Patriots

Makes a lot of sense for Patriots to try to pry Minkah Fitzpatrick from Dolphins in trade

Makes a lot of sense for Patriots to try to pry Minkah Fitzpatrick from Dolphins in trade

Might the Patriots be willing to make an in-division trade for the third time in the last three weeks?

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Friday that the Dolphins have given second-year defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade. Miami is reportedly hoping to get a package for last year's No. 11 overall pick that includes a first-round draft choice.

The Patriots have already traded with the Bills (for Russell Bodine) and Jets (for a sixth-round pick) in the last few weeks, but on its face, a deal for Fitzpatrick makes more sense than any other the Patriots have worked this offseason.

Fitzpatrick was the best safety fit in last year's draft for New England based on where he played his college football (Alabama), his athleticism (4.46-second 40, 33-inch vertical, 121-inch broad jump), his versatility (lined up in the slot, at linebacker, off the edge, at safety and at corner in 2017), and his highly-touted football character. 

He was at the top of the list of last year's Prototypical Patriots. But because Fitzpatrick nearly cracked the top-10, the Patriots had little shot at him unless they wanted to package their two first-round picks to move up and get him. (They went on to take Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel, both of whom have prominent in the Patriots offense.)

Now, if all the Patriots have to do is turn over a No. 1 pick for 2020 for Fitzpatrick, shouldn't they do it without hesitation? Not only was he a well-rounded phenom in college, his performance as a rookie last year bodes well for how he'll perform when he settles into life as a pro. Extremely well.

According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick allowed a 69.0 passer rating when targeted last season (ninth among corners). He posted 0.84 yards allowed per coverage snap (12th) and 14.1 snaps per reception allowed (13th). When in the slot, where he spent the majority of his time, he allowed a passer rating of 53.4, which was tops in the league.

Fitzpatrick will turn 23 in November. As a first-rounder last year, he'll be under team control through the 2022 season if his fifth-year option is picked up. And in the Patriots defense he could be a Patrick Chung type of movable chess piece that Belichick would love. After trading Brandin Cooks for a first-round pick not too long ago, one would think that the Patriots would be willing to give up at least that much for a player who seems so perfectly suited for their system.

Here's the catch: Fitzpatrick apparently hates the role that makes so much sense for him.

Remember, he's in Brian Flores' defense with the Dolphins. Flores would undoubtedly love to have a safety-linebacker-slot corner hybrid player like Chung in his system to build toward the future. But Fitzpatrick doesn't seem interested. In ESPN's report, it's explained that Fitzpatrick does not want to play multiple positions. It's also pointed out that Fitzpatrick took issue with being moved into the box by the Dolphins during joint practices with the Bucs this summer.

"Coach has asked me to do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do," Fitzpatrick said at the time. "If we have to have some discussions in the future, we'll have those discussions.

"I'm not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn't best suited for me, but that's what Coach is asking me to do."

That's exactly what the Patriots would ask Fitzpatrick (listed at 6-1, 207 pounds) to do. Maybe he'd be willing to change his mind if the Patriots acquired him. Maybe getting out from under a situation where there's expected to be a good deal of losing this season would open Fitzpatrick's mind to filling a variety of roles. 

And in 2019 Fitzpatrick might not even have to be the versatile defender the Patriots would eventually ask him to be. Chung (5-11, 215) still looks like an effective player in that role at 32 years old. Even in the slot the Patriots are pretty well covered with Jonathan Jones, who just signed an extension with the team. 

Fitzpatrick still seems like an easy target for the Patriots, regardless of the first-round price tag. The only thing that might keep them from trying to do that deal -- other than the Dolphins not being willing to trade him within the division -- would be Fitzpatrick's reluctance to make the most of his versatility. 

His skill set is a perfect fit for what the Patriots want. He'd be a talented young piece in a secondary that currently relies on three players in their 30s (Chung, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty). 

But in a locker room where a whatever-coach-wants approach his highly valued, Fitzpatrick's apparent unwillingness to do more than one thing might be enough to turn the Patriots off.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Matt Cassel explains what it takes to earn Tom Brady's trust

Patriots Talk Podcast: Matt Cassel explains what it takes to earn Tom Brady's trust

Michael Bennett's suspension, Tom Brady's expectations, and the hierarchy in the AFC are among the topics Tom E. Curran and former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel discuss in the latest episode of Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast. 

2:46 — Tom Curran is joined by Matt Cassel to discuss the Patriots one-game suspension of Michael Bennett. How do organizations determine a punishment for altercations and how does a player acting out affect the rest of the team?

13:41 — Matt talks about the perfection Tom Brady expects on the field (from everyone) and how that relates to N'Keal Harry being reintroduced into the Patriots offense.

21:01 — Curran wonders what it is that new or young receivers consistently mess up as they try to learn the Patriots offense. Matt gets into the Xs and Os.

24:49 — Is 'laces out' really the golden rule when it comes to place kick holding? Cassel questions this andtalks about his experience as a holder.

29:31 — Tom and Matt give their picks for second-best team in the AFC. One of the contenders may shock you (hint — it's in the Patriots' division).

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE

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Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson confident he can make an impact right away

Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson confident he can make an impact right away

Benjamin Watson is confident he can be an instant contributor for the New England Patriots.

"Yes, of course," the veteran tight end told reporters Thursday when asked if he can make an impact right away. "One thing about this place is they prepare the players to play. And so anybody who’s out there, no matter if you’ve been here the entire time or you’ve been here for a week, your job is to perform when called upon, so that’s what I expect to do.”

Watson was released the Monday after the Patriots' Week 5 win over the Washington Redskins. The 38-year-old tight end was suspended for the first four games of the regular season because of a failed drug test, and even though he was eligible to return for the Redskins matchup, he was not activated by the Saturday deadline for that game. 

Watson was back with the Patriots eight days after his release, making his return to practice Tuesday as New England gets ready for its Week 7 road matchup against the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."

"It feels good (to be back)," Watson said Thursday. "It was a nice windy day out there today, felt like home. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks, I'm glad to be back, glad to be preparing for another opponent."

Did Watson think a return to New England was likely?

"I didn't know," Watson admitted. "Sometimes a guy gets released and he's back in a couple days. Sometimes that's it. At this point in my career, I know the end is close. You never know how it's going to end. When (I got released), obviously there was a lot of disappointment and sadness about it, obviously, going through everything I went through to have a chance to play. You understand this is part of it. You proceed as a family one day at a time. That's what we try to do."

Watson joins Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse as the tight ends on the Patriots roster. Izzo and LaCosse have not made much of an impact in the Patriots passing attack, combining for just 13 receptions, 169 receiving yards and one touchdown through six games. LaCosse is dealing with a knee injury and didn't practice Thursday.

The Patriots need much better production from their tight ends, and Watson's familiarity with quarterback Tom Brady and his 15 years of experience should help him make a successful transition back into the offense before the tough part of the team's schedule arrives.

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