NFL Trade Deadline: Could Patriots look to add these players?
The trade deadline approacheth. Annually, the Patriots are the league’s leading roster tinkerers at the end of October. Since 2012, there have been bombshell exports (Jamie Collins), inspired imports (Aqib Talib) and moves that seemed minor which wound up paying huge dividends (Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers).
The Patriots don’t need any help at all on defense. In fact, they could be sellers because of their depth up front, at linebacker and in the secondary. But on offense? Their tight end depth and production both is grotesque and they are undermanned at wideout even with the impending return of rookie N’Keal Harry from injured reserve. There’s real concern that, if offensive reinforcements don’t come, a historic season from this defense may be wasted.
There are obstacles the Patriots face. One issue is league parity makes teams reluctant to raise the white flag on their season. Everybody’s just a run of luck away from being in contention, it seems, and some teams that are already dead are direct rivals of the Patriots who won’t be prone to dealing with them.
But the Patriots have the draft pick artillery to make a trade. They also have the aforementioned depth they can deal somewhere else. So for a GM whose team is taking on water, it’s sometimes better to make a deal to look like you’re not just sitting on your ass waiting for the ship to sink.
AGE: 31 (Turns 32 on July 19, 2020)
CONTRACT: 5-year, $68 million deal, signed through 2020
2019 STATS: N/A due to holdout. (Had played in 120 of 144 games over 9 previous seasons.)
Williams has been holding out all year. He’s pledged to never play for Washington because of irritation with the way the team’s medical staff treated a growth on his scalp. He’s as good as it gets at left tackle. He’s also expensive as hell and will want to make even more so he’d be an expensive rental. The Patriots never offered a first-rounder for him, that’s propaganda. They have Isaiah Wynn returning. This is a no-go.
—Tom E. Curran
AGE: 30 (Turns 31 on May 14, 2020)
2019 STATS: N/A due to retirement. (47 rec, 682 yds, 3 TD in 2018)
Oh boy. Yep. We're having this discussion again. Why? Mostly because he has refused to slam the door shut on the idea — or fans just refuse to believe it, despite his recent comments. Tom Brady already said he won't be lobbying to bring Gronkowski back so if he returns, it'll have to be because Gronkowski misses it. And if he determines that he misses it enough to come back, he'll have to make that determination soon. The Patriots will have to take Gronkowski off the reserve/retired list by Dec. 1 to be eligible to play in the postseason. Even at his current weight, he'd be a big-time upgrade at a position that needs it.
AGE: 31 (Turns 32 on July 10, 2020)
2019 STATS: 4 rec, 56 yds, TD in 1 game (104 rec, 1,297 yds, 15 TD in 2018)
He’s nuked three teams since the end of last season. To say nothing of the wreckage he’s created away from the stadium. Now that the NFL has put him on double-secret probation, Brown’s been reduced to social media pleas to try and get back on the field. Preferably, he indicates, with the Patriots. And while the coach and quarterback sure weren’t happy when he was given the boot, his return to New England seems … highly unlikely.
—Tom E. Curran
AGE: 25 (Turns 26 on November 29, 2019)
CONTRACT: 5-year, $72 million deal, signed through 2023
2019 STATS: 23 rec, 420 yds, 4 TD in 6 games
I spoke to a source close to Diggs recently who indicated that the Vikings would not be interested in dealing the young wideout, who recently signed an incredibly reasonable five-year contract. Tom E. Curran has heard the same. Then Diggs went off against the Eagles and all appears to be well in Viking Land. This isn't happening. But! But... Let's just say somehow Diggs became available. The Patriots should be willing to give up a first-round pick and more. They dealt a first-rounder for Brandin Cooks back in 2017 when Cooks had one year and an option left on his deal. Diggs has FOUR more years left on his contract. The cost would be through the roof, and he'd be worth it.
AGE: 32 (Turns 33 on March 17, 2020)
CONTRACT: 3-year, $33 million deal, signed through 2019
2019 STATS: 25 rec, 307 yds, 2 TD in 6 games
The best possible fit because of his versatility. He can play inside and out, he’s smart, can threaten down the field and gets open in small spaces. The Patriots liked him enough to make a run at him years ago when he was a restricted free agent. Now, if they can entice the Broncos to do business with an AFC rival, they can finally land him. But if Denver keeps winning, will they want to say goodbye?
