Bill Belichick, Patriots always bear watching at NFL's trade deadline

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick loves to trade, and the NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday.

This combination adds a compelling subplot surrounding the 5-2 New England Patriots, who have won four games in a row and are preparing to visit the Buffalo Bills on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

The phones, as usual, are ringing at Patriots headquarters.

“A trade is a two-way street, so you have to have a trade partner. But I would say, in our case, probably the other 31 teams -- maybe excluding the ones in our division because we’re probably not going to deal with them -- I think they know we’re willing to trade,” Belichick said earlier this week on sports radio WEEI.

“And so if they have a player that for whatever reason they want to trade, in all honesty, usually we get a call because we’re a team that trades. I’m not saying we’d make a lot of trades, but if the situation is right, we’d certainly consider it. We’ve made our share.”

Some of those have added players to the roster, such as linebackers Kyle Van Noy (2016), Jonathan Casillas (2014) and Akeem Ayers (2014), defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga (2013) and cornerback Aqib Talib (2012).

But another point Belichick made in his radio interview is that the Patriots haven’t been afraid to trade players away despite their position as one of the top teams in the AFC, with linebacker Jamie Collins (2016), tight end A.J. Derby (2016) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (2018) recent examples of that approach.

So that is why Belichick said every trade possibility is evaluated individually, because each has its own unique dynamic. Sometimes those possibilities are foreshadowed weeks in advance.

"Certainly we’ve heard from teams that have said, 'Hey, would you be interested in so and so? We’re not ready to do anything now, but maybe when we get closer to the deadline, let’s see how depth is,'" Belichick said on WEEI.

Other times, he said, the Patriots will call teams and propose something they might have otherwise not considered, but could be motivated by the team’s interest and willingness to deal.

So that’s why Belichick said he “wouldn’t rule anything out” at this point.

As for areas the Patriots might be most interested in pursuing, running back, defensive tackle and linebacker are three that figure to be highest on the list.

With rookie running back Sony Michel (knee) banged up, the club had practice squad rusher Kenneth Farrow taking significant snaps at Wednesday’s practice. The only other healthy running backs on the roster are James White and Kenjon Barner.

While the Patriots could potentially use Farrow as a bridge until Michel returns -- while also factoring in the potential return of Rex Burkhead in early December as a designated-to-return-from-IR player -- it makes sense to think they’d also explore trade possibilities at the position.

As for the defense, Belichick might not have the same urgency as others, with a belief that the answers are in-house.

“We gave up seven points a couple weeks ago against Miami. Hopefully we have some more of those games in us,” he said on WEEI. “I think we can play good defense. I think we can play better than we’ve played.”

Still, if a front-seven defender is made available in a cost-efficient deal -- similar to when the team acquired Van Noy, Casillas and Ayers -- the Patriots have the flexibility to make it happen after restructuring cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s contract to create cap space.