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Should the Patriots Go All-in for Another Star WR at the NFL Trade Deadline?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 29, 2018

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks off of the field after defeating the Chicago Bears 38-31 at Soldier Field on October 21, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have scored at least 38 points in four consecutive games—something only a handful of teams in modern NFL history have accomplished. But New England has also surrendered 95 points in the latter three of those games. They've given up 24 or more points in five games this season, and they entered the weekend ranked 25th in total defense. 

The New England offense entered Week 8 ranked in the top five in the NFL in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders, while the defense ranked below the league median.

And this, of course, is an organization that made history in February by scoring the most points (33) in a Super Bowl loss. 

That's why it wasn't surprising Sunday when NFL Network's Michael Giardi and Jay Glazer of Fox Sports both reported that the strong-but-indisputably-flawed Patriots are active on the trade market ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.  

Michael Giardi @MikeGiardi

Multiple league sources confirm the #Patriots have been active on the trade front for weeks. That’s not abnormal for them. One name that’s been discussed is #Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas. Thomas was drafted by Pats OC Josh McDaniels when he was HC at Denver.

This is a team that has no choice but to remain in win-now mode. It entered the season with the league's third-oldest roster, centerpiece Tom Brady is the league's oldest position player and the team's architect, Bill Belichick, is the AFC's oldest head coach. 

So there's nothing odd about Glazer's notion that the Pats are "offering up high draft choices" in trade talks. 

What is odd, however, is that Glazer reports those draft picks are being used as bait in an attempt to land "a bona fide, premium wide receiver," while Giardi's report listed Denver Broncos four-time Pro Bowl wideout Demaryius Thomas as a "name that's been discussed."

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

There's room for Brady's arsenal to improve. A lack of weapons hurt the New England offense early this season, especially when two-time 1,000-yard receiver Julian Edelman was serving a four-game suspension and former Pro Bowler Josh Gordon had yet to arrive. 

But Edelman has returned and scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, the increasingly comfortable Gordon—acquired from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17—is coming off his first 100-yard performance as a Patriot, and superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski is still Rob Gronkowski, despite the fact he's far from 100 percent from a health standpoint.

Beyond that trio, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson have caught 74 percent of the passes thrown their way while scoring a combined six touchdowns, and running back James White—on pace to catch 103 passes for 869 yards—has half-a-dozen receiving touchdowns of his own. 

Does New England really need another "bona fide, premium wide receiver"? Should that be the priority for a team that was willing to trade Brandin Cooks and let Danny Amendola walk just a few months ago? 

With Cooks but without Edelman and Gordon, New England averaged 30.7 points per game during last year's playoffs. Without Cooks and Amendola and often without Gordon or a healthy Gronk this season, they're averaging 30.6 points per game. 

Something tells me that if the Patriots fall short of another Vince Lombardi Trophy in the new year, it won't be a result of offensive impotence.

This team always finds a way to put up points, which is why it would be silly to part with "high draft choices" in exchange for one more receiver. 

Would Thomas help? Probably. He remains a starting-caliber receiver and—as Giardi pointed out—he has a history with Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. 

But the Patriots offense can't reach much higher before hitting the ceiling. You can't throw the ball on defense, and you can't score more than eight points per offensive possession. What's more, inviting your opponents to CFL-style shootouts doesn't seem like a dependable strategy. 

Glazer listed Pierre Garcon as a receiver on the block, while NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that DeSean Jackson is lobbying for a trade. Those former Washington Redskins teammates are no longer premium wide receivers. Garcon hasn't scored since he was in Washington in 2016, while Jackson hasn't been to a Pro Bowl since he was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. 

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 21: DeSean Jackson #11 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a catch during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on October 21, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

No way the Pats surrender premium picks for either of those players, both of whom are beyond their prime. 

Amari Cooper is now a Dallas Cowboy and Larry Fitzgerald is extremely unlikely to be moved by the Arizona Cardinals, and you could argue that Fitzgerald is no longer a difference-making receiver anyway.

If a Super Bowl LIII victory isn't the team's current destiny, Garcon, Jackson or Fitzgerald wouldn't make a big enough difference to change that. 

Assuming megastar receivers on contending teams aren't up for grabs, New England won't have a lot of premium receivers to target. Guys like Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, Adam Thielen and Michael Thomas almost certainly are not available, and we can probably assume Belichick isn't trying to re-trade for Cooks. 

The only elite receiver who could theoretically be both available and worth a high draft pick is Odell Beckam Jr., simply because he's really the only elite receiver playing for a bad team. But the Giants likely imagine Beckham can be part of a rebuild—he's only 25 and signed a blockbuster new deal in August. 

Barring that far-fetched exception, the Pats would be better off using their trade capital on a defensive player who could help them disguise their Achilles' heel rather than an offensive player who might only amount to extra gravy. 

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26:  Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium during week 3 of the preseason on August 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Maybe that means making Arizona an offer it can't refuse for Patrick Peterson or prying Landon Collins from the Giants. Maybe it means bolstering an ineffective pass rush with Dante Fowler or Bruce Irvin or Shane Ray or a combination of the above. There's also Deone Bucannon, and/or a potential reunion with Jamie Collins at linebacker.

The pool is deeper on that side of the ball, and a major addition on D would help to take pressure off an already-high-flying offense. 

The Patriots should go all-in, but not for another wide receiver. 

         

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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