An 83-catch season is pretty good, right?

What if it takes three guys to compile those 83 catches? Not so good.

That’s the sum total of receptions the three guys signed last week had in 2018. Hopefully, 5-foot-9 wideout Bruce Ellington, 6-3 wideout Maurice Harris and 6-6 tight end Matt Lacosse all have their best NFL days ahead of them. No reason to belittle them for having done little with their chances so far.

But the Patriots need to get creative at wide receiver now because the firm of Ellington, Harris and Lacosse is a little weak.

If the quick solution is not going to come in free agency (and it’s not) and it’s not going to come in the draft (it never has), the Patriots will have to pluck an asset from another team via trade.

It’s what they did in 2017 when they traded for Brandin Cooks. It’s what they did last September with Gordon. It’s what they tried to do at the trade deadline last October with Demaryius Thomas.


The Patriots have draft assets (12 picks in April including six in the first three rounds) and an overflow of young talent in the secondary. What they need to do is find a willing team, a useful receiver and the resolve to pay a fat salary.

Because crossing their fingers as they did in 2018 only worked from an “end justifies the means” perspective.

The Patriots presented 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady with a wide receiver group that had “SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” on the package last year.


He opened it up and pieces like Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell were broken. Went back to the store. Picked up a Josh Gordon. He broke too.


They did. Because Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, James White, Sony Michel, Rob Gronkowski, James Develin, the offensive line, Josh McDaniels and a defense that was daunting in the playoffs made that happen.

Their degree of difficulty on offense was unnecessarily high because the wide receiver fivesome of Edelman, Gordon (for a spell), Cordarelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan could have been labeled Dynamic and The Limiteds.

With Gronk still uncommitted for 2019, the need is unmistakable.

In my opinion, there’s no reason to go berserk over the Patriots missing out on Adam Humphries or not getting in the game for Golden Tate, Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham.

They probably dodged a bullet with the pedestrian Humphries. Tate is slowing down. OBJ cost too much. Brown isn’t their kind of guy and the Steelers reportedly weren’t trading with New England anyway.

Shaking down another team for a declining asset is the way to go. Think “Cooks Deal” but with better execution because that kind of blew up in the Patriots face.

It’s actually a cautionary tale.

You’ll remember New England traded first-round and third-round picks to the Saints for Cooks and a fourth-rounder on March 11, 2017. Cooks was making just $1.56M in 2017 and was slated to make $8.5M in 2018 as part of the fifth-year option on his rookie deal (which the Patriots picked up in April of 2017).

Meanwhile, the Saints needed secondary help and Malcolm Butler, a restricted free agent at the time, was a viable solution for New Orleans.


The hope was that the Pats would get Butler to sign his tender then send him to New Orleans and recoup the 32nd overall pick. But the Saints cooled to a Butler deal and the Patriots were minus one first-round pick and in possession of a corner who wanted out.

They got really good production from Cooks in 2017 and the Patriots felt lucky to move him to the Rams in exchange for a first-round pick last offseason. So there was no blood after all and the Patriots didn’t get stuck paying Cooks’ $8.5M salary last year or his expiring contract.

But New England still didn’t have his help last year and they could have used it.

Meanwhile, Butler was OK at best during the season and then at the center of a Super Bowl coaching decision that left him on the bench and the rest of the country dumbstruck.

The Patriots will look for a cleaner situation this time. A player whose contract expires after this season, ideally. Maybe a first-round pick who’s been marooned in a bad situation. Maybe a later-round pick who’s shown promise. Maybe a player who’s blocked out by the talent in front of him.


The Patriots can deal an asset then have control for a year to decide if they want to keep the player. A lease-to-own proposition.

Here are 10 wide receivers the Patriots could conceivably chase via trade this offseason, their contract status and the pros and cons of bringing them aboard.

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