If Patrick Peterson wants out of Arizona, and if the Cardinals decide they’re willing to part with him before the NFL’s Oct. 30 trade deadline, the New England Patriots would be crazy not to pick up the phone and send some sort of offer out to the desert for the All-Pro cornerback.
Peterson apparently told his cousin, former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, that the Patriots have shown interest. Peterson’s 2018 salary is slightly prohibitive against New England’s shallow cap room, but the Patriots could figure something out if they really want him. And they should.
New England certainly has other needs on defense. It could use a linebacker to play in sub packages and a boost to its struggling pass rush. But a player of Peterson’s caliber would do far more to improve the Patriots’ defense than a middling player at a position of greater need.
Peterson always has been great — he’s made the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons, and he’s a three-time first-team All-Pro — but he’s actually having his best season through seven games. He’s allowed just 16 catches on 28 targets for 134 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have a 39.9 passer rating while targeting him.
He ranks first among qualified cornerbacks in passer rating against and yards per cover snap. He’s fourth in cover snaps per target and sixth in cover snaps per reception.
Peterson hasn’t allowed more than 539 receiving yards in a season since 2014. He also hasn’t let up a passer rating higher than 83.6 since 2014. His career passer rating allowed is 79.6, and he lets up a catch on just 54.8 percent of targets.
So, yeah. He’s really good. So is Patriots starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who has allowed just 16 catches on 37 targets for 173 yards with three touchdowns and one interception this season. Gilmore also ranks third in cover snaps per reception and yards per cover snap, seventh in cover snaps per target and ninth in passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus.
Peterson is Pro Football Focus’ No. 3-rated cornerback while Gilmore is fifth. They would be far and away the best cornerback duo in the NFL.
Currently, PFF’s best cornerback duo actually is Gilmore and Jason McCourty (No. 9). If Peterson joins that group, the Patriots would surpass the Chicago Bears (Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan) as the best cornerback trio in the league.
But what would New England have to give up for Peterson? The Dallas Cowboys just traded a first-round pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper is just 24 years old and still on his rookie contract, however. Peterson is 28 and is signed through 2020. He has base salaries of $11 million and $12.05 million in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
That’s actually not overly restrictive. Gilmore has cap hits of $14.8 million, $15.8 million and $16.8 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The closest player comparison to Peterson who has been traded this year is Marcus Peters. Peters is 25 years old and still on his rookie contract, but he had two years left on his deal when the Los Angeles Rams sent a 2019 second-round pick and 2018 fourth-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Peters and a sixth-round pick.
Peterson is a better, more reliable player, so he probably would cost slightly more. Would the Patriots trade a first-round pick for Peterson? And should they?
The Patriots currently have a first-round pick and two second-round picks in 2019. They also need an infusion of youth. But is an injection of youth more valuable than two-and-a-half years of Peterson? Probably not. New England would know what it’s getting in Peterson. It don’t know what it’s getting through the draft. The Patriots had two first-round picks in 2018. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn is out for the season with a torn Achilles, and running back Sony Michel suffered a knee injury Sunday.
And Peterson would be a bargain, relatively speaking, on his current contract.
Anything more than a first-round pick, or a first-round pick and a player, might be too steep for the Patriots to consider a trade worthwhile. They can get by with their current crop of cornerbacks. Adding Peterson would make throwing outside the numbers a tremendous nuisance for opposing teams, though.
Trading a player along with a draft pick would make some sense for the Patriots from a salary cap perspective. It would be an easy way to free up cap room to make the trade possible. Some candidates, from a depth and contract viewpoint, would be offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and cornerback Eric Rowe.
All of this is moot if the Cardinals don’t want to trade Peterson. But the Patriots should push the issue.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images