The New England Patriots are in a great spot entering Week 9 with an unbeaten 8-0 record atop the AFC standings, but that doesn't mean they'll stand pat at the NFL trade deadline, which is set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.
That said, the Patriots have limited salary cap space to work with on trade deadline day. As of this writing, the Patriots have only $2,383,356 of cap room, per Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal.
How does New England's salary cap situation impact the team's ability to make moves at the trade deadline? Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave an interesting answer during his media conference call Tuesday, noting the team might need additional cap room in the weeks after the deadline for various expenses.
"The answer is it would definitely affect us," Belichick said. "We wouldn't have enough cap space right now to just go out and acquire any player that was available regardless of what the price was in terms of compensation. We would have to fit him under our cap, and there are some players we just wouldn't be able to do that with. You really can't change the contract. I mean, that wouldn't happen until tomorrow so it would have had to already been done previously so the team knew they were going to trade a player and wanted to change his contract to make him more attractive in the trade, that would have really already had to of been done.
"As it stands today, you'd have to have enough salary cap space. Any team would have to have enough salary cap space to acquire the new player. If you didn't, then you would have to release a player to pick that up and there's certainly a lot of limitations to releasing players, especially vested players and so forth where you really don't gain much cap space from those kinds of transactions. It's a factor. Again, it would depend on the player and the salary and what your other options were on the team and how big of a gap you're talking about in order to be able to make all of that work. Certainly we have to account for the rest of the season. It's unrealistic to think we're not going to have any additional salary cap charges in the next eight weeks. We have to have some type of a cushion or budget to handle those, some of those anticipated expenses. We don't know exactly what that number is going to be, but there are a number of things that could come into play there. Yeah, it's definitely part of the conversation. No question."
The Patriots would be wise to aggressively pursue upgrades at the trade deadline.
Tom Brady is 42 years old, and no one knows how much longer he's going to play. It makes sense to try and maximize whatever is left of the 42-year-old quarterback's Hall of Fame career, and two areas in New England's offense that need upgrading are tight end and the offense line.
The Patriots reportedly asked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about a potential trade for tight end O.J. Howard earlier this month. Tampa Bay wasn't interested at the time, but the latest report Monday stated the Buccaneers would consider moving Howard only for a "substantial offer."
One way to upgrade the offensive line would be acquiring star left tackle Trent Williams from the Washington Redskins, but the asking price for him reportedly is a first-round draft pick. Williams also is signed through next season with a 2020 salary cap hit of $14,750,000, per Spotrac.
The Patriots did make one good move last week in acquiring veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons. Whether that's their only trade leading up to the deadline remains to be seen.
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