If the Patriots are looking for help at tight end or receiver, Week 7 around the NFL probably helped their chances.
The Chargers and Broncos both lost to fall to 2-5. Even with Patrick Mahomes out for the time being, those two squads aren't climbing back into relevance in that division. The Falcons' loss to the Rams left Matt Ryan banged up and the team's record sinking to 1-6. The 2-4 Bucs had a bye and have six non-division leaders ahead of them in any futile Wild Card hunt. The Bengals remained the Bengals and are therefore 0-7.
All of those teams have pieces that could suit the Pats as next Tuesday's trade deadline approaches. Here's a carcass-by-carcass breakdown:
The guy who makes the most sense from Atlanta is veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu, a 30-year-old Rutgers guy with one year left on his deal. Atlanta still has Julio Jones and 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley at receiver, so it's not like they'd need to cling to Sanu during a retooling in the offseason.
The Falcons also have a good tight end in Austin Hooper, but the 24-year-old is still on his rookie deal. There would be little reason for the Falcons to flip him unless a team paid handsomely.
Other than Antonio Brown, no non-Patriots receiver has been mentioned more around these parts than 32-year-old Broncos veteran Emmanuel Sanders. The Pats have a history with him, as they signed him to an offer sheet back in 2013 when trying to steal him away from the Steelers. They also talked to him the following offseason before he signed with the Broncos. Now in his sixth season in Denver, he clearly wants out and the team is reportedly set to trade him.
The Chargers have been brutal this season, but their pieces still might be too good to trade. Keenan Allen is still 27 and has one more year left on his contract. Assuming the team re-signs Philip Rivers in the offseason, they should want their two-time Pro Bowl receiver there with him.
You can also put tight end Hunter Henry in the "pipe dream" category. Like Hooper with the Falcons, Henry is on his rookie deal and is better suited to be a building block in Los Angeles than a deadline defection.
Free O.J. Howard. For real.
We don't know if the 2017 first-round tight end out of Alabama is a bust, because it's just as possible that Bruce Arians doesn't know what to do with him. Being used primarily as a blocker, Howard has just 18 targets and 13 catches through six games. Regardless of whose fault that is, that type of usage in the passing game has undeniably crushed Howard's trade value. If I'm the Patriots, he'd be the guy I'd target.
A.J. Green is an apparent long shot for multiple reasons. In addition to liking it in Cincinnati, he still isn't back from his ankle injury. Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Green won't be back until after the deadline.
Tyler Eifert has just nine catches over the last five weeks. He is a big name who could probably be had for a song, but if the Patriots didn't want him in free agency, why would they want him now?
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