Typically around this time of year, the Patriots have established themselves as contenders and are looking for one final piece to complement the array of talent they already have and bolster their Super Bowl chances.
This year, due to a wide variety of circumstances, they’re no longer in such a desirable spot. Instead, the Patriots (2-4) are losers of three straight, two games under .500 for the first time since 2001, and in desperate need of a pick-me-up – that is, of course, if they’re still trying to contend this season.
The extra playoff spot helps the Patriots, and they have flaunted their potential in flashes this season, but it’s clear a drastic change needs to take place for this team to contend. If the Patriots do decide they want to be buyers before the Nov. 3 trade deadline, they could use immediate help at wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker, among other positions.
Here are some players they could potentially trade for if they end up going that route.
CBS Sports’s Jason La Canfora reported that the Patriots are in the market to improve their passing offense, a statement that will come as no surprise to fans who have watched the last few games.
The Patriots currently have Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and Damiere Byrd as their main targets.
“Cam Newton is not the problem there, trust me,” an evaluator who has scouted the Patriots told La Canfora. “It’s who he has around him.”
One potential team New England could chat with is the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys’ situation seems even more bleak than the Patriots’ at this point, so it’s possible the teams could finagle deal to help each other out.
The most obvious name the Patriots could potentially inquire about is Amari Cooper, a player The Boston Globe‘s Jim McBride said would be “the biggest splash” of all.
McBride noted that Cooper, a legitimate No. 1 target, is on a five-year, $100 million deal that Dallas might need to shed. The Patriots, McBride wrote, could opt out of the deal after 2022.
Another option is Adam Thielen, a dependable pass-catcher for the 1-5 Minnesota Vikings. La Canfora said Thielen, who is signed through 2024, is an expensive option but could be viable because the Vikings are looking to shed salary.
McBride also pointed out that the Texans have a strong group of receivers they could be looking to shop after starting the year on a sour note due to their aging defense. Those pieces include Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Randall Cobb, and Brandin Cooks.
“Fuller and Stills might be the most attractive because they are scheduled to be free agents after the season,” McBride wrote. “Fuller is a burner, though he has a history of hamstring issues. Belichick has been complimentary of Stills in the past.”
He also mentioned John Ross of the Cincinnati Bengals, Golden Tate of the New York Giants, and Marvin Jones of the Detroit Lines as other names to watch.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe said Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Ross, Jamison Crowder, Tate, Alshon Jeffery, Stills, Fuller, and Keelan Cole are key names, but he doesn’t think a trade for Julio Jones is likely.
“The chances of Jones getting traded are about as good as the Falcons holding onto a 28-3 lead,” Howe quipped.
The Patriots have gotten very little productions out of their tight ends so far this season.
Ryan Izzo has caught seven passes for 90 yards, Dalton Keene has one catch for eight yards, and Devin Asiasi doesn’t have a catch in limited action.
McBride highlighted 6-foot-7 tight end Darren Fells of the Texans, veteran Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings, and reliable pass-catcher and blocker Tyler Eifert of the Jacksonville Jaguars as options.
He said David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns “would be the big fish,” but he doesn’t expect the Browns will be looking to sell now that they’re in the hunt. McBride added Hayden Hurst of the Atlanta Falcons and Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles as other names to watch.
La Canfora reported that the Vikings are shopping Rudolph, and CBS Sports mentioned him as a possible Patriots target.
Howe said the need for more from the position is evident, and he proposed Rudolph, Eifert, and Njoku as potential pieces.
Linebacker was already a weak point for the Patriots, and they now have an even greater need with Brandon Copeland out for the year.
McBride said Jarrad Davis of the Detroit Lions and A.J. Johnson of the Denver Broncos are names to watch, and CBS Sports mentioned Haason Reddick as a possibility.
Longtime sportswriter Peter King, in his latest column on Pro Football Talk, proposed Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Football Team as a player the Patriots could potentially acquire.
Kerrigan, an outside linebacker, is due $6.8 million for the last 10 weeks of his contract. He averages 9.9 sacks a year in his career and has only missed four games due to injury in 10 seasons.
“Great team guy,” King wrote, “A perfect stretch-run add for a contender.”
The looming question, of course, is whether or not the Patriots are contenders. As of now, they’re not.
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