Danny Amendola

NFL Trade Deadline: Patriots reportedly looking to add another receiver... but who?

NFL Trade Deadline: Patriots reportedly looking to add another receiver... but who?

It was only a few days ago that Bill Belichick said part of the reason the team decided to put Josh Gordon on injured was reserve was because of a logjam at the receiver position.

"I mean, look, something's got to — I mean, we're not going to carry 10 receivers on the team," Belichick said on Friday. "So something's going to have to happen. I don't know what. I can't imagine we'd carry that many players in one position. So, I don't know.

"At some point, numbers have to become a factor when they get high. This is the National Football League, this isn't a college."

And yet, consider what Fox NFL reporter Jay Glazer said while answering a question from a recent mailbag. Asked whether or not the Bills would be chasing after a receiver before Tuesday's trade deadline, Glazer said yes.

But he didn't stop there.

"Bills actually are in the market for a receiver . . . When you had [Mohamed] Sanu and Emmanuel Sanders last week, with the Patriots and 49ers going in on them, I do know the Bills were kind of in the market there also," Glazer said.

"Believe it or not, the Patriots are still in the market for a receiver."

OK, so let's tally the number right now at the receiver position for the Patriots: Sanu, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were the five active receivers in Sunday's win over the Browns. N'Keal Harry is eligible to play in his first regular-season game in Week 9 against the Ravens. That gives the Patriots six potential wideouts next weekend.

Could they really be in the market for one more?

Glazer is one of the most plugged-in NFL reporters in the country, so it's worth noting when he hears anything trade-deadline related. And there are a few reasons as to why this would make some sense for the Patriots.

They've become more of a spread-it-out offense this year than they were late last season en route to their sixth Lombardi Trophy. Their running game has been inefficient enough through eight games that it might make sense for them to pivot away from heavier personnel packages and go receiver-heavy more often.

They've used their 10-personnel package — four receivers, one back — relatively frequently this year, and they'd need significant depth at the wideout spot if they plan on making that a staple of their attack moving forward.

The Patriots parted ways with another wideout last week when they slapped the IR designation on Gordon, who is expected to be released off of IR in short order. But indications were that move was related to dependability concerns with that particular player. If they add another receiver before the deadline, then that would be a sign that the team simply did not want to continue the season with Gordon in the mix — even if parting ways with him left them wanting more receiver help.

Here are five wideouts the Patriots could try to pluck from their current teams if they're looking to add before the deadline. Any move they make would have to fit under their salary cap, which could be difficult. According to Miguel Benzan of the Boston Sports Journal, the Patriots have just under $3 million in cap space at the moment.

DANNY AMENDOLA, 33, DETROIT LIONS

The Patriots just went out and acquired Sanu to give them a slot receiver to pair with Julian Edelman for the first time since they had Amendola. But would Amendola make sense as slot depth? If anything were to happen to Sanu, he could slide right in and play a major role. Even if Sanu was healthy, Amendola understands the offense well enough to handle multiple receiver roles. He'd also be a punt-return option if the team ever decided it had to move on from Olszewski to open a roster spot. His cap hit would seemingly be able to fit, as it'd cost just over $2 million to bring him back. Amendola had a two-game stretch where he played just 40 snaps, but he's played 94 plays over the last two weeks so perhaps the Lions would be reluctant to part with him.

A.J. GREEN, 31, CINCINNATI BENGALS

This one would be fascinating. Unfortunately for those of us who find it fascinating, the Bengals have already said A.J. Green isn't available. But what if they had a change of heart? His cap hit would be about $6 million. In terms of the draft capital the Bengals would need in return, it should only be a third-rounder for any team taking him on as a rental. That's what Golden Tate went for at last year's deadline when he was 30 years old and coming off of a 1,000-yard season the year prior. Green has been injured and hasn't played a snap this season. The cap hit is an issue. It looks unlikely that the Patriots would be able to clear enough space for Green, but never say never when it comes to Belichick and cap gymnastics.

ALEX ERICKSON, 26, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Here's another Bengals option worth considering. Erickson is 6-feet, 195 pounds, and he's been the No. 4 receiver in an offense that's been without A.J. Green through the first half of the season. His cap hit would be easily absorbed (less than $1 million for the rest of this year), and he has one year remaining on his deal. He's a capable run-blocker and he was teammates with James White at Wisconsin. This obviously would not qualify as a splash signing, but if the Patriots are simply looking for a depth piece who'll fit under the cap and provide them another professional receiver to help them run more receiver-heavy sets, this could be the type of acquisition they'd be looking at.

