FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In four of the last five years, the New England Patriots have acquired a player via trade during the regular season. Bill Belichick has already been busy this year, dealing with the Tennessee Titans for linebacker Akeem Ayers last Tuesday, so is there more wheeling and dealing to be done?
We'll have our answer today, as the trade deadline has arrived (4 p.m. ET).
Belichick is always looking for ways to improve his team, but to do so, he'll either have to give up a future draft pick (the Patriots are well-stocked) or take on a bloated salary (e.g. last year with defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga).
Similar to last year, the area that could use the biggest boost is the defensive line. Another linebacker could also help.
So if there's a move, those are the areas we'd push our chips toward -- more so than a wide receiver or running back -- with the only caveat being unless an unexpected opportunity presented itself at a surprisingly low cost (translation: probably not receiver Vincent Jackson).
Last year's Sopoaga trade serves as a reminder of how a trade can look good on paper (adding a run-stuffing presence) but not unfold that way because there is no sure-fire way to measure how a player will adapt to the team's system. Sopoaga struggled in that area, while the Patriots caught a break with receiver Deion Branch in 2010 because he had a prior background with the team and tremendous recall, which allowed him to contribute immediately. The 2012 trade for cornerback Aqib Talib was also a difference-maker. As for this year, Ayers had a promising debut on Sunday.
But because of the number of injuries in football, and how depth is often elusive, most teams aren't in position to deal a talented player. It either has to be someone who has fallen out of favor with their club or has a high salary that a team would like move on from. There usually aren't big-time difference-makers available at a reasonable cost.
Thus, it wasn't a surprise to hear Bill Belichick describe the general state of trade talks this way on Monday: "I wouldn’t say it’s all that hectic right now."