LANDOVER, Md. -- Just before the start of the second half, the Patriots announced that they'd be without Phillip Dorsett for the remainder of the game.
The Patriots only had 12 points when word came down. Dorsett was a non-factor in the passing game -- he hadn't seen a target before leaving the game with a hamstring injury -- but the Patriots would've been more than happy to have him. Their running game was stuck in neutral through 30 minutes, and their top-two receivers were dealing with injuries. Julian Edelman was still clearly bothered by a rib issue. Josh Gordon, meanwhile, had his left knee wrapped before the game despite being removed from the injury report late last week.
Without Dorsett, it became clear yet again that one departure at that position makes the receiver ranks thin.
The Patriots rolled with more two-tight-end and two-back sets without Dorsett and they ended up putting together a hearty offensive performance, winning 33-7. While tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse as well as backs Brandon Bolden and Sony Michel all proved they could be productive in the passing game, the Patriots could use another receiver.
If Dorsett has to miss any length of time with his soft-tissue injury, the Patriots have four receivers: Gordon, Edelman and undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Based on recent history, they might be able to add another veteran at that spot for what feels like a reasonable price.
First there's the price it would require to acquire someone like Emmanuel Sanders or AJ Green -- two big-name veterans who've been mentioned in league-wide trade rumors lately.
How's a third-round pick sound?
That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year, and it made sense at the time. Detroit was about to lose Tate to free agency and recoup nothing but a 2020 compensatory pick that would be, at best, a third-rounder. So they sped up the process. They took the 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign, one who wasn't going to make much of a difference in how the Lions season ended whether he was on the roster or not.
The Broncos and Bengals are in similar spots with Sanders and Green, respectively. They aren't winning anything this year. Both players are in the last years of their deals and would be rentals. Both of their teams are looking at getting, at best, a 2021 third-round compensatory pick for when they sign elsewhere in free agency next offseason.
Like Tate, both Sanders (32) and Green (31) are into their 30s. Unlike Tate -- who was coming off of a 1,000-yard 2017 the year before being dealt -- Sanders and Green are coming off injury-plagued campaigns last season where their numbers were, for them, substandard. Green is still dealing with an ankle injury and hasn't played in 2019.
Of course, if other teams want either Sanders or Green -- and one can assume they'll have multiple suitors -- that could drive up the compensation their teams would require in a trade. And if either player is requiring a new contract immediately following the trade, then that might impact the compensation.
But, for now, Tate -- who left Philly via free agency for the Giants last offseason -- is a relevant comparison, and all it took to land him was a third. The Patriots could have three thirds if they receive third-round comp picks for losing well-compensated free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown back in March.
If the Patriots want to add another receiver, they'd also likely need to clear cap space. They have about $2 million in room at the moment. If they deal for Sanders at the deadline, that'd cost them about $5 million in cap space since that'd be the amount of base salary remaining on his deal for this year. Green would likely cost about $6 million in cap space. If the Patriots made a deal well before the mid-Week 9 deadline (Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.) then it'd cost them slightly more.
To start to make the room required for a move like that, the Patriots could try to extend players like Devin McCourty or Kyle Van Noy. But the amount needed -- much like the trade compensation -- shouldn't be so staggering that it'd be prohibitive.
The Patriots could simply wait for Edelman and Dorsett to get healthy and hope the group stays clear of the training room moving forward. They could simply wait for rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry to return off of injured reserve to give the receiving unit a boost.
Or they could go out and get the kind of veteran whose resume alone might be enough to earn Tom Brady's trust at first sight. It'll take two to tango, of course, but the price of a spin shouldn't be exorbitant.
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