KEENAN ALLEN, 27, L.A. CHARGERS

Like Green, Allen's cap hit is an issue. He'd be a nearly $5 million cap hit for the rest of the season. But perhaps extensions for players like Kyle Van Noy, Devin McCourty and/or Dont'a Hightower could help create the room necessary to swing a trade. The Chargers are 3-5 and could be sellers. Allen has voiced his displeasure with how things have gone in L.A. this season. If the Patriots could somehow pull this off, they'd have one of the best route-runners in the game with another year on his deal. Allen's skill set would work in the slot or outside, but he'd be more of a big-body (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) intermediate threat than a field-stretcher.

ALBERT WILSON, 27, MIAMI DOLPHINS

If the Patriots want more of a vertical presence to pair with Sanu, Edelman and Harry upon Harry's return, Wilson is an interesting name. The undersized burner would be about a $3.5 million cap hit if acquired in a trade. Not easy. But not totally unmanageable, either. He's only played in three games this season, but seems healthy now (45 snaps in Week 6 and 7) and has plenty of speed. Last season, in seven games, he had at least one catch of 20 yards or more in five. The Patriots obviously have a relationship with the folks in Miami and might be able to provide them a pick of value in a deal. Even though the Patriots and Jets swung a deal earlier this year involving Demaryius Thomas, something involving Wilson feels a little more likely than something involving rival Jets No. 1 wideout Robby Anderson, whose cap hit in a deal would be only about $1.5 million.

CURRAN: Preview/Review from Patriots-Browns>>>>>

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How could Patriots use Mohamed Sanu? Danny Amendola flashbacks give clues

How could Patriots use Mohamed Sanu? Danny Amendola flashbacks give clues

FOXBORO — How's it going to look? Tom Brady said that Mohamed Sanu gives the Patriots offense some "juice." Sanu said he'll bring "the juice and the squeeze."

OK. But how's it going to look?

This will be the first time that the Patriots have had a true slot receiver to pair with Julian Edelman since Super Bowl LI. Back then, both Edelman and Danny Amendola were healthy. Amendola's availability in key spots allowed the Patriots to have a capable slot inside and bump Edelman outside.

Not only does getting Edelman to play outside more often help keep him from running into bigger linebackers and hard-hitting safeties in the middle of the field, it also just so happens to be where the Patriots believe he's more valuable to them.

"Julian plays a lot outside the formation," Josh McDaniels said last spring. "Does Julian do some of those things inside the formation? Absolutely he does. But he does a lot more on the outside in the running game and passing game. It's what he's become. There's a little bit of a difference based on the way we've used him than those other guys."

The Patriots were in hot pursuit of true slots to get Edelman outside in the offseason. They chased Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley. They landed neither. That kept Edelman on the interior.

Until now, with the addition of Sanu.

To get an idea of what the Patriots offense looks like with a true slot receiver working in conjunction with Edelman — to get an idea of how things might look like with Sanu — we went back to a time when Amendola and Edelman worked side-by-side. Sanu and Amendola are very different types of slot receivers, but they're both slots, and so while Sanu's execution of certain responsibilities will look different than how it looked when Amendola was in town, those responsibilities should be similar.

FINDING SOFT SPOTS IN ZONES

The Patriots are accustomed to seeing changing coverages as teams try to solve Tom Brady and his offense. They'll see zone. They'll see man. What's important from a slot receiver in New England is that the player sees things the way Brady sees them.

Amendola was adept at finding soft spots in opposing zones and throttling down to make Brady's throw simpler. Sanu has done the same in Atlanta and Cincinnati. That's part of the job description when you work over the middle as much as Sanu has over the course of his career.

In the video below, Edelman travels vertically, helping to space the defense, and Amendola works the deep middle of the field — something Sanu has done many times.

STACK RELEASES

Against man or zone, the Patriots like to force communication between opposing defensive backs. They'll run rub routes (more on those in a bit). They'll motion pre-snap. They'll alter their releases off the line of scrimmage.

One of the things they'll do quite a bit is stack their receivers — meaning align two players very tightly together, one on the line and one off — to mess with a defense's plan. The Falcons do the same.

