After a disappointing start to the 2021 season, the New England Patriots will face some tough decisions heading into the trade deadline. While this week’s upcoming game against the Chargers could answer many questions about the team’s trade deadline decisions, there should be a clear approach with the way this season has gone so far: sell.
To say that the rest of the season is a lost cause for the Patriots would be an overreaction to the first seven weeks. However, it is clear that the group lacks sufficient talent on both sides of the ball to compete with the top teams in the league. While there are many holes to fill, one or even a few trade deadline moves are not going to make the Patriots contenders.
Their focus should shift to building for the future, and constructing a team that is built around their rookie QB who to this point, has been one of the most consistent players on the team. Jones has proven that he can give this lackluster Patriots group a chance to win against some of the best teams in football, but there have been too many deficiencies for the rookie to make up for. Gaping holes in the O-line, injuries in the secondary, slow linebacker and skill position play, and continuous fumbling issues from the running backs are all problems outside of Jones’ control.
Any attempt to get better this year at the cost of using future draft capital or salary cap flexibility would be a disservice to the rookie and his seemingly bright future. Moving forward the offense needs to look for long-term solutions at tackle, as well as getting Jones an additional playmaker who can function as a true number one receiver, something the Patriots are not going to find by this year’s trade deadline.
On the defensive side of the ball, the performances have been disappointing thus far. That being said, there is still young talent that Belichick and the rest of the front office can build around. Their number one priority as of now should be figuring out a plan to resign J.C. Jackson this offseason. Jackson has been the team’s number one corner all season, and without re-signing him or another shutdown type corner in the offseason, the secondary will be in serious trouble.
The thought of Jalen Mills or Jonathan Jones becoming CB1 should scare Patriots fans, and it is a real possibility if a deal with Jackson does not get done. Sacrificing any cap flexibility at this year’s deadline could inhibit the negotiation process with Jackson, which would be a mistake. Young players like Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche, and Christian Barmore could be cornerstones moving forward. Building around guys such as Jackson, Dugger, Uche, Barmore on defense could set the Patriots up with a core group that is consistently at the top of the league for years to come.
Young, cheap talent is hard to acquire at any point in the football calendar, but it is particularly difficult to acquire at the trade deadline. For the Patriots, a team that spent $163 million in guaranteed money this offseason, young, cheap talent is exactly what they need. Unfortunately for the Patriots, it does not look like they will be acquiring any at this year’s deadline, which is okay.
As long as Belichick, the coaching staff, and the front office have a plan to build around the young talent, the ship is headed in the right direction. In the meantime, Patriots fans will need to practice patience and expect some ups and downs, something they have not grown accustomed to over the past twenty years.