to extend Payne beyond the 2022 season, the former first-round draft pick has become a name to watch on the trade market. There is a lot to like about him: he is still only 24 year old despite already having played 65 career games, was a consistently solid player between 2018 and 2021, and offers some good size and positional versatility up front.
The Patriots do not necessarily have to bolster their interior D-line after last year’s investments, and if so adding a true nose tackle appears to be the top need. That said, Payne is a good player and you can never have enough of those on your roster; teaming him up with Christian Barmore would give New England a solid and young pairing on the inside.
While there are some questions about his long-term outlook and $8.5 million salary cap hit, using a mid-round pick to bring him aboard would be a savvy move.