It only took five weeks, but the first NFL coach has been fired with the Carolina Panthers getting rid of Matt Rhule. As such, the attention immediately turns to which players on the Panthers could be traded as they go through a rebuild and according to SI.com’s Albert Breer, teams have started to call. If the Panthers are willing to listen to overtures, the Patriots should give them a call regarding wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Although only 25 years old, Moore is already in his fifth NFL season and is one of the better wide receivers in the league. In the past three seasons, he has averaged 82 receptions, 1,175 yards and four touchdowns and the Panthers rewarded him with a three-year, $61.9 million extension in March. The fact that Moore has been able to put up huge numbers despite playing with subpar quarterbacks and in an offense where running back Christian McCaffrey gets a lot of touches, speaks volumes to his ability. He would give the Patriots a sure-fire top receiver they have not had since Brandin Cooks in 2017. Prior to their matchup last season, Bill Belichick labeled Moore as “explosive” and “really a good receiver”.
So far in 2022, the Patriots’ passing offense has struggled to gain traction, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL. Part of that can be traced to the fact that they have started three quarterbacks and part of that can be that they do not have a game breaking receiver. Jakobi Meyers is always reliable but is more of a slot/possession receiver. Nelson Agholor has had turnover issues and is now dealing with a hamstring which forced him to only see seven snaps on Sunday. Kendrick Bourne has been underutilized all season. DeVante Parker had one big game but has been otherwise quiet and rookie Tyquan Thornton is working his way into the rotation after missing time with a broken collarbone. They could desperately use a receiver of Moore’s caliber.
Offensively, Moore would be a good fit as he is a proven commodity and excels in areas where the Patriots need help at receiver as he finished ninth in air yards and 11th in yards after the catch last year, according to Next Gen Stats. But how would he fit financially? Especially long term as that extension would tie the Patriots to Moore for a few more years.
Trading for Moore this season wouldn’t be a problem as he is on the final year of his rookie deal which pays him $1,035,000. Teams that trade for Moore would be on the hook for roughly $730,000 for the remainder of the year, or $548,000 by the November 1st trade deadline. As of now, the Patriots have roughly $3.2 million in cap space according to cap aficionado Miguel Benzan, meaning that they could definitely afford to take on Moore’s contract for the rest of the year.
What about the following years? Since the Panthers are already on the hook for the guaranteed money, the Patriots would be left with the base salary and cap hits for the next three years which would not be cheap. According to spotrac.com, Moore has the following cap hits, 2023: $20.2 million, 2024: $16.1 million, 2025: $16.1 million. The good news is the Patriots are estimated to have about $63 million in cap space next year, according to Over the Cap so they could definitely make it work financially with Moore.
The other reason to make the move is that currently the Patriots only have three receivers under contract for 2023: Bourne, Parker and Thornton. While it may be a priority to re-sign Meyers in free agency, I do not think he will command a contract that breaks the bank. The Patriots could also either trade or release Bourne to save more money.
The Patriots have a chance to pick up a #1 receiver and have the cap flexibility to make it work. It’s time for GM Belichick to go make a trade.