The New England Patriots offence kicked it into high gear this season after trading Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings, and for a long while, it didn’t look like it mattered that their aerial attack was comprised of a bunch of small, shifty, dime a dozen receivers.Then, the Patriots ran into the New York Jets in the playoffs and looked utterly helpless on offence. A week and a half after their elimination, it’s a near certainty that New England will look to add a big weapon the passing game this offseason.
SI’s Peter King speculated that the Patriots will try to trade up to get either A.J. Green or Julio Jones in April’s draft, but they might be smarter to try to trade for Larry Fitzgerald from the Arizona Cardinals.
Presumably, to get Green the Patriots would have to trade into the top five of the draft. With three picks in the first 33 selections, that is a possibility for the Patriots. According to the draft trade value chart the value of New England’s 16th and 28th selections is equivalent to 1610 points, while the fifth pick in the draft is worth 1,700. With another later pick, New England could make that deal basically even, plus it’s not unrealistic to think one of the teams picking high in the first round would be more interested in getting two first round picks than one top player.
Getting Jones would be easier. Early projections have him going to the St. Louis Rams at No. 14, so for the Patriots to get in Jones’ range right now they’d probably have to deal their 16th pick and a second or third rounder.
Then there’s Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have given no indication that they’d consider offers for their franchise player, and they’ve engaged in preliminary contract extension talks, but New England has the resources to make an enticing offer. Arizona played in the Super Bowl just two years ago, but with Kurt Warner’s retirement and a host of key veterans departed via free agency, the Cardinals are clearly in rebuilding mode. They could be in a position to grab a quarterback with the 5th pick in the draft, but acquiring two more first round picks could really expedite Arizona’s rebuilding process. The Cardinals might prefer to keep Fitzgerald to aid the development of a young QB, but it might make more sense for them to accumulate assets. Again, Arizona has not given us any reason to think they’d deal Fitzgerald, but considering the state of their roster and the package the Patriots could offer, the Cardinals would have to think seriously about this.
With their three top picks, the Patriots will have a lot of flexibility leading up to the draft. Trading for a player like Fitzgerald hasn’t typically been the Patriots way, but the fact is that Tom Brady is getting older, and young receivers usually take time to develop. Green looks like a sure thing, but you never know what you’ll get from the draft. Everyone knows just how good Fitzgerald is, and his cap hit is a very reasonable $7.6 million in the final year of his deal, making him cheaper than last year’s No. 5 pick in the draft, Eric Berry.
It is a huge long shot that the Cardinals would deal Fitzgerald, but if the Patriots can offer basically the same packages to get Green, Jones, or Fitzgerald, they have to pull the trigger on getting #11.
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