Belichick’s wide receiver trades seem to come in waves. He’s picked up six receivers over the previous four years through trades. However, he hasn’t traded for a receiver during the offseason since 2018.
If Bill Belichick can pull off this move, it would be the 14th time he’s acquired a wide receiver via trade since joining the Patriots in 2000. His track record in this area is a sight to behold – there are some tremendous hits, as well as regrettable swings and misses.
Which moves were the biggest booms, and which were the biggest busts? Here’s a look back at all 13 wide receivers Bill Belichick has traded for in his time with the Patriots.
Note: Overall pick values are only given for picks where the exact spot was known at the time of the trade, not for future picks.
- Isaiah Ford
- 2022 seventh-round pick
Ford’s acquisition is among the less notable trades on this list. Picked up at the 2020 deadline for a conditional draft pick, he spent about a month on the Patriots roster without playing a game. He was eventually waived, and ended up back in Miami. Not great, but not a monumental failure either since Belichick didn’t give up much to get him.
- Mohamed Sanu
- 2020 second-round pick
With Antonio Brown only lasting one game before getting cut, the Patriots needed another spark for their offense. Sanu and Emmanuel Sanders were the top two targets available at the 2019 deadline. Belichick ended up getting Sanu, likely due in part to the fact that he had an extra year of tenure on his contract.
In the end, that extra year wouldn’t end up mattering. Sanu’s Patriots debut was fantastic (10 catches, 81 yards, TD) but he sprained his ankle returning a punt the next week, an injury that limited him for the rest of the season. Despite speculation that he’d be able to bounce back once healthy, Sanu was released at the end of training camp.
Atlanta ended up using that second-round pick as the centerpiece to acquire tight end Hayden Hurst. The pick was eventually used by the Ravens on running back J.K. Dobbins.
- Josh Gordon
- 2019 seventh-round pick
- 2019 fifth-round pick
The Patriots traded for Josh Gordon just two weeks into the 2018 season. Despite the fact that he hadn’t played regularly due to suspensions and injuries over the previous four seasons, Gordon was an immediate boost to the Patriots’ offense, catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games that season. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be with the team down the stretch, as he was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy.
Gordon was reinstated before the 2019 season, and early on was a solid contributor once again. This time it was injuries that caught up with him - he was placed on IR and eventually waived in late October.
With the fifth-round pick they got in return the Browns took kicker Austin Seibert, who was released one game into his second season with the team. Through a series of trades, the seventh-round pick the Patriots received ended up helping them acquire the selections eventually used on Byron Cowart and All-Pro punter Jake Bailey.
- Cordarelle Patterson
- 2018 sixth-round pick (210th overall)
- 2018 fifth-round pick (159th overall)
Cordarelle Patterson was acquired via a pick-swap trade in March of 2018. The versatile receiver and kick return specialist was coming off of a down season and was on the final year of his contract, which led to the low asking price.
Patterson turned things around in New England. He caught 21 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns in a reserve receiver role, and averaged nearly 30 yards a return on kickoffs, including a touchdown. Perhaps his biggest contribution came as a running back after the team dealt with injuries at the position. He carried the ball 42 times for 228 yards and a touchdown, leading the team as he averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
The pick Belichick used to trade for Patterson was acquired just a few days before, in another pick-swap deal that brought in Danny Shelton. It was used by the Raiders to trade up and draft defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. The Patriots used the sixth-round pick they got back to draft Braxton Berrios.
- Phillip Dorsett
- Jacoby Brissett
This is the only player-for-player trade on this list. The Patriots drafted Jacoby Brissett in 2016, and he served as Jimmy Garoppolo’s backup (and eventually the starter) while Tom Brady was suspended. Heading into 2017, the Patriots weren’t going to keep three quarterbacks and the NC State product was the odd man out.
Belichick was able to get tremendous value for Brissett in Dorsett, who had been a first round pick just two years earlier. During his three-year stint in New England Dorsett played more games than any other Patriots receiver, and was second to Julian Edelman in catches by a wideout in that span.
It ended up being a win-win trade. Brissett started 30 games for the Colts, and the team ended up giving him a sizable second contract when his rookie deal expired.
- Brandin Cooks
- 2017 fourth-round pick (118th overall)
- 2017 first-round pick (32nd overall)
- 2017 third-round pick (103rd overall)
Despite coming off a Super Bowl win, the Patriots got aggressive to start the 2017 offseason. The team traded their first-round pick to the Saints for 24-year-old Brandin Cooks, who had been an 1,100 yard receiver in each of the past two seasons.
Cooks came to New England and made an immediate difference. He caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, putting together arguably the best season by a Patriots non-slot receiver since Randy Moss. His performance helped Tom Brady capture his third MVP.
With one year left on his deal, the Patriots opted to trade Cooks instead of extending him. They were able to get a first-round pick in return, which they later used on Isaiah Wynn. The fourth-round pick they got back ended up being taken away by the league due to the Deflategate saga. Meanwhile, the Saints hit on both picks they received from the Patriots, taking Ryan Ramczyk and Trey Hendrickson.
