A report earlier this week indicated the New England Patriots are “sniffing around” for potential trade options at wide receiver and tight end.
Given their recent history, that’s no surprise.
The Patriots perennially have been one of the most active participants in the NFL’s spring trade market, which officially opens when the new league year begins in mid-March (though trades can be negotiated beforehand). This year, that date is next Wednesday, March 18.
Since 2016, New England has executed a total of nine trades in the month of March, tied with the under-construction Miami Dolphins for second-most in the NFL. Only the perpetually rebuilding Cleveland Browns have pulled off more March deals during that span (10).
How does that compare to the rest of the league? Twenty of the 32 teams have completed two or fewer March trades since 2016, and four (Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings) have completed zero. Of the five teams with just one swap on their record, two (Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints) have only traded with the Patriots.
A closer look at the Patriots’ recent March moves reveals a few commonalities. Seven of their nine trades involved dealing one draft pick for a player and a lower selection. In another, they parted ways with two picks for a player and a pick. Only one trade featured a player from New England’s roster moving to a new team.
Michael Bennett, defensive end
From: Philadelphia Eagles
Terms: Fifth-round draft pick for Bennett and a seventh
The Bennett deal made total sense for a Patriots team that was about to lose top pass rusher Trey Flowers in free agency. But a scheme change resulted in decreased playing time for the three-time Pro Bowler, and after an argument with his position coach led to a team-imposed one-game suspension, New England shipped him to Dallas ahead of the trade deadline.
Jason McCourty, cornerback
From: Cleveland Browns
Terms: Sixth-round draft pick for McCourty and a seventh
A dream move for McCourty, who got to reunite with his twin brother and win a Super Bowl after failing to reach the playoffs in nine seasons with Tennessee and Cleveland. McCourty missed most of the second half of this season with a groin injury, but the Patriots reportedly plan to pick up the team option in his contract, meaning he’ll be back for a third go-round in 2020.
Danny Shelton, defensive tackle
From: Cleveland Browns
Terms: 2019 third-round draft pick for Shelton and a 2018 fifth
Shelton endured a rough first season in New England but excelled in 2019 after re-signing on a one-year prove-it deal. The 2016 first-round draft pick is set to hit free agency and should be in line for a sizable raise.
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver/kick returner
From: Oakland Raiders
Terms: Fifth-round draft pick for Patterson and a sixth
Patterson’s rare versatility allowed him to serve as New England’s No. 1 running back for a spell while Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead were sidelined. He left for the Chicago Bears in free agency after one season.
Brandin Cooks, wide receiver
From: New Orleans Saints
Terms: First- and third-round draft picks for Cooks and a fourth
Cooks wasn’t a perfect fit for the Patriots’ offense, but they got strong production out of the speed merchant in 2017 (65 catches, 1,082 yards, seven touchdowns), then flipped him to the Los Angeles Rams for a first-round pick before his salary cap hit exploded. (The Cooks-to-L.A. trade occurred in April, so it’s not included here.)
Dwayne Allen, tight end
From: Indianapolis Colts
Terms: Fourth-round draft pick for Allen and a sixth
The Patriots showed a puzzling reluctance to utilize Allen in the passing game, but he was a solid run blocker over his two seasons in Foxboro.
Kony Ealy, defensive end
From: Carolina Panthers
Terms: Second-round draft pick for Ealy and a third
The only true dud on this list, Ealy was cut before the end of his first Patriots preseason and now is playing in the XFL.
Martellus Bennett, tight end
From: Chicago Bears
Terms: Fourth-round draft pick for Bennett and a sixth
The other Bennett brother enjoyed a much more successful stint in New England, catching 55 passes for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns for a 2016 Patriots team that won a Super Bowl despite getting just eight games out of star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Jonathan Cooper, guard
From: Arizona Cardinals
Terms: Defensive end Chandler Jones for Cooper and a second-round draft pick
Cooper never played in a game for New England, but the Patriots flipped that second-rounder for two additional draft picks, then used one of them to draft Joe Thuney, who proceeded to start every game at left guard over the next four seasons. (The other selection yielded receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who showed great potential as a rookie before knee issues ended his career.)