The New England Patriots may have to pursue a new franchise quarterback this offseason, but regardless of what happens with Tom Brady, they are going to try to improve the offensive weapons around their starting signal caller.
According to Albert Breer of SI.com, the Patriots are "sniffing around the trade market for receivers and tight ends." As Breer says, this isn't unusual, but it is noteworthy concerning Brady's plight and how he would like to play with better weapons around him as he inches closer to retirement. Last year, the Patriots tried to draft young wideouts, signed Antonio Brown and even traded for Mohamed Sanu in the middle of the season, but no one ever developed into that star weapon that could make Rob Gronkowski's absence less noticeable.
There are some intriguing free agents hitting the open market this offseason -- which the Patriots will definitely keep tabs on -- but apparently trading for a proven star already under contract with a different team is also in the cards. Let's take a look at five trade targets the Patriots could pursue over the next few months.
It wasn't long ago when the Cleveland Browns made the big move to acquire Beckham and we were declaring them the 2020 Super Bowl champions. Instead of hoisting the Lombardi, the Browns went 6-10, got first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens fired and Beckham was reportedly telling other players and teams to The Patriots now have a chance to "go get him," and they should at least reach out to the Browns to see what the asking price would be. Beckham recorded 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 -- really not that bad of a season. In every year he has played double-digit games in his career, Beckham has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards, and we remember how effective he was with the New York Giants. Kevin Stefanski and the Browns definitely consider Beckham to be part of their plans in 2020, but again, if you want to persuade Brady to stay, landing a star like Beckham would do wonders for your cause.
Jones turns 30 this offseason, but he's coming off of one of the best seasons in his NFL career. In 13 games, Jones caught 62 passes for 779 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite missing three games due to injury, only two other receivers caught more touchdowns than him in 2019 -- and one was on his own team in Kenny Golladay! Jones really has been one of the better wideouts over the past few seasons but has been wasting away with the Detroit Lions. He's proven, experienced and talented -- this is someone Bill Belichick could use to woo Brady back to New England and also immediately make this offense better.
Everyone knows about Keenan Allen when it comes to the Los Angeles Chargers' receiving corps, but if you've watched this team over the past few years, you understand that Williams is an emerging star in this league. While he caught just two touchdowns in 2019 after recording 10 in 2018, he set career highs with 49 receptions and 1,001 receiving yards. The Chargers are going through a bit of a rebuild, and have already announced that Philip Rivers will not be on roster next season. I'd call the Chargers to see if we could strike a deal and then turn Williams into the NFL's next star wideout. He's young, athletic and ready for a big opportunity.
Let's hit a couple of tight ends. I think there are some interesting prospects in free agency such as Austin Hooper, but if we are going to go the trade route, the Patriots will want someone who is both proven and also someone they could potentially get for a low price. Eifert has long been regarded as one of the better tight ends in the league, but he doesn't grab many headlines with the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite the fact that they were the worst team in the league last year, Eifert played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career and caught 43 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns. After making 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015, many thought he was on his way to becoming the best tight end in the NFL, but the Bengals fell apart and Eifert also had to deal with several injuries. Zac Taylor is in the midst of a rebuild and would probably be interested in some draft capital, plus the Patriots clearly missed Gronkowski last year. Eiftert is a veteran who turns 30 next season and clearly still has some tread left on the tires. If you can get him cheap, it could end up being an incredible move for the Patriots.
The former No. 19 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is coming off of a disappointing season, where he caught 34 passes for 459 yards and one touchdown. He struggled with drops and was benched by head coach Bruce Arians on several occasions. There have been times, however, where Howard appeared to be on his way to becoming the best tight end in the league. He possesses a unique combination of size and speed, comes from University of Alabama championship pedigree and is only 25-years-old. The Patriots should pursue Howard, because he still could become one of the best tight ends in the NFL.