UPDATE (9:50 A.M.): The Patriots reportedly traded for cornerback J.C. Jackson seconds after we, in this story, proposed the idea but also called it “whacky.” Unclear if this makes us look good or bad.

ORIGINAL STORY: Just like that, the New England Patriots are down their top two defensive players.

Standout cornerback Christian Gonzalez and star pass rusher Matthew Judon reportedly are out indefinitely after suffering a shoulder and biceps injury, respectively, in Sunday’s road loss to the Dallas Cowboys. There’s a sliver of hope both players return this season, but New England might need to prepare for life without Gonzalez and Judon.

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The Patriots might have enough depth to get by without Judon, especially if tantalizing rookie Keion White answers the bell. And, if the rest of their corners get healthy, the Patriots probably could survive without Gonzalez.

But the reality is New England now could be in the market for both cornerback and edge rusher help. The moves could be big, small, or somewhere in between.

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With that in mind, we came up with three corners and three edge rushers who could make sense for the Patriots. We separated them into three categories: free agents, trade targets and players who could be poached from another team’s practice squad. (Note: Any player signed off a practice squad must stay on the 53-man roster for at least three weeks.)

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As you’ll see below, we had a bit of fun with the trade ideas. However, we tried to keep everything within the realm of possibility.

Anyway, let’s get into it:

Corner: Byron Jones
The 31-year-old corner was released by the Miami Dolphins last March after a failed physical and remains a free agent. Jones is years removed from his 2018 Pro Bowl form, but he’s an experienced veteran and has the size (6-foot-1) that New England wants on the boundary.
Pass rusher: DaMarcus Mitchell
Mitchell made the Patriots’ 53-man roster last season as an undrafted rookie and spent the entire campaign on the active roster, primarily as a special teamer. But Mitchell, who showed some pass-rushing ability in his first training camp, was cut in August before signing with the Seattle Seahawks. He was released soon afterward and now is a free agent.

Corner: J.C. Jackson
This is a bit whacky, but hear us out. Yes, Jackson has been a major disappointment with the Los Angeles Chargers since signing a massive contract in 2022. Most recently, he was a healthy scratch in Week 3 and dealt with more off-field legal issues. But he excelled with the Patriots, and perhaps he’s another example of a player who’s at his best when under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick. The Chargers would net $12 million in salary cap savings by trading Jackson, who has four years left on his current deal but isn’t guaranteed any money after this season. Maybe a damaged goods swap involving Jackson and Jack Jones?
Pass rusher: Danielle Hunter
The 28-year-old three-time Pro Bowler has one year left on his contract and is coming off a 10.5-sack campaign. The Vikings should be looking to extend Hunter, but talk of a Minnesota fire sale has ramped up amid a 1-3 start. Could Hunter be moved as the Vikings look to free up money for an eventual mega-contract offer to Justin Jefferson?

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Corner: Darius Rush, Kansas City Chiefs
Rush was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft before getting cut in August after an underwhelming summer. Now, he’s on the Chiefs’ practice squad. Rush obviously is a project, but he was great in college and has ideal size at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds.
Pass rusher: Chase Winovich, Miami Dolphins
No, you can’t have what we’re smoking. Yes, Winovich obviously is a poor fit in New England. But hey, the 2019 third-round pick racked up 11 sacks over his first two seasons with the Patriots before seeing his playing time plummet as he proved incapable of holding up against the run. Winovich has bounced around a bit since New England traded him in 2022, but he still is just 28 years old.

At the time of this writing, the Patriots had a full practice squad and a full 53-man roster. But it stands to reason there will be some roster maneuvering in the days ahead.

Assuming Judon and Gonzalez both land on injured reserve, two spots will open on the 53-man roster. Those holes could be filled by external additions, players promoted from New England’s practice squad, or the activations of any of the five players currently on injured reserve or PUP.

Obviously, if anyone is removed from the 16-man practice squad, they’ll need to be replaced. Moreover, if, say, receiver Tyquan Thornton and tackle Riley Reiff get activated off IR and fill Judon and Gonzalez’s spot on the 53-man roster, the Patriots still would need to make room for hypothetical additions of a cornerback and/or pass rusher.

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In any event, there will be some moving parts ahead of Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints. But don’t be surprised if the Patriots make some minor transactions in lieu of any fireworks.

Featured image via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images