Patriots should jump on the chance to trade for Pro Bowl LB
It’s not often that any team in the NFL, never mind the Patriots, gets the chance to trade for a Pro Bowl player before the draft. However, that appears to be the current situation with Buccaneers linebacker Devin White, who reportedly formally requested a trade earlier this week.
At just 25 years old, he has already earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors before playing his best football. As he’s set to enter his fifth season in Tampa, who picked up his fifth-year option this year, Jenna Laine of ESPN has reported that White has become increasingly frustrated with the team, with some sources claiming it is rooted in failed negotiations for a new contract.
Although the team has said they have no plans to trade the stud linebacker, a resolution will unlikely be found if history has told us anything about players demanding a trade.
If they are forced to trade White, the Patriots should make the call immediately.
Would Devin White be a good fit in New England?
White is versatile enough to play sideline-to-sideline on the defensive line, a quality Belichick is known for loving, while also playing with a physicality that would undoubtedly be a plus to the players already on the team.
He would add a much-needed speed to the linebacker group and become an integral piece to the Patriots’ pass rush, led by Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, which has been an increasingly weaker area when facing mobile quarterbacks.
Then there’s the experience and leadership he would bring to the locker room, as he was a massive part of the Super Bowl LV win in 2020, totaling 12 combined tackles, two tackles for a loss, and an interception.
With the Patriots focusing so much on improving their offense, adding White would immediately bring back the elite Belichick defenses of old.
During his four-year career, he has totaled 483 combined tackles, 35 tackles for a loss, 55 quarterback hits, one interception, six forced fumbles with nine fumble recoveries returned for 145 yards and two touchdowns, all while also tacking on 20.5 sacks.
What would the Patriots have to do to acquire him?
As the team currently stands, they currently have over $12 million in cap space available two weeks before the draft. That’s enough to cover White’s 2023 salary of $11.7 million but wouldn’t leave them much room to sign all their draft picks. It also wouldn’t allow them to pay White more if that is indeed part of his gripe with Tampa.
But as there always is, there are ways to make it work.
The simplest solution would be to restructure Matthew Judon’s contract. By doing so, they could clear around $5.2 million in space, opening the door for more money to come White’s way.
And funny enough, the Patriots’ king of sacks may be open to the idea already, as he’s been working his Twitter recruiting skills to get White to Foxboro already.
In regards to what Belichick would have to be willing to give up? That remains a mystery at this point.
Considering the tremendous talent the Bucs would give up, they would likely demand a hefty return. White is a former first-round pick, selected fifth overall in the 2019 draft, and has accumulated an impressive resume in just four years of being in the NFL. However, the kind of impact he has brought to the Bucs since arriving is not easily found, which would presumably make Jason Licht want as much as possible in return.
To compare this scenario to another recent situation of a fifth-year player demanding a trade, we could look at the Roquan Smith deal from last season. White is in nearly an identical situation that Smith was, but the Bears were much more inclined to grant the trade request given the current rebuilding process they are working through.
Smith was traded to the Ravens for a second and fifth-round pick in 2023 and signed a five-year contract extension at the end of the season to make him the highest-paid linebacker in the league.
White is reportedly seeking a similar contract, wanting $18-20 million a season. And ask scary as that sounds at this moment, the Patriots are projected to have over $141 million in cap space in 2024, allowing them to bust open the wallet for a potentially game-changing player to add to their solid defense.
With the contract sorted out, New England also has the draft capital for 2023 to make it happen. They have eleven total picks, three in the top 100 and three in round four. So if they could pull off the trade by giving up a third-rounder, or maybe a second if they really want him, then there’s no reason not to exasperate all options to acquire White.