—Tom E. Curran
AGE: 31 (Turns 32 on July 31, 2020)
CONTRACT: 4-year, $60 million deal, signed through 2019
2019 STATS: N/A due to ankle injury. (46 rec, 694 yds, 6 TD in 2018)
This one would be fascinating. Unfortunately for those of us who find it fascinating, the Bengals have already taken an A.J. Green deal off the table. But what if Cincinnati had a change of heart? His cap hit, if traded at the deadline, would be about $6 million. In terms of the draft capital the Bengals would need in return, it should only be a third-rounder for any team taking him on as a rental. That's what Golden Tate went for at last year's deadline when he was 30 years old and coming off of a 1,000-yard season the year prior. Green is 31. He's been injured and hasn't played a snap this season.
AGE: 24 (Turns 25 on November 19, 2019)
CONTRACT: 4-year, $11 million deal, signed through 2020
2019 STATS: 13 rec, 176 yds, 0 TD in 6 games
The Bucs are in a downward spiral and Howard is an underutilized part of their underachieving offense. He’s obviously talented. And he’d be more than a rental for the Patriots since he’s in just his third season. But the Patriots would almost certainly have to give up a third-rounder for Howard to get former Pats exec and current Bucs GM Jason Licht to pull the trigger. He’d be an ideal add for the stretch run because, well, the Patriots only have Ben Watson as a competent tight end at the moment.
—Tom E. Curran
AGE: 29 (Turns 30 on September 8, 2020)
CONTRACT: 1-year, $4 million deal, signed through 2019
2019 STATS: 15 rec, 108 yds, TD in 5 games
This would qualify as bargain basement shopping. Eifert has a base salary of just $1 million this season, meaning his cap hit if acquired at the deadline would be only about $500,000. He's 29 years old with good size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and a loose Patriots connection (played his college ball at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis). While Eifert has played all six games this season, he was limited to six games total in 2017 and 2018 combined because of injury. If the Patriots want him, a Day 3 draft choice could get it done.
AGE: 30 (Turns 31 on August 22, 2020)
CONTRACT: 5-year, $32.5 million deal, signed through 2020
2019 STATS: 32 rec, 210 yds, 1 TD in 6 games
He can play in the slot, which would give the Patriots the chance to get Julian Edelman outside more, which is something they want to do. He has excellent hands, is a physical player and is a savvy route runner. A former Rutgers player, the Patriots may have a shot at convincing old friend Thomas Dimitroff to get something back for a player who’s making good money on a team loaded with talented wideouts (Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley).
—Tom E. Curran
AGE: 24 (Turns 25 on November 4, 2019)
CONTRACT: 4-year, $3.2 million deal, signed through 2019
2019 STATS: 42 rec, 480 yds, 3 TD in 6 games
The Falcons are in a strange spot. They look built to compete right now, with a roster loaded with players who were key pieces during their Super Bowl run three seasons ago. Yet they're 1-5 and in last place in the NFC South standings. If they're selling, Hooper fits the bill as a trade target for the Patriots. He plays a position of need, he's in the last year of his deal, and he's cheap; his cap hit would sit at about $1 million if acquired at the deadline. But do the Falcons envision him in their future plans? He leads tight ends in catches at the moment and is on pace for nearly 1,300 yards receiving. He's more of a move tight end than earth-moving tight end, but he's among the best young players at his position. The Falcons may decide he's worth keeping and franchising at season's end if they can't entice him to take a long-term deal.
AGE: 32 (Turns 33 on September 14, 2020)
2019 STATS: 4 rec, 22 yds in 2 games (54 rec, 607 yds, 3 TD in 2018)
Crabtree’s out of work so if all else fails for the Patriots at the trade deadline, the surehanded but not overly speedy wideout could help in a pinch. He’s really just a big possession receiver right now but he’d afford the team a bit of physicality that Phillip Dorsett doesn’t bring.
—Tom E. Curran