If the Patriots are going to try to salvage this thing by holding onto their most valuable assets at the trade deadline and acquiring a starting receiver, why stop there?
The goal may be not to contend for a Super Bowl in New England. But it looks like the goal is to compete. And while we're unaware if any real offers came in for their best players, not moving Stephon Gilmore or Joe Thuney would seem to indicate the Patriots want to compete. Trading a late-round pick for receiver Isaiah Ford -- who could end up starting in the slot -- would seem to indicate the Patriots want to compete.
OK. Makes sense.
Players have told us that they are better than their bad record. They seem encouraged by their effort against the division-leading Bills last week. To maintain the culture that's been built over 20 years, doing everything within their power with what's available on the roster should come as little surprise.
But if Bill Belichick feels that way, if he's going to try to make the most of a weird season while accepting this will be a year to reset the team's books, why not continue to add low-cost parts to a lackluster roster?
He did on Wednesday, adding wideout Donte Moncrief and defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow to their practice squad.
OK. Makes sense.
If the goal is to compete, though, the team still needs help. That's why what's happening around the league, now that the trade deadline has come and gone, is fascinating from a Patriots perspective.
Teams are shedding. Vested veterans will be available on waivers. The Patriots won't have to sell out to add a player who could help.
Receiver Ted Ginn was just released by the Bears. He has a history with Cam Newton, catching 98 passes in two seasons with the Panthers in 2015 and 2016. He's 35 years old and not the burner he once was, but he might be able to serve a niche role for an offense that could use some speed.
We've been over how the Patriots are being defended these days, and with Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry missing time, a depth piece for the receiver room -- particularly a fast one -- could help loosen up defensive schemes designed to stop the run.
At tight end, Luke Willson was just released by the Seahawks. Is he a game-changer? Nope. But the fifth-round pick from 2013 has legitimate pro experience. The Patriots have gotten very little from the position in 2020, and Willson would be worth a flier to see if he's an upgrade over Ryan Izzo. Rookie Devin Asiasi recently landed on injured reserve with an undisclosed ailment, and fellow rookie Dalton Keene missed last weekend's game with a knee injury.
Along the defensive line, Dontari Poe was recently let go by the Cowboys and is available. He's 30 years old. He's large; the Cowboys said he was 30 pounds overweight when he was released. He's seen better days since entering the NFL in 2012 as a certified physical freak. If he's motivated, would he not provide a little bulk to a position group in Foxboro that is hurting for depth?
Lawrence Guy has been banged up. He's their best option inside when healthy. Adam Butler has played hurt and is better suited to rush opposing passers than build a wall in the running game. Byron Cowart has good power and explosiveness, which he's shown in spurts in his second pro season, but those qualities haven't flashed with a great level of consistency. He was at the scene for a few of Buffalo's big runs in Week 8 as the Patriots were allowing 5.0 yards per carry to a team that previously averaged less than 4.0 for the season.
Perhaps most importantly, the Patriots don't have a true nose tackle. Beau Allen was signed to play that role but he won't return off IR, Belichick said this week. That leaves a role available for Poe or another similarly-massive body.
The Patriots weren't sellers at the trade deadline. They want to compete, even if contending for a title isn't realistic. So if a piece or two is there for the taking in free agency at little-to-no cost, what's the harm?