The 2-4 New England Patriots might be smart to keep their draft capital, carry over as much salary cap space as they can into 2021 and live to fight another season.
But if Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio are not ready to give up on the 2020 season, here are their biggest current needs, ranked:
1. WIDE RECEIVER
And not just any wide receiver. The Patriots have plenty of second- and third-tier options on their roster in Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers. If the Patriots are going to acquire a wide receiver via trade, they need to swing for the fences and get a player like Will Fuller, Adam Thielen or Allen Robinson, if they’re available.
Even players like Marvin Jones, Mike Williams, Michael Gallup or Jamison Crowder would be clear-cut No. 1s in New England.
There’s always the hope that Josh Uche will emerge as a starter once he’s activated off of injured reserve. But the Patriots shouldn’t rely too heavily on rookies and still would need help at this position.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots’ defensive captain and top inside linebacker, is ranked 74th out of 81 linebackers in PFF’s player grades. Brandon Copeland reportedly is out for the season, and rookie Anfernee Jennings looked over his head Week 8 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Throw the outside linebackers into mix, and Chase Winovich isn’t being trusted to defend the run, and John Simon ranks 109th out of 111 edge defenders in PFF’s player grades.
Uche could only make so much of an impact, and the Patriots have had success trading for linebackers like Akeem Ayers and Kyle Van Noy in the past.
Would the Patriots trade for a quarterback? Probably not.
Should they? Probably.
The Patriots could swing a deal for a quarterback looking at the present or into the future since Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer all have played poorly this season.
Who could be available? Who knows. But it might be worth picking up the phone to call the Jets and inquiring about Sam Darnold, the Colts on Jacoby Brissett, Washington on Dwayne Haskins or Kyle Allen, the Bears on Mitchell Trubisky, the 49ers on Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard (or Jimmy Garoppolo) or even the Cowboys on Dak Prescott.
4. TIGHT END
Ultimately, it would probably only be a short-term fix to acquire a tight end at the trade deadline since the Patriots just spent third-round picks on Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. The Patriots do need a short-term solution, however, since tight ends have only been targeted 13 times in six games. Keene has one 8-yard catch. Asiasi has not been targeted. Ryan Izzo has seven catches for 90 yards.
Zach Ertz would have been a nice fit, but he’s hurt. Is it worth spending a draft pick and cap space on a player like Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph? Honestly, probably not. Giants tight end Evan Engram would be an interesting addition, but New York reportedly isn’t shopping him.
5. DEFENSIVE TACKLE
This is another problem that could be solved when Beau Allen returns off of injured reserve. Then the Patriots’ defensive tackle depth chart would be Allen, Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart and Adam Butler with defensive end Deatrich Wise also in the mix. Nick Thurman is a nice depth option on the practice squad.
Allen, Guy and Butler have dealt with injuries this season, however, and Cowart missed time on the COVID-19/reserve list. Adding one more piece beyond Allen wouldn’t be the worst move here.