By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
A player hit the trade block on Wednesday. And he could be the latest prime target for the value-hungry Bill Belichick.
That's potentially good news if you're a Patriots fan. Belichick has taken a liking to the trade market in recent years, particularly for players entering the final years of their contracts with the upside to deliver Belichickian value in a Patriots uniform. He hit a grand slam with a swap of low draft picks to get Jason McCourty last year. And while Cordarrelle Patterson was more like a wall-ball single off the Green Monster, Belichick at least proved he could get the most out of him for what he is.
The player in question who's hit the block on Wednesday is Browns edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. GM John Dorsey hopes to convince someone to snatch him off the shelves now that he's acquired Olivier Vernon. The former 32nd overall pick in 2016 hasn't quite lived up to expectations, so the Browns likely have to settle for something much lower than that in a trade.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity for Belichick. He can send the Browns a low draft pick, or even make his patented pick-swap like he did for McCourty and Patterson. Like Danny Shelton, Ogbah obviously had the talent to go early in the draft. No coach in the NFL has a better chance than Belichick to maximize him while he's cheap.
In addition, with these trades the Patriots get the added benefit of doing nothing to affect the league's compensatory pick formula. Thanks to this approach, they've amassed plenty of compensatory picks while creating none for other teams.
The Patriots don't just need an edge rusher, though. They could acquire a receiver, tight end, or defensive tackle the same way. Here's a rundown of players who potentially fit Belichick's profile as a value trade in lieu of free agency this offseason.
Note: There's a chance you're reading this first thing in the morning, and one of these players is already on the move - perhaps even to the Patriots! This list will be updated as it pertains to the names below.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Browns
2019 Salary: $1,351,315
Ogbah has had success as an edge-setter against the run, but he was supposed to become an all-around threat with pass-rushing ability too. That part hasn't quite panned out for Ogbah, who has 12.5 sacks and 29 QB hits in 40 career games. The combination of Belichick and pass rushing coach Joe Kim could unlock that potential, and Ogbah's run-stopping could immediately help fill the Trey Flowers void.
WR Sterling Shepard, Giants
2019 Salary: $1,260,623
It's clear that the Giants are rebuilding, so Shepard is at least worth a phone call from Belichick to New York GM Dave Gettleman. He may prove expensive, because he has had some success - 66 catches for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018 - but Shepard would be a great fit on the Patriots. He runs tight routes, plays well on the inside, eats up the short areas of the field, and exudes competitiveness. He'd be an excellent Cooks-like addition who would represent a marked upgrade to the Pats' receiver corps. He'd be worth it, even if it cost something similar to the Antonio Brown trade.
TE Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
2019 Salary: $7.275 million
Rob Gronkowski's future remains completely up in the air. And even if he's back, the Patriots could use a pass-catching tight end to park right behind him on the depth chart. Rudolph could be a legit red zone threat with Josh McDaniels scheming it up and Tom Brady throwing the ball. The issue is that he's a fan favorite in Minnesota and his agent suggests the Vikings will keep him and maybe extend him, rather than do a trade, restructure, or release. But who knows whether agents are actually telling the truth or not this time of year.
WR Allen Hurns, Cowboys
2019 Salary: $4 million
Hurns played all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2018, but only managed 20 catches for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's a far cry from his productive sophomore season with the Jaguars, when he made 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 scores. And he did a lot of his damage in the slot. Hurns is a big boy at 6-foot-3 and has experience playing both inside and outside. He'd have big potential as an addition to play the "X" or "Z" roles in the Pats offense. Consistency and chemistry with Brady would be the question marks - and he also complained about his role in Dallas, which wouldn't fly here - but there's a chance Hurns wouldn't cost Belichick a ton to pry from Dallas with the chance to unearth a gem.
WR Seth Roberts, Raiders
2019 Salary: $4.45 million
Because Roberts' salary is relatively a bit high, there's a chance he just gets cut. It may only take a seventh for Belichick to get him from the Raiders, no pick-swap necessary. But Roberts has flashed at times as Oakland's slot receiver for the past four seasons, only missing two games in that span. Perhaps the ol' Change of Scenery™ can help Roberts finally break through in a system that would know how to make him work.
TE Jack Doyle, Colts
2019 Salary: $5.15 million
The issue with Doyle is that he underwent offseason hip surgery and may not be ready until the start of training camp. But Eric Ebron blew by him on the Colts depth chart in 2018, which could make him expendable. It would likely take just a pick-swap to acquire the recovering Doyle, who has shown potential as a pass-catcher (80 catches for 690 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2017) and can contribute as a blocker as well. A healthy Doyle would be an upgrade over the departed Dwayne Allen.
DE Noah Spence, Buccaneers
2019 Salary: $1,273,132
Originally drafted 39th overall in 2016 out of Eastern Kentucky, Spence is practically a bust at this point. Though he's dealt with injuries during his career, he hasn't come close to panning out as an edge rusher. However he did flash some playmaking as a rookie with 5.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 3 forced fumbles. Todd Bowles is about to switch the Tampa defense to 3-4, which makes Spence less of a fit. The Patriots and new defensive coordinator Greg Schiano have recently favored 4-3 in base looks, so Spence is a perfect opportunity for Belichick to get an expendable young pass-rusher for next-to-nothing and try to tap into his potential.
DT Jack Crawford, Falcons
2019 Salary: $2.55 million
The veteran interior defender will turn 31 two days after the 2019 NFL season opener. But he may not be an easy get from Atlanta, because he had a solid season as a key piece of the Falcons' defensive line rotation. He can defend the run up the middle, a pressing need for the Pats defense, and contributed as a pass-rusher too with 6 sacks and 9 QB hits. But with Atlanta possibly looking at a long-term deal with franchised DT Grady Jarrett, perhaps that makes Crawford expendable for a bottom-half draft pick or swap.
WR Cameron Meredith, Saints
2019 Salary: $3.4 million
Knee surgery wiped out Meredith's entire 2017 season, and he could only muster six games in his first season for the Saints before they put him on IR in November. For that reason, his $3.4 million salary seems relatively steep and could wind up getting him cut. But that's why Belichick could easily swing a cheap pick-swap in a later draft to make his second receiver trade in three years with New Orleans. Meredith is more of an outside receiver and has barely flashed, but he's still just 26 and has great size at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds. He seems like a Patriots kind of flyer.
TE Nick Vannett, Seahawks
2019 Salary: $736,000
The Seahawks have Ed Dickson signed through 2020, and 2018 fourth-round pick Will Dissly signed through 2021. That could make Vannett and his meager salary expendable this offseason. Though Dissly is recovering from a torn patellar tendon that cut his rookie season short, he'll be counted on as a key piece while Vannett is no guarantee to make the Seahawks in 2019. The latter made plays as a red zone target in Dissly's absence, which could make him an attractive value piece for the Patriots to get in a low-level trade.
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 [email protected].