The New England Patriots find themselves in an unfamiliar position for more than one reason this offseason as they’re in the midst of previously unprecedented change.

The Tom Brady era ended earlier this spring when the six-time Super Bowl champion left Foxboro to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady’s departure isn’t the only glaring change, however, as a handful of core players have left the Patriots in recent weeks.

That all of this is happening as the NFL and the rest of the world is dealing with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic only adds to the feeling that major change is on the way in New England whenever we come out of this thing.

With the NFL draft approaching, the future of the Patriots under Bill Belichick will continue to evolve. The Patriots could still contend in 2020, but could Belichick commit to further rebuilding?

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The Athletic on Tuesday came up with seven hypothetical trades for teams across the NFL, and one of them involved the Patriots. The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia wondered whether the Patriots might be open to trading offensive guard Joe Thuney to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a third-round pick.

“New England surprisingly used the franchise tag on Thuney, but if the Patriots don’t feel like they want to sign him to a long-term deal, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to just keep Thuney on the tag before letting him walk next offseason,” Kapadia wrote.

The move would make plenty of sense for the Lions, who still believe they can contend in a relatively open NFC North, assuming quarterback Matthew Stafford is healthy after dealing with a back injury last season. Protecting the franchise quarterback should be of utmost importance for general manager Bob Quinn, and Thuney, a second-team All-Pro who has virtually taken every single snap of his NFL career, would help that.

But does it make sense for the Patriots? Obviously, trading Thuney would make New England even worse, especially at a position that’s even more important if the Patriots plan to hand the keys to Jarrett Stidham in 2020. However, adding a third-round pick for a player who most assumed would be leaving via free agency anyway might be intriguing for New England.

The Patriots don’t have a second-round pick after trading it to Atlanta for Mohamed Sanu. Adding another third-round pick, No. 67 overall, would soften that blow and would give the Patriots five picks in the top 100.

This is what the Patriots’ draft chest would look like if they made the hypothetical trade:

No. 23
No. 67
No. 87
No. 98
No. 100

If the Patriots kept all those picks, that’s five cost-controlled players they could add to their roster in the span of two nights. What’s even more likely given Belichick’s past, of course, is they go wild and trade some of those picks to give themselves even more flexibility.

Given where the Patriots’ franchise is at the moment, it feels like everything — including a trade like this — should be on the table right now.

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