Patriots

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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NFL Rumors: Why Colts signed Philip Rivers over Tom Brady in free agency

NFL Rumors: Why Colts signed Philip Rivers over Tom Brady in free agency

Tom Brady or Philip Rivers?

At first blush, it seems like a no-brainer: Go with the six-time Super Bowl champion.

But the Colts went in the other direction, signing Rivers to a one-year, $25 million contract in free agency despite Brady reportedly having interest in Indianapolis.

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Head coach Frank Reich and the Colts strongly considered the New England Patriots quarterback, too. But here's why they opted for Rivers instead, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport:

"Frank Reich talked about the things he loved about Brady. He thought the tape was phenomenal and obviously, Brady is one of the all-time greats. That goes without saying," Rapoport said.

"They believed that Philip Rivers was a better fit for them in part because of the familiarity that he has with the offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, with Frank Reich himself (and) with Jason Michael, the tight ends coach -- that was one factor."

Reich spent three years with Rivers on the Chargers as his quarterbacks coach (2013) and offensive coordinator (2014-15). Sirianni worked with the Chargers for five seasons (2013 to 2017), while Michael teamed up with Rivers in San Diego from 2011 to 2013.

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The other factor? Rivers was willing to play on a one-year deal, while Brady was not, per Rapoport.

"Tom Brady signed a two-year fully guaranteed deal with the Bucs," Rapoport said. "It doesn’t seem like the Colts were willing to go there."

Both Brady and Rivers carry a $25 million cap hit in 2020, but Brady's deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers includes a no-trade clause and locks him in through 2021.

Brady will be 44 years old in 2021, and while Rivers will turn 39 in December, the Colts perhaps felt there was less risk in signing him to a one-year deal.

Brady and Rivers posted similar stats in 2019 -- Brady threw for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Rivers racked up 4,615 yards with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions -- but Brady will be out to prove the Colts picked the wrong QB when(ever) the 2020 season begins.

Robert Kraft lends Patriots' plane to transport N95 masks from China

Robert Kraft lends Patriots' plane to transport N95 masks from China

The New England Patriots and the Kraft family are actively joining Massachusetts' fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft commissioned New England's team plane to fly to China to transport 1.2 million N95 protective masks back to Massachusetts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Per the Journal, Mass. Governor Charlie Baker reached an agreement with Chinese manufacturers two weeks ago to receive a shipment of the masks, which are essential to the safety of health care workers exposed to COVID-19 but are in woefully short supply in the state.

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But Baker didn't have a way to transport the masks to the United States -- until the Krafts stepped in. Working with Baker and the U.S. State Department, Robert and Jonathan agreed to lend their team plane as transport.

The "Air Kraft" landed in Shenzen, China, according to the Journal, where extra precautions were taken during the three-hour loading process: No one from the flight crew left the plane to avoid the risk of infection.

The Boeing 767 departed Shenzen at 3:38 a.m. on Wednesday morning, per the Journal, and is set to arrive Thursday afternoon at Logan Airport, where Robert Kraft, Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will greet the plane, according to Politico.

The National Guard then will transport the 1.2 million masks to a "strategic stockpile" in Marlborough, Mass., Politico reported.

The original order was for 1.7 million masks, per the Journal, but only 1.2 million could fit on the plane, so the remaining 500,000 will be sent to the U.S. in a separate shipment early next week.

Massachusetts had 7,738 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, according to the CDC, including 122 deaths from the novel virus. Both of those numbers are expected to grow exponentially.