All teams, including the Patriots, could stand to make improvements ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. If nothing else, every team could use extra depth at certain positions.
But the 3-4 Patriots have more holes than they typically do this time of the year. And, regardless of what happens this weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers, New England absolutely should buy at the deadline.
Due to their current salary cap situation (just under $3 million), the Patriots will be limited in what they can do before 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Plus, Bill Belichick rarely makes headlines on or near deadline day. The 2019 trade for Mohamed Sanu was a blockbuster for The Hoodie.
So, what could New England do over the next few days? What are its top needs?
Let’s get into it:
Stephon Gilmore now is a Carolina Panther, and Jonathan Jones is done for the season. As result, Jalen Mills is playing out of position and safety/corner hybrid Myles Bryant is the new slot corner. It’s … not terrible, but also not great.
It’s possible the Patriots look to rookie Shaun Wade, third-year corner Joejuan Williams and their bevy of practice squad guys as sufficient internal solutions. But they also could look to add cornerback depth — if not something better — before the deadline.
That said, Patriots fans probably should rule out trades for players like Kyle Fuller.
Matt Judon has been great, and Ja’Whaun Bentley has emerged as a consistently impactful player. Other than that, it’s been iffy at linebacker for the Patriots.
Somehow, the Patriots have a bunch of linebackers but hardly any depth. They could use some reinforcements, if not a starting-caliber player.
New England’s receiver group is pretty good and consistently has gotten better since the start of the season. There’s not a ton of speed, but there’s enough talent, especially if you include the tight ends, for the offense to put up points.
But why not give rookie Mac Jones another weapon? Why not give him an actual star to work with?
They’re not likely, but trades for players such as Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas could be done by the Patriots if they want to do them. But New England doesn’t even have to swing that hard.
It wouldn’t be difficult to find an upgrade over N’Keal Harry, who just can’t get going in the Patriots offense. Maybe see if the Arizona Cardinals would be willing to flip the speedy, similarly disappointing Andy Isabella.
Honorable mention: Edge rusher
We use this category because the Patriots seemingly have a young, promising edge rusher in Uche. And, despite Winovich’s decrease in playing time and issues in defending the run, he’s shown legitimate pass-rushing talent as well. But, for multiple reasons, it just hasn’t happened this season for either of them.
Outside of Judon and Christian Barmore, New England hasn’t generated much of a pass rush in 2021. If Belichick can find a good deal for player who can get after the quarterback, he should consider it.