By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NFL does have an actual trade deadline. Bill Belichick seems to be a fan of it. But thanks to new, modern rules, the “real” trade deadline now happens just before the start of the season. Teams are making their final roster cutdowns before Saturday’s deadline, and deals have already started flying.
Now that teams go straight from 90 players to 53, rather than 90 to 75 and then to 53, it’s led to more preseason trades. If two teams have players that they intend to cut, they could instead make a swap. The Patriots and Colts sending quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for receiver Phillip Dorsett a year ago is a recent example of that.
Beyond player-for-player trades, there’s always the possibility that the Patriots trade low draft picks for players they’d like to add to the roster and keep away from free agency. Belichick did that as well last season, when he jettisoned low picks to acquire linebacker Marquis Flowers, defensive end Cassius Marsh, and cornerback Johnson Bademosi just before the start of 2017.
The Patriots are already scanning the league for bubble players that they could snag last-minute via trade, or even free agency. (Definitely not having Wattamelon Rolls.) They’ll almost certainly make at least one lower-level move, and that could potentially come at receiver. Regardless of how real the concerns are with the offense, receiver is without question one of the most shallow positions on the roster. So since Belichick is likely targeting players for potential openings, let’s do the same.
There’s still a chance that Belichick has bigger names like Golden Tate or Randall Cobb on his radar. Maybe he has a surprise trade in store for us, like the Malcom Brown-for-Tate swap that Mike Reiss floated out there earlier this week. But it’s more realistic that they make a move for a cheaper, preferably younger receiver option that would have a good chance of learning/fitting the system and even have an opportunity to stick long-term. Surely a better chance to work out than, say, Dez Bryant. (If I hear his name on the radio one more time…)
So with that in mind, here’s a quick look at five players who could be on the way out from their current teams and could add some value for the Patriots. And perhaps have a chance to become a lightning-in-a-bottle steal down the road.
UPDATE: Austin Carr and Seth Roberts made their respective teams after final cutdowns. So barring a last-minute trade, they won’t be joining the Patriots this season.
Austin Carr, Saints
The most obvious option on this list. Carr spent his first NFL offseason in New England and was productive in his preseason opportunities. He had little-to-no-chance of making the team with last year’s much deeper receiver corps, which included Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. But the former Northwestern receiver did look to have an understanding of the offense and could work out of the slot.
As an honorable mention, Tommylee Lewis is another name from the Saints who has been bandied about. Would they be better options than Riley McCarron or Devin Lucien?
Braxton Miller, Texans
The 2016 third-round pick has yet to establish himself in Houston, and he’s running out of chances. Houston’s WR roster battle appears to be down to Miller or Sammy Coates, but both could make it if Will Fuller and rookie Keke Coutee are injured to start the season. The Patriots passed on a chance to draft Miller when they took Joe Thuney in 2016, but that doesn’t mean they may not be interested in him now.
Miller has been a work in progress on his route-running. But he has size, speed, athleticism, and versatility, and can work the short areas of the field. Also, he’s a converted quarterback – sound familiar?
Seth Roberts, Raiders
Roberts is in a sweet spot. He’s now a veteran of five years, but he’s also in his physical prime at 27 years old. He was on the trading block during the draft, but the Raiders have moved on from both Griff Whalen and Ryan Switzer since then. So Jon Gruden could be trying to find a spot for Roberts. But if he can’t, it wouldn’t be a shock if Belichick gave Gruden a call. Roberts is a smart, tough slot receiver who has had a flair for the dramatic.
He’s the kind of player who wouldn’t necessarily be in demand across the league, but could be a particularly good fit for the Patriots and really elevate his game with Tom Brady throwing him the ball.
Leonte Carroo, Dolphins
Carroo is a different kind of receiver than these other names. He’s more of an outside receiver than a slot guy. But he’s potentially Brady’s kind of outside receiver. He plays physical, fights for the ball, and makes contested catches. He runs a good comeback route and can out-muscle defensive backs in the short areas of the field. He could also contribute on special teams. He caught a lot of screens and slants at – wait for it – Rutgers.
However, injuries and inconsistency have plagued Carroo as he enters his third season in the league. This is the Dolphins, so Carroo would likely have to be cut and sign with the Patriots as a free agent. But he would bring untapped upside to the team and have a good chance of receiving the Brady Boost™ in this offense.
Aldrick Robinson, 49ers
Like Roberts, Robinson has seen some stuff. The 29-year-old is closer to a journeyman-type player, having taken snaps for the Redskins, Ravens, Falcons, and 49ers in six NFL seasons. He was out of the league in 2015. So clearly, Robinson wouldn’t have much long-term upside. But Trent Taylor is pegged as the starting slot receiver for Jimmy G. and the Niners, so Robinson could be on his way out and could potentially be had for a minimal price off the street.
If he can handle Kyle Shanahan’s offense, there’s a chance that Robinson picks up Josh McDaniels and Brady’s system quickly as well.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.