Patriots' Top Trade Candidates Ahead of 2021 Training Camp
When training camp comes around, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may have too much depth on his hands, and a trade or two could happen to find more playing time for skill-position players on the outside looking in.
A significant amount of attention will be paid to N'Keal Harry at wide receiver, with Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne joining through free agency. If Harry fails to deliver in training camp, the 2019 first-rounder could be on the way out in some capacity as one of the biggest draft busts of the Belichick era.
At running back, New England has three experienced returners in James White, Damien Harris and Sony Michel as well as a promising rookie in Rhamondre Stevenson. If the Oklahoma product does well enough this summer, Belichick could look to ship out an experienced player to pick up a bit of draft capital.
Harry will be under one of the brightest spotlights during Patriots training camp.
The 32nd overall pick two years ago has failed to deliver on his status as a potential No. 1 wideout in his first two seasons, and his job is under threat for 2021.
Harry has 414 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 21 games. Both totals simply are not good enough for a team that needs its young talent to step up.
With Julian Edelman retired and Damiere Byrd now in Chicago, the Patriots should have an open competition at the top of the depth chart between Agholor, Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Harry.
Harry's problem is he could perform well and still be the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart, which could lead to a low number of targets in the regular season.
Other franchises in need of wideouts could call the Patriots about Harry's availability since he is 23 and on a rookie contract. The inquiring teams may think a change of scenery could do him good to kick-start his NFL career.
New England will not be able to give sufficient snaps to four running backs if they are all healthy.
Damien Harris carried the majority of the load in 2020 with 137 carries. Michel came in second with 79 touches, and the since-departed Rex Burkhead earned 67 carries.
James White only had 35 carries, but his value comes in the passing game, where he had 49 receptions on 62 targets.
Harris is not going anywhere, and White should have a roster spot on the Patriots squad until he does not want it anymore.
That leaves Michel to compete with Stevenson and Brandon Bolden for touches behind Harris in the running back rotation.
Michel is only 26, but he is old in running back years compared to Stevenson, and the Patriots may be more inclined to give the fourth-rounder more carries if he impresses in camp.
Michel's age is significant on the trade market because he could serve as a solid complement to another team's primary back.
Belichick could probably get a mid-to-late-round pick for Michel, and the running back could find a situation that guarantees him more playing time.
Of course, Michel could outplay the competition and remain as the No. 2 ball-carrier behind Harris, but it never hurts to get younger at running back.
Until the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore resolve the defensive back's contract situation, there will be trade speculation hovering over him.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, Gilmore does not hold any ill will toward the Patriots despite his holdout. The 30-year-old is an unrestricted free agent next year.
"He seems to enjoy being a Patriot, is open to sticking around, and this was his least-expensive-but-most-decisive way of sparking more productive contract talks with the team, so he can feel better about being part of New England's present and future," Reiss said.
If the Patriots do not sign him to a new deal, Gilmore should have a wide-open trade market. That could be narrowed by New England's desire to keep him out of the AFC.
The Seattle Seahawks would be a perfect trade partner in the NFC since they need secondary help around Jamal Adams, but for any deal to happen, the price has to be perfect for the Patriots to accept it.
Gilmore is a year removed from a six-interception season, and 2020 was one of the few times that he did not play 16 games in a season.
A shutdown corner should garner significant interest, but the Patriots must determine what price is right for them to do a deal.
New England also has to feel comfortable that its crop of corners can achieve success without Gilmore on the field. It added Jalen Mills in free agency to a group led by J.C. Jackson and Joejuan Williams.
Plenty of things have to happen for a Gilmore deal to go down, but if the Patriots feel like they can't sign him to a new contract, they should look to get something in return for him sooner rather than later.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference