By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL trade deadline is just a day away, and here we are wondering if the Patriots will be buyers or sellers before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The 2-5 Patriots could easily turn into sellers in a hurry, cashing in highly paid veterans such as Stephon Gilmore and Joe Thuney, while potentially moving on from the Cam Newton experiment at quarterback. Trading off veteran players should be able to net some draft picks, potential building blocks for the future.
But we also know how Belichick likes to operate around this time of the year. If he sees a promising player being cast off by a bad team, he’ll pounce. Look at Kyle Van Noy in 2016. He was an afterthought for the Lions, with just two sacks in his first two NFL seasons. Once he arrived in New England, and got a full camp under Belichick, Van Noy became a defensive force and exploded for 15.5 sacks in his three full seasons with the Patriots.
If such an opportunity pops up this year, you better believe Belichick is going to pounce. Someone who can come in and help this year, but make an even bigger impact in the future — much like Van Noy. And the Patriots could certainly use another play-making defensive end/linebacker, like Van Noy.
So should the Patriots still want to buy in on 2020 with just a few hours remaining on trade season, here are the areas they better address.
This was a need before Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry went down, so the need at receiver has just grown bigger over the last two weeks. And while Jakobi Meyers’ rise on the depth chart is a good story, he should not be Newton’s No.1 receiver if the Patriots want to make any sort of playoff push.
Even with a healthy Edelman and Harry, the Patriots had one of the thinnest receiving corps in the NFL — if not the thinnest. It was an iffy proposition to head into the season with a 34-year-old undersized receiver as your No. 1 with no real depth behind him, and New England’s lack of …. anything … at receiver has been apparent throughout the season.
Now that Edelman is on IR and Harry is out with a concussion, New England’s need at receiver has been exacerbated. Even if both are expected to return later this season, wide receiver should be atop New England’s wish list at Tuesday’s deadline. And not just another guy who can maybe catch passes, but a legit No. 1 option for this season and the future.
The need at receiver is glaring, but tight end isn’t far behind. When Belichick drafted two of them in April — Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round — we assumed at least one of them would have some sort of role in the offense. Instead, we’ve been stuck with Ryan Izzo.
The Patriots have gotten next to nothing out of the tight end position for the second straight season. Maybe a pickup at the deadline could change that.
Losing Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency hurt. But with Dont’a Hightower opting out of the season, the Patriots not only lost a play-making linebacker but their quarterback on defense. Hightower made the machine go, and his presence has been greatly missed throughout the season.
Without Hightower, or any veteran presence, the middle of the field has been a big soft spot for the New England defense. They are surrendering 140 rushing yards per game, which is sixth-worst in the league.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon Copeland and rookie Anferenee Jennings are the only linebackers to do much of anything for the Patriots this season, and Copeland is expected to miss the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. Rookie Josh Uche made his NFL debut Sunday in Buffalo, but the Pats are going to need a lot more in the middle of the field the rest of the way.
At the moment, it doesn’t look like Newton is the long-term replacement at the most important position on the field. And in the short sample size that we’ve seen thus far, it doesn’t look like Jarrett Stidham will fill that void either.
If the Patriots do trade Newton, they would likely want to add another veteran/not-so-youngish quarterback to the mix for the rest of 2020. It’s unlikely, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Anything can happen in 2020, as we’ve seen for the last 11 month.