- Keyshawn Martin
- 2016 sixth-round pick
- 2016 fifth-round pick
Injuries took their toll on the Patriots’ wide receivers early in the 2015 season. After one week, the team had just three available. In order to try and remedy the situation, Belichick traded for Keyshawn Martin.
Martin ended up catching 24 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns in eight games with the Patriots. Although he signed a contract extension at the end of the season, he was released during roster cuts the following year.
With the pick they got back, the Texans took defensive tackle D.J. Reader. The Patriots used their sixth as part of a deal to trade up and get Deatrich Wise.
- Greg Salas
- 2015 seventh-round pick
Belichick likes to make deals during roster cut downs, and landed Salas for tremendous value - the Rams had drafted him in the fourth round just a year earlier. He ended up bouncing between the main roster and practice squad, but only appeared in one game and didn't record a target. The Eagles would eventually claim him off waivers before the end of the season.
The pick the Rams got back was used in a massive trade that saw them swap first-rounders with the Atlanta Falcons.
- Chad Johnson (then Ochocinco)
- 2012 fifth-round pick
- 2013 sixth-round pick
Chad Ochocinco was coming off of a down year when Belichick pulled the trigger on this trade as training camp began in 2011. The previous season, the Patriots had the highest-scoring offense in football, and the idea was Ochocinco would be a stronger contributor in a more limited role than he had in Cincinnati.
That plan never came to fruition, as the 33-year-old struggled with the Patriots offense. He ended up with just 15 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown, all career lows. Despite restructuring his contract into a three-year extension at the time of the trade, Ochocinco was released following the season.
Meanwhile, the Bengals used that fifth round pick to take another receiver - Marvin Jones. Jones became a solid contributor for the Bengals, and started 28 games over his final two seasons in Cincinnati before leaving in free agency for Detroit, where he would have a 1,000 yard season. The next year, the team took another receiver, Cobi Hamilton, in the sixth round.
- Deion Branch
- 2011 fourth-round pick
After moving on from Randy Moss (more on him in a bit) during the 2010 season, the Patriots had a hole at wide receiver. Belichick used this as a chance to bring back Deion Branch, who had gotten off to a slow start in Seattle.
Upon returning, Branch picked right up where he left off when a holdout ended his first Patriots tenure five years earlier. In the 11 games after the trade, he caught 48 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns - which was on-par with his full-season numbers in his four years in Seattle. He followed that up with 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 at the age of 32.
While Branch found renewed success in New England, the trade worked out for Seattle as well. They’d use that fourth round pick future Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright.
- Randy Moss
- 2007 fourth-round pick (110th overall)
This is it. The gem, the crown jewel of wide receiver trades. Because Randy Moss was unhappy in Oakland, Belichick was able to get him from Lane Kiffin and the Raiders for the price of a fourth-round pick during that year’s NFL Draft.
The rest, as they say, is history. Moss and the Patriots offense as a whole set numerous records in a near-perfect season his first year in New England. Even though he was with the Patriots for only three-and-a-half years, one of which was without Tom Brady, he caught 50 touchdowns, 13 more than the next closest receiver (Wes Welker) in the Belichick era.
As for the Raiders, they used the pick they got back on cornerback John Bowie. Bowie went on to record two career tackles in five career NFL games.
- Wes Welker
- 2007 second-round pick (60th overall)
- 2007 seventh-round pick (238th overall)
The Wes Welker situation is slightly different, as Welker was a restricted free agent during the 2007 offseason. Belichick worked around the RFA framework, giving up a second and seventh round pick for the 26-year-old receiver.
This was somewhat of a risk at the time. Welker had proven himself as a returner, but hadn’t yet been used as a featured receiver by the Dolphins. The gamble paid off, and Welker caught at least 110 passes in five of his six seasons in New England, as a key piece in one of the most dominant offenses in NFL history.
As for the Dolphins, they used their picks on center Samson Satele and defensive end Abraham Wright. Satele was an immediate starter, and played 48 games for Miami over three years. Wright spent his rookie year on IR before being released, and never made it back to the NFL.
- Doug Gabriel
- 2007 fifth-round pick
It took six years for Belichick to make his first wide receiver trade, and the circumstances somewhat forced his hand into doing so. After losing David Givens in free agency, and with Deion Branch holding out, the Patriots found themselves needing a receiver as training camp ended in 2006. Belichick ended up acquiring Doug Gabriel during roster cutdowns to add depth at the position.
Gabriel’s Patriots career started out with a bang - he caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in a Week 3 loss to the Denver Broncos. However, the team signed Jabar Gaffney as a free agent in October, which led to Gabriel playing less and less as the season went on. He was eventually released in December, and signed back with the Raiders.
With that fifth-round pick, the Raiders took safety Eric Frampton. The Raiders cut Frampton out of camp, but he ended up finding success elsewhere. He lasted seven years in the NFL, playing in 91 games.
Will Julio Jones end up on this list before the offseason is over? We’re inching closer and closer to an answer – the window for the Falcons to trade him and open up salary cap space begins on June 1.
Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.