A few short weeks ago, the New England Patriots were shaping up to feature one of the best wide receiver groups football had ever seen.
Now, the reigning Super Bowl champions suddenly find themselves in need of pass-catching help.
The Antonio Brown experiment in New England ultimately lasted a mere 11 days. Furthermore, Julian Edelman might be playing through a minor injury and Phillip Dorsett was forced to exit Sunday’s win over the Washington Redskins due to a hamstring ailment. Ryan Izzo was able to find the end zone in Week 5, but New England largely hasn’t seen much production from its tight ends through the early stages of the campaign.
As such, Patriots fans now are clamoring for the franchise to make a move for a top-flight target. Stefon Diggs, mostly through social media, was pegged as a potential option amid his ongoing saga in Minnesota, while a report surfaced Sunday indicating New England was interested in trading for A.J. Green. Bill Barnwell, however, focused on another star WR in a recent column for ESPN, in which he floated the idea of the Patriots sending a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanders’ versatility and ability to move around the formation appeals to the Patriots, who once signed Sanders to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent during his time with the Steelers. It’s unclear how much cap space the Patriots have given the Antonio Brown grievance, but they might need the Broncos to restructure Sanders’ deal to absorb some of the remaining base salary, which would influence the quality of the picks heading back to Denver
The Patriots will get back rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry at midseason, but with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett all banged up, adding Sanders would make a lot of sense for Tom Brady & Co.
In a vacuum, New England likely wouldn’t have any qualms about parting ways with a late-round selection for a player of Sanders’ caliber. But as Barnwell touches on, the Patriots might have to get very creative in order to make a splash on the trade market. The grievance Brown reportedly filed isn’t going to make the situation any easier, and New England doesn’t have a ton of sensible options on its roster in terms of possible extensions/cash shuffling to create salary cap space.
But if the Patriots are hell-bent on bringing in high-end receiving talent, Sanders might be the player to keep an eye on. League insider Jay Glazer noted last week it “wouldn’t shock” him if New England dealt for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.