The NFL trading deadline is just a little over two weeks away and Bill Belichick has shown in recent seasons that he's not afraid to be pretty active in trade talks at this time of the year. Last season, saw New England ship a second-round pick for receiver Mohamed Sanu. Prior to that, Belichick has been a part of a number of blockbusters including shipping linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in 2016 and agreeing to send quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco in the midst of the 2017 season.
So what will 2020 bring? Well, that brings with it a big question: What will the NFL Trade Deadline look like amid the pandemic?
"It's a good question," Belichick said Thursday when asked if he foresees stagnant player movement similar to the end of training camp. "We'll have to see how much activity there is or isn't. There certainly are a lot of unknowns going forward, not just this year but even in the next year relative to team building and salary cap and so forth. I think that may have everybody with a little less ability to really plan things out the way they want to do them and that may be causing some hesitation, as well. I think you're certainly seeing more players stay with the teams that they're on and teams using those players as depth with the injured reserve rules this year and the practice squad expansion giving teams more of an ability to do that, and I think we're certainly seeing that play out."
That point by Belichick could keep New England closer to the sideline than we've seen in year's past. If they were to make a move, however, linebacker, wide receiver, and tight end are the key areas of need for this club in 2020. Below, you can find some of the more intriguing, higher-end options the Patriots could look at as the Nov. 3 deadline draws closer:
New England has had its eye on Tate for quite a while. The Patriots have tried to acquire the former Pro Bowl receiver in the past, but have never been able to successfully land him in Foxborough. Could that change in 2020? New York is 0-5 to begin the year and Tate doesn't seem like someone who is in their long terms plans as they rebuild with Daniel Jones under center. The receiver carries an $11 million cap hit in 2021, which is something the Giants would certainly like to get out from under. The 32-year-old would instantly become the Patriots' No. 1 receiver and lessen the workload for Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry. Could a third or fourth-round pick get old friend Joe Judge to send the receiver to his former boss? Doesn't hurt to ask.
Ertz's frustration in Philadelphia has been well documented. He wants an extension and it appears like the Eagles are waiting it out. The team does have third-year tight end Dallas Goedert as an easy plug-and-play No. 1 tight end to replace Ertz when he's healthy, so it may make sense for Philly to move on after not being able to get a deal done. If they are looking to deal, the Patriots desperately need some production from the tight end position. Rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene haven't made much of a dent and Ryan Izzo has been solid, but nothing compared to what Ertz is at his height.
One team's draft bust, could be the Patriots' treasure. Reddick has not lived up to his No. 13 overall draft billing for the Cardinals when they took him there in the 2017 NFL Draft. The team declined his fifth-year option, which indicates that they don't see him as a long-term piece. This could be an ideal situation for Bill Belichick and the Patriots to offer a conditional Day 3 pick for Reddick to see if they can tap into the super athletic linebacker's potential. After all, he's only 26 years old and has shown to be pretty versatile along the front seven.
Before we jump into the other news and notes surrounding the Patriots from the previous week, here's how you can watch Sunday's contest with the Denver Broncos:
How to watch
Newton and Gilmore a welcome sight
The Patriots will have both Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore back for their Week 6 matchup with the Denver Broncos after the two both spent time away from the team following positive COVID-19 tests. For Gilmore, he didn't miss a single game due to his positive test after New England's game with Denver was postponed from Week 5. As for Newton, the delay forced him to miss just the Patriots' Week 4 loss to the Chiefs.
"It was great to have all those guys back," receiver N'Keal Harry said of their return on Thursday, via WEEI.com. "They are a big part of this team and they help a lot of us out there so it was great to have them back as well. ... [Newton is] a very vocal guy, he likes to have fun out there. Kind of brings back that mood, that fun kind of mood out there so it's been good."
On top of the morale boost both of these two stars bring, their presence on the field is massive. While New England may have been able to get back without Gilmore for a game or two thanks to their deep secondary, having the Defensive Player of the Year in the fold is never a bad thing. As for Newton, he was looking more and more like the Cam Newton of old in his first year with the Patriots. Getting back to that form will not only increase that chatter about his comeback but also about New England keeping him around beyond 2020.
James Ferentz on reserve/COVID list
While Sunday's game with the Broncos is set to go on as scheduled, the Patriots did place another player -- center James Ferentz -- on the reserve/COVID list on Friday. That explains why New England canceled practice on Friday and worked remotely. This latest positive test not only has New England holding its breath for more shoes to drop, but it does make things much more complicated when they do hit the field.
Including Friday's canceled session, New England has had very little practice time this week as they cycled in players out of the facility out of an abundance of caution, which, of course, is less than ideal when preparing for a game.
As for Ferentz, he got the start at center for the Patriots in Week 4 against the Chiefs and played 75% of the offensive snaps. With him sidelined for this game and David Andrews still on injured reserve, it'll be interesting to see if All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney once again makes the move to center.
Le'Veon Bell to K.C.
When Patrick Mahomes signed his mega-extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, he posted a hype video that ended with the quote, "We're chasing a dynasty." On the base level, it's interpreted that Mahomes is, of course, talking about his Chiefs going on a run of multiple championships after winning their first Super Bowl together last season.
I -- and folks around the New England area -- also see this, however, as Mahomes putting the Patriots dynasty in the crosshairs, ultimately striving to surpass the level of success New England had under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Within that subplot, it appears like Kansas City is already replacing New England in one key area: being the automatic destination for every top-tier free agent.
That was evident on Thursday when Le'Veon Bell signed a one-year deal to join the Chiefs, despite the club already having first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the fold. In the past, a Tom Brady-led Patriots team would have been that slam dunk destination for a free agent of Bell's caliber to sign with and eventually go on a deep postseason run. That title has now been shifted to Kansas City, which is notable as they try to become the first team since the 2003 and 2004 Patriots to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
Damien Harris Part II
As it relates to this Week 6 matchup with the Broncos, Damien Harris is of central focus for me. While you may have forgotten since New England last took the field nearly two weeks ago, Harris performed extremely well in his 2020 debut. The second-year back earned the start out of the gate after coming off of IR and rushed for 100 yards against Kansas City.
"He was impressive in camp and was in good condition, ready to go and was able to put together some solid days of practice," said Bill Belichick this week. "I think that as a coaching staff, we felt that he'd be ready to go Monday night in Kansas City and he was and he ran hard, ran well. So, glad we have him and look forward to having him back out there.''
His development will be extremely important for the offense as New England does not have another back with the home-run hitting ability that Harris possesses and was on full display in Week 4 with his 41-yard rush. If he's able to have a similar day against Denver, the Patriots have a devastatingly lethal running attack with Cam Newton's hand on the steering wheel.