Patriots

Patriots have been busy leading up to Tuesday trade deadline

Patriots have been busy leading up to Tuesday trade deadline

The Patriots have been actively preparing for Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline for weeks.

A source says they’ve spoken to virtually every team in the league and had conversations on more than two dozen players in play at a variety of positions.

It would be an upset if they don’t make some kind of move not just because of the amount of advance work they’ve done but also because they were making trade deadline moves when the rest of the league was still regarding that day as another Tuesday afternoon in October.

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The names they’ve been linked to so far are recognizable ones: Denver’s Demaryius Thomas was mentioned by NFL Network’s Mike Giardi. Jay Glazer further reported the Patriots are willing to give up a high draft pick for a “bona fide premium wide receiver.” 

I don’t know what that combination of words exactly means, but calling the 31-year-old Thomas a “bona fide premium wide receiver” is aggressive. He’s entering his decline and has always struggled with drops (four this season, one for every 10 receptions in his career.

He’s earning an $8.5 million base salary this year or $531,250 per game so that would mean the Patriots would pay him $3.71M for seven games of work. Seems high. For them.

Other wideouts that could be on the move are DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay) and Pierre Garcon (San Francisco).

Jackson is also 31 and his $10M salary means the Patriots would be laying out even more per game if they signed him. He is a free agent at the end of the year, though, so if he signs with another team in free agency after 2018 the Pats may get a minimal reward in the compensatory pick formula in 2020.

The most interesting target could be Garcon. He’s 32 and falling apart a bit physically. Shoulder and knee issues kept him out of Sunday’s game against Arizona, a neck injury landed him on IR in 2017. But he has a more manageable base salary than the Thomas or Jackson ($6.625M) and the Niners owe the Patriots a decade of favors for gift-wrapping Jimmy Garoppolo to them last year at the trade deadline.

Why is a receiver even on the Patriots wish list with Josh Gordon doing more than anyone could have projected, Julian Edelman back from suspension and the Phillip Dorsett/Chris Hogan tandem returned to complementary roles where they are most effective?

Perhaps because all of those players need backup? Gordon is a slip-up away from being suspended, the 32-year-old Edelman’s playing style invites calamity and Hogan goes down like a bag of hammers every time he gets tackled.

Between those three, the somewhat injured Gronk and the totally injured Michel, athletic tape will be used.

Which brings us back to Garcon, who may be less durable than all of them.

So it’s a quandary if a “premium, bona fide, USDA, Angus wide receiver” is in the Patriots sights.

Cap damage will be done and the Patriots don’t have a ton of it. And the Patriots – always cognizant of value and keeping draft resources – would be putting the match to a draft pick on a less-than-sure thing.

Then there’s the learning curve. Gordon’s managed it well but his doing so and the praise he’s gotten for accomplishing something others have rarely done in the past just underscores the fact it’s not a plug-and-play position for the Patriots.

The Patriots paid Brandin Cooks $1.5M in salary and bonuses in 2017. When he was due $8.5M in salary this year – same as Thomas – the team shipped him to the Rams and got a first-round pick back.

The compensation for Cooks looks terrific on a spreadsheet. He was essentially a no-cost, all-upside rental since the team initially sacrificed a first-rounder to get him.

But if the wideout concern for the Patriots remains this high on Halloween, it’s worth debating whether keeping him around for $531,250 per week and forgoing the first-rounder they got back from the Rams would have been a smoother move than trying to trade for Demaryius Thomas.

If the Patriots are even actively doing that.

Talks are just talk until there’s action. 

 

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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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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

The Kansas City Chiefs could be without their star quarterback for an extended period of time.

Patrick Mahomes left Thursday night's game vs. the Denver Broncos with a right knee injury. The 2018 NFL MVP injured himself attempting a QB sneak in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game shortly thereafter.

Mahomes was able to walk off the field under his own power, but this looks like it could be a serious injury for the 24-year-old. If that's the case, the Patriots' path to another AFC title just got infinitely easier.

Mahomes will undergo an MRI on Friday.

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