The NFL trade deadline of Oct. 29 is rapidly barreling toward the 32 teams and their front offices, and the New England Patriots have never been shy about jumping into the fray, if not leading the charge altogether. This time around, despite carrying an undefeated record of 6-0 ahead of their Week 7 clash with the New York Jets, they aren't perfect, and as such would like to tighten up at least one area of their team.
There are rumors head coach Bill Belichick is eyeing another receiving target or two, which would add to a top-5 passing attack led by Julian Edelman and, to a lesser but still solid degree, Josh Gordon. The problem for the Patriots is their third-best receiver is statistically a running back, namely James White, which is not ideal.
This has reportedly led them to inquire with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about the availability of tight end O.J. Howard ahead of the trade deadline, per Albert Breer of SI.com, who rebuffed the Patriots efforts'. Still looking for someone to at least come close to filling the shoes vacated by Rob Gronkowski, who has officially , that might clearly not be 38-year-old Benjamin Watson -- who is returning to football from a brief retirement, followed by signing with the Patriots only to then be suspended four games for violation of the league's PED policy.
He was then released by the Patriots when his suspension was complete, only to be re-signed by the team, giving further indication of how badly they're looking to shore up the position. Watson also had only four starts for the New Orleans Saints in 2018, registering only 400 yards in 16 active games with two touchdowns.
In other words, yes, the Patriots will keep looking despite Watson's return.
As far as wideouts go, their need to feed Brady another weapon could lead them to call John Elway in Denver to see what the asking price of Pro Bowl wideout Emmanuel Sanders is. It's expected the Broncos will look to deal Sanders, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, with the Patriots being a possible suitor for his services. With there likely to be more competition in that race -- a Philadelphia Eagles team currently displeased with Nelson Agholor comes to mind -- the asking price for Sanders could inch higher by the day.
The 32-year-old has produced despite being a part of the sixth-worst passing offense in the NFL, and his 367 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns are currently equal or better than the two best wideouts on the Patriots roster, despite having Joe Flacco as a quarterback and not Tom Brady.
Currently in the final year of his contract, Sanders is owed $6.03 million in remaining base salary this season, and he might be more than willing to sign an extension to remain with the winning Patriots after dredging through trenches of a hapless Broncos team for the last several seasons. It makes sense both would be interested in each other, but there are obvious hurdles to clear first.
One such obstacle would be attempting to woo Elway into dealing a high-caliber weapon to an AFC opponent poised to continue their dominance within the conference both now and in the immediate future, but if the Broncos feel they're mostly out of the playoff fight anyway this season, landing a solid pick in exchange for Sanders might be enough to overlook the risk of an interconference trade. It's not like they haven't done it before, mind you, having basically sent Sanders' former teammate Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans last year in exchange for a fourth-round pick.
In a bit of a football plot twist, the Texans ended up releasing Thomas in 2019 and he was then signed to the Patriots -- who traded him to the same Jets they're set to play on Monday Night Football.
The Patriots' decision to move Thomas was largely fueled by the return of Gordon and the signing of Antonio Brown, but the latter was released two weeks later due to a maelstrom of off-the-field issues, and Bill Belichick likely regrets having sent Thomas away, although they knew the risks with Brown -- or at least most of them. They could rectify that error by convincing the Broncos to deal Sanders to them, but the price might not be as cheap as a fourth-round pick alone.
It's something they'll at least consider, though, but they don't have much time to act if Sanders is who they want.