Hannable: Feels like Patriots could swing semi-big trade for wide receiver

Ryan Hannable
March 12, 2019 - 11:05 pm

It’s been said things tend to happen in threes.

Early Sunday morning, Antonio Brown was traded from the Steelers to the Raiders, and then Tuesday night, Odell Beckham Jr. was traded from the Giants to the Browns.

So, what star wide receiver is next? 

That’s to be determined, but do not be surprised if the Patriots swing a trade for one in the coming days as free agency officially kicks off Wednesday at 4 p.m., although much of the action has already taken place during the legal tampering period.

The Patriots are clearly in the market for receivers, as the only player who finished the 2018 season on the active roster that is back in 2019 is Julian Edelman. But, because of the underwhelming free agent class, the majority of top targets have already been signed by other teams.

As of early Wednesday, the top names left available are Golden Tate and Randall Cobb, although it’s likely their price could be too much for New England to go. And even if the Patriots were to add a receiver via free agency, it’s not like they need just one. They need multiple.

This is why we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Patriots swing a deal for a wide receiver. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, either.

Two years ago, on the Friday night of free agency week, the Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks. They also have the ammunition to do it again, as with 12 draft picks overall, and six in the top 101, they have what it takes to swing a deal for really whoever were to become available.

That’s the tricky part — it’s not like the Patriots can pick and choose who they want. It needs to be the right situation for whatever team is willing to part ways with a player, and also be a player the Patriots want.

What first comes to mind is receivers entering contract years where teams know they won’t be able to re-sign them, so they get something now instead of a compensatory pick in 2021. Wide outs who potentially fit that criteria and could be targeted by New England are A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders, Nelson Agholor, Sterling Shepard and Tyler Boyd. The 2021 free agent class should also be looked at, as Cooks had two years left on his deal when he was traded to New England. Here are some names there: Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, John Ross, Cooper Kupp, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills.

These names are certainly better than the ones available via free agency, and no team has traded more than the Patriots. It makes too much sense not to happen.

Ideally, they would trade for a player who is entering the prime of his career, as with Edelman turning 33 years old, getting younger at the position is a top priority. The organization typically doesn’t draft receivers high, so that is even more reason to try and swing a trade for a young wide out just starting to make a name for himself.

For what it’s worth, under Bill Belichick the Patriots haven't drafted a receiver higher than No. 36  overall (Chad Jackson, 2006). Additionally, they haven't picked one in the top 100 since Aaron Dobson went No. 59 in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, the Patriots have been extremely quiet during the two-day legal tampering period, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone — they always are. They use that time to devise a plan for the second and third wave of signings where they do the bulk of their damage.

And that damage this year could very well be a trading for a receiver.

Related: Willie McGinest offers interesting Rob Gronkowski theory where he retires, but decides to play in middle of 2019 season