The NFL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Patriots were surprisingly quiet. Head coach Bill Belichick typically uses the first portion of the season to get a sense of where his team is at and where they might have holes. Sometimes, that leads to the Patriots trading for guys like Josh Gordon and Mohamed Sanu. Other times, it leads them to trade away guys like Michael Bennett and Stephon Gilmore.
With the Patriots at 4-4, not making a move seems to signal that Belichick likes where his team is at and thinks that they can possibly make a run during the second half of the season. However, during his press conference on Wednesday, Belichick didn’t close the door on any future roster moves.
"“We’re always looking to improve. It would be hard for me to say there wouldn’t be any roster changes between now and the end of the year, I think that would be a stretch. “"
The Patriots can’t make any trades so what exactly would any roster changes look like? The easiest changes would be ones like they made last week where they activate players off of Injured Reserve or practice squad guys up and down. Some candidates to come off of IR include WR/RB Ty Montgomery and WR Kristian Wilkerson.
We’ve seen the Patriots bring a number of guys up from the practice squad including Marcus Cannon (now on 53-man roster), Jamie Collins, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Bill Murray and Kody Russey. Some of them, as well as guys like JJ Taylor, Matt Sokol and Tre Nixon, could come up again.
The other avenue the Patriots could take is signing current free agents, especially if they suffer injuries at key positions or need to fill a hole at an underperforming position. The current group of receivers currently have injuries (DeVante Parker) and ineffectiveness (Nelson Agholor), leaving a void in the passing game. It’s been reported that the Patriots have done their due diligence on free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, could he be a fit for the stretch run? I imagine he’d like to join a contender like he did last year when he joined the Rams, but you never know.
Other areas of concern remain the offensive line and the run defense. Along the offensive line, current free agents include Daryl Williams, Eric Fisher and Matt Paradis, who could be a good addition if David Andrews misses an extended period of time with his concussion. Backup James Ferentz is well-liked within the organization but had a brutal first start on Sunday, getting beat for two sacks.
For the run defense, the Patriots have already brought back Jamie Collins, could they lure Dont’a Hightower back for the stretch run? The Patriots made an effort to get younger and faster this season so a move to bring Hightower back would fly in the face of that, but the team still has his locker intact at Gillette Stadium. Other run stuffing possibilities, especially with injuries to Christian Barmore, include Sheldon Richardson, and former Patriots Malcolm Brown and Adam Butler.
The only issue facing the Patriots with signing any of these free agents is their salary cap situation. Cap aficionado Miguel Benzan (@patscap), currently has the team with a little over $1.8 million in cap space. That might not be enough to sign someone like Beckham.