The New England Patriots certainly can improve their roster on the margins with the NFL season less than two weeks away. And one area of specific improvement relates to New England’s offensive line, a group that left a lot to be desired during training camp.
Should the Patriots be interested in improving up front, Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood might be a low-risk, high-reward move worth considering. Leatherwood was a first-round pick out of Alabama in the 2021 NFL Draft, though the arrivals of former general manager Dave Ziegler and first-year head coach Josh McDaniels don’t present the same ties to Leatherwood, who was drafted by former general manager Mike Mayock.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport shared Monday how Leatherwood could be on the trade block in Las Vegas. Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed also reported last week how Leatherwood could be a potential trade candidate as he hasn’t started in training camp while playing deep into preseason games. Leatherwood still remains atop the team’s unofficial depth chart at right tackle, though reports from Las Vegas have indicated he’s something like fourth on the depth chart.
The fact the Raiders could strongly consider cutting the former first-rounder, as also shared by beat reporters, a hint a trade package should not be overly expensive.
Of course, it’s worth noting how Leatherwood did not live up to the billing of a first-rounder during his rookie season. He started in all 17 games for Las Vegas while struggling at tackle and right guard. He compiled a brutal 30.7 grade at tackle and 54.0 grade at guard, as shared by Kyed.
But trading for Leatherwood would be more about betting on his potential. He impressed coming out of Alabama after he was recognized as an All-American during his senior season. At the time, he used his 6-foot-6, 312-pound frame at left tackle and became one of the best in the country.
The Patriots currently have a starting left tackle in Trent Brown, but Isaiah Wynn’s training camp absence presented questions at the other tackle spot, and thus the rest of the offensive line. Left guard Cole Strange, center David Andrews and the versatile Mike Onwenu almost certainly will start alongside Brown with Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste and others factoring in. Leatherwood, at worst, would provide a depth piece with more high-end talent.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has obvious connections to Leatherwood with McDaniels serving as the Raiders’ head coach and Nick Saban mentoring him with the Crimson Tide. It’s fair to think Belichick can have all his questions about Leatherwood answered given those relationships. The Patriots also got a look at the Leatherwood and the Raiders last week in joint practices with Vegas.
The Patriots reportedly have considered trading Wynn, who is playing on his fifth-year rookie extension worth north of $10 million. Leatherwood, given he still has at least three years left on his rookie contract, is much cheaper. He’ll earn $1.3, $1.9 and $2.6 million in base salary over the next three seasons.