While the Patriots don't have a wideout approaching the physical talent Julio Jones possesses, Sanu will be accustomed to some of the timing and spacing required off the line with those stack releases.

Below you can see Amendola and Edelman working together out of that look. Picture Sanu in Amendola's role, attacking the defense vertically while Edelman works underneath. Even with Edelman freed up to play outside more often, he'll still work the middle of the field where he's provided Brady an incredible amount of value over the years. He just might do it more sparingly.

WINNING THE LEVERAGE GAME

Part of the reason Amendola was as productive in the red zone for the Patriots was that he understood how to create separation in tight spaces. He's obviously not a big body. But given his footwork at the line and his posture off the line of scrimmage, he was able to sell to defenders that he could run inward-breaking or outward-breaking routes from his position in the slot.

Sanu has spent much of his career doing the same. In the video below, Sanu has to get to the outside shoulder of his defender in order to get the leverage he wants going to the sideline. Against press coverage, his route looks much different than Amendola's, but the result is the same: touchdown. Notice how both receivers run their routes flat to the goal line. That's something that Brady should appreciate; the last thing he wants is a pass-catcher to float away from the football and potentially allow a defender to undercut the route.

Sanu's size and strength at the line might make him a more difficult target to press from the slot than smaller players the Patriots have had there in the past. Since 2016, Sanu has been the fourth-best receiver in the league at getting separation from press coverage, per Next Gen Stats.

RED-ZONE SAVVY

Amendola caught 18 touchdown passes in his Patriots career, including six in the postseason. While we showed above an example of his route-running getting him open by the goal line, he also understood how to get to open space and let his quarterback find him.

His late touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks put that knack for finding open space on display on the game's biggest stage. Seattle safety Earl Thomas hesitated every so slightly in watching Edelman — busting off the line from an alignment right next to Amendola — and that gave Amendola all the room he needed.

Sanu, who's accustomed to seeing attention go to Jones, could end up having a similar kind of instinct for being in the right place at the right time. In Atlanta, he understood coverage, understood what he was looking at post-snap, and he understood how to make life easy on his quarterback by running to open space.

Whether he can develop the kind of chemistry that Amendola had with Brady remains to be seen, but clearly Sanu knows how to work in conjunction with others to punish defenses. That should help him fit in.

SCREEN GAME

While the Patriots love to run slip screens to their backs on a regular basis, McDaniels will get his wideouts involved in the screen game as well. The tunnel screen was for a time a go-to short-yardage option for the Patriots through the air. Amendola scored a two-point conversion in Super Bowl LI on that type of play. It'd come as little surprise if the Patriots ran that kind of play with physical wideouts like Edelman, Sanu and N'Keal Harry on the field together later this year.

But even in longer down-and-distance scenarios, the occasional screen can be a game-breaking type of play. In the video below, Amendola converted on a third-and-17 play by weaving through traffic and following his blocks. Sanu did the same in Atlanta. He's more likely to finish a play with his shoulder lowered than by trying to out-maneuver defenders, but Sanu understands how to use his blocks in space and he has the size that makes him a tough tackle.

In New England, the blocking charge leading the way for Sanu could be led by Edelman — as was the case in the Amendola screen here.

CREATING TRAFFIC

Running pick plays, or rub routes, is a bit of an art form. If you botch it, it looks like you're playing chicken and never knew when to bail. If you execute it flawlessly, there might not even be any contact. If there is contact, if you execute it, you make sure that it occurs within one yard of the line of scrimmage. 

You have to understand the rules. You have to understand the coverage in front of you and the spacing between you and your teammate. You have to understanding the timing of the play. There's a lot going on. 

Amendola executed it time and again while in New England — including on one catch that went for a fourth-down conversion in the 2017 AFC title game — because he understood what he needed to. It looks like Sanu got it while in Atlanta. Expect to see something similar, especially against press-man coverage, with Sanu in New England.

Sanu and Amendola are very different players. But Sanu will find himself aligned as Amendola was when he was in New England. That should have a positive trickle-down effect on Edelman, and it should provide Brady with another intelligent and experienced inside-the-numbers presence.

A quick look at Sanu's tape would seem to suggest that he'll be comfortable performing many of the same duties that were asked of New England's last full-time slot not named Edelman.

CURRAN: Pats are just winging it with offensive personnel>>>>>

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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?

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