The NFL trade deadline looms closer and closer, expiring at 4pm on Tuesday, and the positional needs in New England have come into even greater focus after their close-call win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Positional Need: Cornerback
Their biggest and most glaring weakness all season has been in their secondary. With the worst ranked pass defense in the league, the Patriots have allowed over 300 passing yards per game in 2011. After letting go of veteran safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders before the start of the season, and with hugely decreased production from rookie breakout cornerback Devin McCourty, the Pats have some decisions to make on how they can strengthen the Achilles heel of their defense going forward. There aren't many safeties worth looking at on the market, but a few cornerbacks in Philadelphia are certainly worth taking a look at.
Trade possibilities: Asante Samuel or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Andy Reid has been vocal about the fact that he would be open to trade possibilities.
"Everybody is calling everybody right now," Reid said. "To tell you that we haven't talked anybody I can't tell you that." (via Philly.com)
Along with the Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles also have major offseason acquisition Nnamdi Asomugha. They could look to deal one of their corners for help on their defensive line which has been terrible this year in stopping the run.
Asante Samuel began his illustrious career in New England, winning two Super Bowls with the team in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He also had seven interceptions in 11 games last year, and 9 in a full 16 games in 2009.
Rodgers-Cromartie is in his fourth year in the league and has never missed a game. Health is something that the Patriots have been lacking in their secondary, and this guy is reliable. He has 13 career interceptions and returned 4 for touchdowns in his first three seasons. Both of these guys are dynamic players who could boost the Pats secondary with speed and smart coverage.
Positional Need: Wide Receiver
For the first time all year, the leagues number one receiver Wes Welker had his production limited, and the only other receiving option on the field was Deion Branch. Without further receiver help, the bulk of the passing game fell once again on the shoulders of tight end tandem Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. But the past couple of weeks the Patriots offense has struggled without the presence of a third reliable receiver, with Hernandez having a few butter-fingers moments and the teams figuring out how to double Gronkowski.
Sunday's game against Dallas pretty much cemented Chad Ochocinco's ineffectiveness for the New England offense, as he was targeted just one time and ran the wrong route. Julian Edleman who has stepped into the third wide receiver role for the Patriots on numerous occasions has been battling some injury issues in 2011, and has seen limited time on the field this year.
Trade Possibilities: Reggie Wayne, Eddie Royal
Reports came out late this afternoon that major trade target Brandon Lloyd, who was rumored to be in talks with the Patriots last week, has been traded to the St. Louis Rams.
But another Denver Bronco, Eddie Royal, could also get moved. The Broncos seemed to have resigned themselves to another lost season and are most likely looking to stockpile draft picks (of which the Patriots have plenty.) And it looks like he could be attained at low risk, considering St. Louis attained Brandon Lloyd with a sixth-round, possibility to turn fifth-round pick. Royal had 8 touchdown catches in his first three years with a maligned Bronco's offense, and is extremely athletic. At a smaller 5'10", 185 lbs he seems to fit right into the Welker/Branch mold of receiver that has been so effective with Tom Brady.
Reggie Wayne is also in the last year of his contract with the Indianapolis Colts, who are currently staring down the barrel of a winless season at 0-6. Although Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted on Saturday morning that trade rumors nvolving Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne were not true, it's hard to see how it wouldn't make sense. The Colts have more rebuilding to do after this season than perhaps any team in the league, even once Peyton Manning returns. And there is no denying that Belichick has huge respect for Wayne as an elite receiver in the NFL.
I mean, I can't say enough about Reggie Wayne,'' Belichick said in 2009. "That guy is the best receiver we cover every year and it seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made were nothing short of spectacular, with the go route, the two touchdown catches, the third-down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He's a tremendous receiver and he had some production against us.''
Depending on how badly the Patriots really want to improve the decision, they could definitely try to convince Irsay and the Colts to see things their way. It's just a question of whether they want to.