The trade winds will pick up in intensity around the NFL this week with the deadline to acquire reinforcements and/or shed salary coming on Nov. 3, Election Day.
This often-stormy time is more complicated this season. With an extra wild-card playoff spot available in each conference, some teams that normally would be in a position to sell after Week 7 might consider holding onto their assets for at least one more week.
For this reason, the 48 hours following this Sunday’s slate of games figures to be a particularly torrid time, with buyers and sellers making full use of their unlimited talk and texting plans.
The Patriots are perennially one of the more active franchises. Bill Belichick has said in the past his franchise is “always open for business.”
It’s likely Sunday’s game against the AFC-East leading Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., will go a long in determining whether the Patriots (2-4) are making inquiries or fielding requests.
For this piece, we’ll assume Belichick is buying. New England’s top needs are at receiver, tight end, and linebacker, which took another hit Monday with Brandon Copeland going out for the season with a torn pectoral.
Here’s a look at some possible trade partners and targets at those spots:
The Texans could provide some one-stop shopping if New England has a blockbuster in mind. Houston (1-5) is in limbo. The Texans have a franchise quarterback and weapons, but they haven’t been able to be competitive because of some aging pieces on defense.
Houston has a quintet of receivers and any of them would instantly upgrade New England’s corps. Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Keke Coutee likely are all on the market.
Fuller and Stills might be the most attractive because they are scheduled to be free agents after the season. Fuller is a burner, though he has a history of hamstring issues. Belichick has been complimentary of Stills in the past. Cooks (signed through 2024) put up 1,000 yards in his one season in New England. Cobb (2023) is a reliable possession receiver and excels from the slot. Coutee (2022) flashes explosiveness.
At tight end, Darren Fells (2022) is a huge target (6 feet 7 inches) and a competitive blocker.
On defense, J.J. Watt (2022) could revitalize the second level of New England’s unit and could be revitalized by a new environment. He isn’t the Watt of 2012-15, but he’s still an instinctive and disruptive defender who can line up anywhere in the front seven.
Another 1-5 team that has some desirable — albeit expensive — pieces that could slot in seamlessly in Foxborough.
At receiver, Adam Thielen (2024) is a terrific route runner with deceptive speed and excellent hands. He inked a four-year, $65 million deal in 2019, and the sinking Vikings might like to get out from underneath that commitment.
For a double dip, Kyle Rudolph (2023) is one of the top tight ends in the league, but the Vikings have an emerging star in Irv Smith Jr. and could be persuaded to part with their starter, who signed a five-year, $36.5 million pact in 2014.
At linebacker, Eric Kendricks (2023) is smart and always around the ball.
The Jaguars (1-5) have some interesting pieces, particularly at tight end, where Tyler Eifert (2021) and James O’Shaughnessy (2020) offer experience and affordability.
Eifert has had his share of injuries, but when healthy he is a surehanded pass catcher with athleticism. O’Shaughnessy spent the summer of 2017 with the Patriots before he was released. He’s a willing blocker.
At receiver, Chris Conley and Keelan Cole are intriguing options. Conley (2020) is a slippery veteran who finds open areas quickly. Cole (2020) is a smooth athlete with soft hands. He’s not a burner but he can move the chains.
Linebacker Quincy Williams (2022) doesn’t have the size of older brother Quinnen (a defensive lineman for the Jets), but this guy knows how to find the ball and hits like a truck.
If the Patriots decide to go piecemeal, there are plenty of options at each position of need:
The biggest splash would be Dallas’s Amari Cooper.
A legitimate No. 1, Cooper is owed a ton of dough (he’s on a five-year, $100 million deal) that Dallas might need to shed. The Patriots could opt out of the deal after 2022. A cheaper Cowboy alternative would be Michael Gallup (2021).
Cincinnati’s John Ross is a burner who could give the Patriots a legitimate stretch-the-field threat. The No. 9 overall selection in 2017, Ross has made it clear he’d like to be on the move, which has lowered the Bengals' leverage. Fellow Bengal A.J. Green’s name comes up at the deadline yearly, but he has stated his desire to stay put on several occasions.
Other names to watch: Golden Tate of the Giants and the Lions' Marvin Jones.
Cleveland’s David Njoku (2021) would be the big fish, but the Brownies are in the hunt and may not be willing to let the 2017 first-rounder off the hook even though he’s asked to be dealt in the past. The Giants' Evan Engram was also a 2017 first-rounder who has had an up-and-down tenure in the Meadowlands.
Other names to watch: Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz, Atlanta’s Hayden Hurst.
Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan (2020) has long been a front-seven force who can collapse the pocket. The Chargers' Denzel Perryman is a gap filler.
Other names to watch: Detroit’s Jarrad Davis, Denver’s A.J. Johnson.