One of the missteps Bill Belichick has made in years past is not being a seller in years when New England was not a contender. His focus remains on winning games, as it always has, so the idea of being a big seller at the deadline will have to come from Team Owner Robert Kraft.
Kraft has already asserted his control before when he instructed Belichick to start listening to his personnel department more after many years of failing to find impact players in the draft. Now it’s time for Kraft to assert his power again.
We rarely see fire sales in the NFL, but there’s value in having a unique strategy in team building. In the same way that Greg Roman’s scheme in San Francisco and Baltimore was advantageous because no other team was running it, New England can gain an advantage by fully leaning into having more draft picks and cap space than most other teams this offseason.
These extra picks will give New England capital it can use to trade up for a new quarterback or impact pass catcher, build depth, trade for veterans, or push back into future seasons.
Here are two defensive players the Patriots need to be shopping at the deadline.
READ MORE: Offensive players who should be traded
Two Defensive Players The Patriots Need To Trade At The Deadline
The second-round pass rusher has been an impressive Patriot in his three-plus years with the team. He’s amassed 17.5 sacks, 11.5 of which came in his breakout season in 2022. He’s demonstrated impressive burst off the line and boasts a top pass rush win rate by PFF.
The downside is he is a designated pass rusher only. Uche has never consistently been able to set the edge in the run game, therefore limiting his overall impact on the game. With Nick Bosa setting the edge market to new heights with his record-breaking extension, we are seeing some second and third- tier edge rushers, like Carolina’s Brian Burns, struggle to sign an extension. The Patriots would be wise to get out in front of this dilemma by moving Uche to a team focused on winning now.
Why They Should Trade Him
The Patriots historically have not paid pass rush-only types and should capitalize on moving off what may be their best trade chip. In no scenario should Uche play out the entire year only to walk in free agency.
Why They Should Keep Him
The Patriots are third in the NFL with 2024 cap space and have very few players worth extending. Not only has Uche shown a valuable skill set, but New England could soon be thin on edge depth.
With free agency often being fool’s gold in the NFL, you can make an argument that signing Uche to an extension, despite his limited skill set, is a good business move. He still plays a premium position, is a known commodity, and would allow New England to focus their efforts and assets on rebuilding the offense.
3rd Round Pick
Matthew Judon has been everything and more than fans could have expected him to be. The former Raven has not only been the best signing of Belichick’s spending splurge in 2021 but he’s also been the best Patriot.
Judon has been the centerpiece of their defense. A pass rusher who Belichick built the scheme around. Yet at 31 years old and now tearing a biceps tendon, it is time to send him to a contender.
Why They Should Trade Him
Moving off of a strong, aging player, should be the move every non-contender should make every year. You have an asset whose value could fall off a cliff the moment his play slips. Exchanging Judon for a draft pick is just good business, even if he’s been amazing for the team.
Why They Keep Trade Him
He’s hurt. A biceps tear is no small injury and while reports suggest he will try and come back this year, the fact he might not make it back, or might not look the same, immensely hurts his value. The best time to sell Judon is in next year’s draft or next year’s trade deadline.
6th Round Pick
Possible Landing Spots For Uche and Judon
The Jaguars are an ascending team. Lawrence is playing excellent football, even if the stats don’t back it up yet. Travis Etienne is having a breakout year, the wide receiver corps is deeper and their linebacker core is making a crucial jump to help this defense play at a high level. Yet their poor pass rush is holding them back.
First overall pick Travon Walker has not developed into this high-end versatile pass rusher Jacksonville envisioned and they could use more juice from this unit.
In the process of keeping Lamar Jackson on the team, the Ravens had to make some out-of-character moves to keep him happy, including pushing cap hits of players like Odell Beckham Jr., into future years. In other words, it’s underrated how important this year is for Baltimore.
Their pass rusher core is weak with David Ojabo coming off a torn Achilles as he will need time to heal and develop. Outside of Ojabo, they are relying on older veterans like Jadaveon Clowney, who is known more for his run defense, and Kyle Van Noy, as their primary rushers.
Los Angeles Rams
The difficulty in massive tear downs like the Rams went through, is you can get stuck where you are incredibly thin at crucial positions like edge rusher, but lack the high draft picks to address it. This is where the Rams find themselves.
After releasing Leonard Floyd last offseason, the Rams lacked any proven edge talent and have gotten by with starters such as Michael Hoecht and Ernest Jones. Trading for Uche allows the Rams to solve a premium problem, without a premium asset.
It Is Time To Evolve
Bill Belichick being stuck in his old ways has been hurting this team for half a decade. The time for patience has long passed. It’s time for the 71-year-old to evolve like he would often do in his peak as a coach, and focus purely on building a better future for this team.
Acquiring draft capital and ensuring a high draft pick this season is the best path forward. If the team is unhappy with the draft pick returns they are being offered, there are multiple clever ways they can look to solve this.
New England could take on extra money from some of these contracts, sell multiple players to one team, or look to simply swap draft picks, from a 5th-rounder to a 4th-rounder for example. These small tweaks could turn a pick that’s normally worth the same as an undrafted free agent, into a meaningful player for when this team is competitive.
If the Patriots remain stagnant at the trade deadline, it will perfectly reflect the state of this team.