A 2023 Patriots season that originally began with a lot promise has already managed to backside out earlier than we’ve even hit Halloween.
For all the discuss of Invoice O’Brien’s efforts to revive a stagnant offense, Mac Jones’ about-face as a franchise QB, and the continued strides of a stout protection, most Patriots followers have already turned their consideration to first-round mock drafts in quest of hope for the long run.
And if the Patriots wish to speed up an already daunting endeavor on the subject of transforming a damaged roster, Invoice Belichick and his workers would possibly want to just accept their standing as sellers on the upcoming NFL commerce deadline in an effort to recoup extra belongings.
New England has two extra video games on its docket earlier than the commerce deadline arrives on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m.
And with these two matchups set in opposition to imposing AFC East opponents within the Payments and Dolphins, there stands a really actual probability that New England will enter that pivotal juncture of the season with an unpleasant 1-7 file.
So if Belichick and Co. do choose to punt on this season and cargo up on draft capital and different controllable items for the long run, who might the Patriots doubtlessly transfer within the weeks forward?
Let’s take a look at some viable candidates.
LB Josh Uche
In what might be a recurring development on this listing, the Patriots might choose to half methods with Uche earlier than he instructions the next payout this upcoming offseason as a UFA.
Even earlier than New England’s pass-rushing efforts dried up following the lack of Matt Judon to a biceps damage, the long run for Uche in New England was murky at finest — given the shortage of tangible progress made between Uche, his representatives, and the Patriots on a possible new deal.
Now, with New England mired on the backside of the NFL standings, the Patriots might resolve to maneuver Uche for a excessive draft choose fairly than dole out a hefty new deal for the pass-rusher. Uche had a breakout season in 2022 with 11.5 sacks — all of which got here in his last 10 video games of the yr.
Regardless of Uche’s expertise, the Michigan product has been coping with a number of accidents which have hampered his manufacturing, whereas the lack of Judon has considerably hindered New England’s general pass-rushing capabilities.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe mapped out a situation on Tuesday the place the Patriots commerce Uche to the Jacksonville Jaguars in alternate for a conditional second-round choose.
WR Kendrick Bourne
One of many few vibrant spots in New England’s impotent passing recreation, Bourne was the Patriots’ lone constant receiving menace in opposition to the Raiders on Sunday — catching 10 passes (on 11 targets) for 89 yards.
It looks like the gifted playmaker is lastly out the doghouse that Matt Patricia and Co. positioned him in final season.
However with Bourne set to hit free company this summer season and his skillset probably higher utilized as a WR2 or WR3 on a extra competent offense, New England might doubtlessly internet a minimum of a third-round choose if it moved Bourne on the deadline.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
Very like Bourne within the passing recreation, Elliott has been a supply of reduction amid the distress that has been New England’s dashing assault in 2023. For all the discuss of Elliott’s finest days being behind him after getting lower by the Cowboys, the 28-year-old again nonetheless has one thing left within the tank.
His stats might not be all that flashy (193 dashing yards, 3.9 yards per carry), however Elliott posted 80 yards in New England’s lone win over the Jets in Week 3, and scored the Patriots’ first offensive landing in 12 quarters throughout the second half of Sunday’s loss in Las Vegas.
He additionally had a 74-yard landing off a catch-and-run sequence in opposition to the Raiders, solely to get it taken off the board resulting from a penalty in opposition to Hunter Henry.
Elliott, who signed a one-year take care of New England in August, will probably be higher utilized as a short-yardage choice on a crew really aiming for playoff competition in 2023.
LT Trent Brown
Yet one more soon-to-be free agent, Brown has been arguably the best starter on an in any other case dreadful offensive line for New England. Even amid questions surrounding his consistency and energy, Brown has been removed from the weak hyperlink on that unit.
Given how valued beginning tackles are, particularly on the deadline, New England might get a stable return in the event that they choose to maneuver Brown earlier than the calendar flips to November.
That being mentioned, the lack of Brown on New England’s O-line will make an already heinous offense downright unwatchable for the remainder of the 2023 marketing campaign.
TE Hunter Henry
Very like Brown, New England’s offense runs the chance of being a non-functioning entity if somebody like Henry was stripped from the roster. That being mentioned, the Patriots captain can be a coveted throughout the league given his red-zone manufacturing (a minimum of previous to this yr), in addition to his blocking capabilities.
TE Mike Gesicki
If New England doesn’t wish to transfer on from Henry on the deadline, New England’s second tight finish on the depth chart in Gesicki might be an choice. Signed to a one-year contract in March, Gesicki is extra of a big-bodied broad receiver than a decent finish, along with his blocking deficiencies on full show in opposition to Maxx Crosby throughout Sunday’s loss at Allegiant Stadium.
Nonetheless, he might turn out to be useful for a crew in want of extra of a receiving menace on the tight-end place.
S Jalen Mills and/or S Adrian Phillips
Even following the retirement of Devin McCourty earlier this yr, the Patriots have managed to remain afloat on the security place this season because of the duo of Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers.
However the play of these two have saved two veterans in Mills and Phillips on the skin wanting in at common reps. Mills has solely logged 30 whole snaps during the last two video games, whereas Phillips — as soon as a daily starter in earlier New England defenses — has solely been on the sector for 20% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2023. That’s a pointy decline from 62% final season and 82% in 2021.
Given their standing as veteran gamers within the defensive backfield (with Phillips additionally a precious asset on particular groups), each Mills and Phillips might in the end find yourself enjoying elsewhere to shut out the 2023 season.
S Kyle Dugger
In an ideal world, the Patriots ideally don’t have to maneuver on from all of their soon-to-be free brokers that got here from that 2020 draft class — together with Uche, Dugger, and Mike Onwenu.
Despite the fact that Dugger is ready to command a large pay increase this offseason, he’s the kind of impactful defensive playmaker who New England would possibly wish to retain for the years forward — even when the Patriots may be able to wave the white flag on this present marketing campaign.
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