Austin Hooper

NFL Rumors: Patriots interested in trading for these pass catchers before trade deadline

NFL Rumors: Patriots interested in trading for these pass catchers before trade deadline

The Patriots are taking on the Browns at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Boston for Patriots Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. ET, then Postgame Live immediately after the Week 8 matchup.

*****

The NFL trade deadline is rapidly approaching and the New England Patriots may not be done wheeling and dealing.

This past week, the team acquired receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a second-round pick to bolster their receiving corps. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, they shipped pass rusher Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys for a late-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Moving forward, the team may still be looking to strengthen their core as they try to make it to the Super Bowl for a fourth consecutive year. And it seems that the team could be looking to add another pass catcher to their offense and they may have a particular interest in adding a tight end.

Right now, the Patriots have four tight ends on their roster, but only the 37-year-old Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson are healthy. If Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse aren't close to returning, the team could look to find some extra depth or even an upgrade to one of the team's weakest positions. It's also worth noting that Izzo is surprisingly generating some trade buzz, so that remains something to keep an eye on. 

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Patriots are interested in Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard. Both would offer more upside than what the Patriots currently have and the 24-year-old former first-round pick Howard could really thrive in the Patriots' offense.

That said, it's unclear whether or not the Bengals or Bucs would be willing to give up their tight ends. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that it would take at least a third-round pick for the Bengals to move on from Eifert, and it's fair to assume that the price for Howard -- who is five years younger than Eifert and has a less extensive injury history than Eifert -- would be higher.

The Patriots may also be among those interested in Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, a talented pass catcher on a team going nowhere. However, Rapoport is reporting that the Falcons are unlikely to trade him, so he would likely cost a king's ransom if the Patriots do end up targeting him. Perhaps if the Falcons do change course, dealing with a Patriots team that gave them an early pick for Sanu would appeal to them.

As for the wide receiver position, La Canfora is reporting that the Patriots could "take a run at" Bengals receiver A.J. Green before the deadline. The Bengals don't seem to want to trade Green, but perhaps if the Patriots offer up a first-round pick or more, that could entice them to give him up.

No matter what happens, it's worth noting that the Patriots are exploring ways to add to their stable of pass catchers before Tuesday's deadline. The only question now is about whether or not they'll find a willing trade partner in the next two days.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Browns Preview: Hello, 8-0>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Patriots Point/Counterpoint: What's the biggest trade deadline need?

Patriots Point/Counterpoint: What's the biggest trade deadline need?

Every Friday during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate the upcoming NFL Trade Deadline.

THE PATRIOTS' PRIMARY NEED AT THE TRADE DEADLINE IS...

A wide receiver with inside-outside, three-level ability who can run after the catch. So Antonio Brown? No.

Let's go with someone a smidge less self-destructive, narcissistic and a tad more dependable/predictable. Say, Emmanuel Sanders. Or Danny Amendola. Neither being in quite the same stratosphere as Brown — and Amendola not having the outside ability either — but someone like that. Why that kind of wideout? Or a wideout and not a tight end?

Because of the ripple effect the offense will realize. Someone who plays inside means the Patriots can rely a little less on Julian Edelman, whom they are going to grind down to sawdust at the rate they are throwing to him.

What about Phillip Dorsett? Not an inside guy. Definitely not a run-after-catch guy. What about N'Keal Harry? He's going to have a lot flying at him in the coming weeks. Keep it simple with him by not putting him in the interior maelstrom.

What about Jakobi Meyers? Don't hate the idea. Josh Gordon? Just doesn't get that interior separation that stubby-legged guys with great quickness get.

The Patriots knew they needed an interior guy. That's why they tried Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries in free agency. That's why they made the panic move to sign Brown. They get one more chance at the brass ring at the trade deadline. It's gotta be a wideout.

*****

I hear you, my friend. I do. But what if I told you the Patriots could get their interior receiving presence checked off their wish list AND fix another position entirely?

For me, their primary need at the deadline is a tight end. Someone who can catch. Someone who can make yards after the catch. Someone who puts defenses in a legitimate we-gotta-make-sure-we-got-this-guy-covered sort of bind on third downs. Say, Austin Hooper. Or maybe O.J. Howard, if you think he can be that guy. (I'm starting to wonder if he can be that guy; he has just 13 receptions this year and has been targeted just four more times than the immortal Cameron Brate.)

But Hooper makes a world of sense. He might not move mountains as a blocker, but that's why guys like Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson are on the roster. Hooper could block against lighter fronts while serving as a true matchup weapon against linebackers or safeties. He leads all NFL tight ends in receptions and he's on pace for about 1,300 yards receiving.

Taking a crowbar to the Falcons and muscling him out of there might be an issue — maybe they'll decide to franchise him next year if they can't ink him to a long-term contract — but the idea of Hooper in this offense is intriguing. A pass-catching tight end (not named Ben Watson) would seemingly settle things down in the offensive huddle, make that side of the ball a little more unpredictable, and give Tom Brady another viable weapon in the passing game.

Check, check and check.

Trade Deadline Preview: Could Patriots go after these players?

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Patriots draft positional preview: Tight end

pospreview-te_1st_slide.jpg

Patriots draft positional preview: Tight end

The Patriots have been neutered at the top of the 2016 NFL Draft, but they aren’t wholly impotent with 11 total picks . . . including four in the first 100 picks. Enjoy this Patriot-centric look at the team’s positional status, the best available players at each position and which direction the Patriots may be inclined to go when they are on the clock.

Click here to view the list