The Patriots are charting down a course that hasn’t been traveled in New England for over two decades. Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers and old friend Jimmy Garoppolo was not only the biggest loss by scoring margin in Foxborough since Bill Belichick took over as head coach, but the Pats also find themselves in third place in the division at 2-4 on the season. 

Cam Newton and the offense have looked disjointed, scoring just 19.2 points per game (fourth-worst mark in the league) and have struggled with the passing attack, leaving Week 7 with the third-fewest yards through the air in the entire NFL. After throwing three picks against the Niners, Newton was even benched in the fourth quarter for Jarrett Stidham. While the offense has been the main focus, New England’s defense doesn’t seem to be on the same elite level they were a season ago, especially against the run where they are allowing 132.2 yards per game. 

How do they fix it? Well, the first job for Bill Belichick is to simply find a way to have his star players (Cam Newton, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, etc.) play up to their talent level. Even if he’s able to unlock that, however, it would appear like New England still needs some outside help, which they can acquire prior to the Nov. 3 trade deadline. 

Below, you’ll find some options that could do just that, ranging from top-tier, daydream targets to more realistic options that could help the team on either side of the ball as they try to claw back into the AFC East race. We also have a bonus trade in the event that New England finds itself as a seller at the deadline, too. 

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday that the Patriots are in the market to bolster their receiving unit. That’s arguably been the team’s biggest weakness to this point in the year with Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry combining for just 27 yards on four catches over the last two games. Part of that is certainly on Newton’s poor decision-making, but the receivers also have been coming up short to this point. Adding an elite receiver like Adam Thielen would go a long way in injecting some serious talent into the unit and should be looked at as the dream scenario for the Patriots at the deadline. Minnesota is at the bottom of the NFC North, is looking to shed salary, and La Canfora also reported that trading Thielen — who is signed through 2024 — is one realistic way they could do that. Even with absorbing his contract, Thielen is likely the most expensive option out of this crop of players. 

Sticking with Minnesota, an NFL GM told La Canfora that the Vikings are shopping Rudolph around. The 30-year-old — who is signed through 2023 — would instantly become New England’s No. 1 tight end, above the likes of Ryan Izzo and rookies Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. Rudolph has displayed the ability to be a solid pass-catching tight end that could fit seamlessly into the Patriots offense, particularly as a red zone threat. There was some flirtation with acquiring Rudolph by New England back in 2019 before the Vikings signed him to an extension. 

Golden Tate is another talented receiver on a bad team that could be looking to shed his salary. New England was interested in the now 32-year-old pass-catcher when he was a free agent in 2019, but he elected to ink a deal with New York. Tate is still a pristine route-runner and would rival to be the top option for Cam Newton — or whoever is under center — in New England’s offense. Given his age and contract situation — signed through 2022 with base salaries of $8.5 million and $5.9 million over the next two seasons — Tate would likely be a cheaper option than Thielen. 

Given the fact that the Cardinals are in the thick of the NFC West race, they may not exactly be looking to sell off pieces at this point in the year, but picking up the phone to inquire about linebacker Haason Reddick would be a savvy move by Bill Belichick. The former No. 13 overall pick hasn’t exactly lived up to his draft billing to this point in his career and the team did tip their hand about his future this past offseason, declining his fifth-year option. Reddick has come on as of late after totaling three sacks over the last two games, so his price may be going up, but is certainly a talented player the Patriots could desperately use as they look to bolster the front seven. 

David Njoku seems to want out of Cleveland as the Browns have buried him in their offense. Even with No. 1 tight end Austin Hooper out of the lineup in Week 7, it was rookie Harrison Bryant who got the start and scored two touchdowns in the win. To his credit, Njoku was targeted three times by Baker Mayfield and did come down with two catches, including a 16-yard touchdown. Still, he doesn’t appear to be in the immediate plans for the Browns, which should propel the Patriots to offer something for his services. The former first-round pick is only 24-years-old and is still oozing with talent that could make him the top option at the position in New England for not just 2020 but long-term. The Patriots and Browns also have a strong history of trading with one another, so this is something to specifically monitor. 

Bonus trade

While all those options above are for a Patriots team that is trying to fight its way back into the division race, if they lose to the Buffalo Bills in Week 8 to move to 2-5 on the year right before the deadline, they may look to be sellers rather than buyers. If that proves to be the case, Bill Belichick has shown in the past (Jamie Collins ’16, Jimmy Garoppolo ’17) that he is not afraid to make seismic moves at or around the deadline. Could Stephon Gilmore be the latest example? New England would be trying to sell high on the reigning Defensive Player of the Year to a team with Super Bowl aspirations in an attempt to gain significant capital in return to help it retool in the post-Tom Brady era. 

Gilmore is signed through the 2021 season, but will most likely be looking for a new deal next offseason that puts him more aligned with the elite corners in the league. If Belichick anticipates not wanting to hand him a pile of cash, it’d make sense to see what you could get for him on the open market, which they reportedly did leading up to the 2020 season before reworking his current contract to move up some of the money that he’d be due in 2021. Corner is also one of the deepest positions on the Patriots roster so while replacing Gilmore is next to impossible, New England does have players who could keep the secondary afloat. 

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