Who'll give Patriots a lift?

Who'll give Patriots a lift?

The NFL trade deadline is nearly upon us, and the question is: Life Post-54, where can the Patriots find LB help at the deadline?

MIKE GIARDI: First, let's start with the teams that suck on wheat, rye and pumpernickel: San Fran. Cleveland. Indy. The New York Giants. All of those teams are having dumpster-fire seasons. The Browns are the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. The Colts aren't too far behind despite good buddy Jacoby Brissett trying to lead them. The Giants were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender and their GM just said they bought into the hype. And the 49ers are trying to remake their entire culture. That will take time -- and a QB. The Niners have Aaron Lynch as a possible edge guy who might make sense in New England. No sex appeal, but a sound player. Indy has former Patriot Jon Bostic (more inside than out). He never got the system when he was here, but it wouldn't be foreign to him. Also not sexy. Jamie Collins anyone?? I kid,I kid. Jason Pierre-Paul would be all you could ever want and more, but he just signed a big money extension during the offseason. As much as I'd love to see him coming after opposing QBs, that ain't happening either. You've also got another former Pat in the Big Apple (actually Jersey, but work with me): Jonathan Casillas. A leader. High energy, Decent player. None of this doing much for ya? Me, either. Okay, what about teams that Belichick has done business with, especially lately? Tampa. They're still in the mix for a playoff spot. Ditto for Detroit, although that season may be going sideways again. I won't steal Phil Perry's thunder but I think there might be a guy in Motown he's got a good vibe for. SENATOR! The floor is yours . . . 

OTHER TRADE QUESTIONSWill Malcolm Butler be this year's Jamie Collins? | Will Pats trade Jimmy Garoppolo?Will Larry Fitzgerald pipe dream become a reality?

PHIL PERRY: Could I interest you in a Ziggy? Hear me out. With Hightower unavailable, I believe the Patriots are actually more in need of a pass rusher than they are a linebacker. They have Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and David Harris in the mix off the line. Shea McClellin seems to be on his way. Off the edge, they could use a boost. That's where Lions pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah comes in. He's in the final year of his deal. He's had a down season coming off a down 2016, during which he was slowed by injury. He's only a year-plus removed from a 14.5-sack season but would the Lions be willing to deal him? When asked recently about the 6-foot-5, 270-pound former No. 5 overall pick, coach Jim Caldwell provided a relatively passionless defense. (Though, who knows, that may be the heat of 1,000 suns for him.) Ansah is still starting in Detroit but he's only playing about 50 percent of the snaps. The Lions have someone named Nevin Lawson starting for them at corner and they just gave up 52 points in a loss to the Saints. Any chance former Patriots director of pro personnel Bob Quinn would be interested in giving up on Ansah if it meant a reunion with Malcolm Butler?

If that's off the table, here are a couple more edge defenders in the final years of their deals the Patriots may find interesting: Erik Walden is on a one-year deal in Tennessee, playing for former Patriots director of college scouting Jon Robinson. He's been used to rush and cover, and he had some decent performances against New England as a member of the Colts in years past. And what about Sam Acho of the Bears? Another outside linebacker who has been used to rush and cover. He's played about 40 percent of his team's snaps. And that's another team that's executed deals with the Patriots in the past.

Tom, any of this making sense to you? Or should we just expect them to roll with what they have?

TOM E. CURRAN: You guys are making tons of sense, but the 30,000-foot view of the Patriots roster keeps chewing at my brain. The team had four draft choices in 2017. In 2016, there were nine and two of them -- Brissett and Kamu Grugier-Hill -- are gone, while Malcolm Mitchell and Cyrus Jones are on IR. The Pats haven't had a first-round pick in the last two years and the only time they selected in the top 20 this decade was when they took Nate Solder in 2011. They project to have eight selections in 2018 and -- if they make deals for picks as opposed to players with someone like James Bartholomew Garoppolo -- then they can get up into that first round, perhaps. As much as the Patriots might want to satisfy the short-term need of a pass rush with a player like Ziggy, Walden or Acho, would the team be better this year shipping someone like Butler for more heat up front? (I know you're just spitballing . . . ) Or would they need to give up picks? Certainly, a sixth-rounder for somebody like Ansah or Acho would be an easy-to-make trade, but as I look at the depth of the Patriots roster and see how they looked at times during the preseason, I get the feeling this roster is built on a fault line.

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

The New England Patriots defense ranked among the NFL's best in 2019, and a huge reason for this unit's success was its ability to force turnovers.

The Patriots forced the second-most turnovers in the league with 36 during the regular season. They also led the league with 25 interceptions and a plus-21 turnover differential. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

It's safe to say the Patriots defense was aggressive and opportunistic throughout 2019, and it certainly helped overcome some of the team's offensive struggles during the second half of the campaign.

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Check out all of the turnovers forced by New England's defense last season in the video below:

The Patriots' Super Bowl title defense ended surprisingly early with an AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. The defense played pretty well, holding the Titans to just 13 offensive points. Tom Brady and his offense couldn't generate much of anything versus the Titans defense, though, and the Patriots lost 20-13.

New England's defense could look much different in 2020. The unit has several key players eligible for unrestricted free agency, including safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennessee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback, after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

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Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:


"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

"The Titans weren't a team that had weapons galore," Simms said "They didn't have great weapons (either). We didn't really know about A.J. Brown until Ryan Tannehill got in there."

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But 10 starts do not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

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