By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Following a convincing road win over the Chargers on Sunday, the New England Patriots are 4-4 on the season and right back in the playoff picture. And after two straight wins, there is a feeling that this team is now very much worth improving ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.

The Patriots have no shortage of needs, but before they snagged their first quality win over a quality opponent (Read: an opponent that isn’t led by a rookie quarterback), there was no real reason to think that they should address those areas. But the arrow is now pointing in a positive direction with the team at .500 and the AFC pretty much wide open near the season’s midway point.

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Team-altering deals don’t happen all too often in the NFL, especially at the trade deadline. This year could prove to be different, with the L.A. Rams moving all their chips to the middle of the table with Monday’s acquisition of Von Miller for a second- and third-round pick in 2022. That deal could also hurt the rest of the trade market, as it sets a pretty hefty asking price for those looking to bring in an impact player.

The last time the Patriots made a massive move at the deadline was in 2019, when Bill Belichick sent a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for receiver Mohamed Sanu. That trade did not work out, as Sanu didn’t do much of anything to help a struggling Patriots offense. He was released the following training camp, and proved to be a big waste of a second-round pick for New England.

Before that, the Patriots took a flyer on Kyle Van Noy in 2016, sending a sixth-round pick to Detroit. That proved to be a solid pickup, but it was a move made to develop a former second-round pick more than to make an immediate impact on the team.

The last massive move that actually worked for the Patriots and made one of those immediate impacts was the 2012 pickup of Aqib Talib, who came in and completely saved a floundering Patriots secondary. Fittingly, the Patriots could use another Talib-like pickup ahead of 4pm on Tuesday.

The 2021 Patriots were in need of some cornerback depth after trading away Stephon Gilmore for next to nothing in early October. That need grew greater when Jonathan Jones was lost for the year last week. The Patriots got by with Myles Bryant and Joejuan Williams taking over for Jones in the slot in Week 8, but they’re going to need a lot more for the rest of the season. The same goes for the production from their No. 2 corner spot, which is currently occupied by the ever-frustrating Jalen Mills. That offseason investment is not working out right now, with Mills getting burned a handful of times each weekend as he struggles to acclimate to the New England defense.

Some help at corner is the team’s biggest area of need ahead of the deadline, and would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the position. Many are clamoring for Belichick to make a move for a veteran like Denver’s Kyle Fuller or former Patriot Logan Ryan, currently a member of the New York Giants. Fuller has struggled since signing a one-year deal with the Broncos last offseason, and has found himself on the bench in recent weeks. He would be a reclamation project signed only through the end of the season, and one that likely doesn’t command a big trade package in return. That may be the most appealing part of the equation for the Patriots.

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Wide receiver is also a pretty big area of need, with no clear cut No. 1 option for Mac Jones. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were signed to pretty handsome contracts over the summer, but neither are filling that No. 1 role. Landing a true stud receiver would likely be too rich for the Patriots on deadline day, especially with so much committed to the position already. So you can stop dreaming of Allen Robinson coming over from Chicago.

But Belichick and company should be looking to add to Jones’ arsenal, providing the rookie with any kind of help to make his job that much easier as the season gets more difficult.

Depth along the offensive line and at running back are also high on New England’s list of needs as the deadline approaches. It’s been weeks since we heard anything about Trent Brown, and the Pats are just one more injury away from having the line becoming a serious issue again. Adding another running back is never a bad idea with a run-first offense, though it will be a lot more difficult to address now with the Tennessee Titans now looking for a replacement for Derrick Henry, who is likely done for the year with a foot injury.

Linebacker play has also left a lot to be desired so far this season, with Dont’a Hightower struggling mightily after sitting out all of 2020 and Kyle Van Noy occasionally playing like his mind is still in Miami. But signing Jamie Collins a few weeks ago is probably New England’s move at that position, and they’re probably also counting on Ja’Whaun Bentley and Josh Uche to continue to improve.

Belichick played it coy when asked Monday about the chatter ahead of the deadline, and the Pats head coach added that some trade discussions don’t even begin until the final moments before the buzzer. Things can change in an instant in the NFL, and Monday’s trade of Miller and the injury to Henry could get some more moves rolling elsewhere in the NFL.

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But if there is a move to be made — the right move, of course — the Patriots will make it. With the team sitting at 4-4 and Wild Card spots in the AFC up for grabs, it would be in their best interest to make a move or two to put this squad in the best position possible to snag one of those spots. Staff