There’s simply no hiding from the fact that the New England Patriots are in a bad place right now. Not only did their 33-6 drubbing at the hands of the injury-ravaged San Francisco 49ers on Sunday stand as their most lopsided home loss in the Bill Belichick era, but it also marked the team’s first three-game losing streak since the 2002 season.
As things stand through seven weeks, the Patriots are 2.5 games behind Buffalo in the AFC East and have a better record than just four teams in the conference, which is surprisingly deeper than it’s been for several seasons. The majority of fingers will be pointed at Cam Newton and the offense, and we totally concur. The 31-year-old quarterback delivered arguably the worst performance of his distinguished career on Sunday, finishing 9-of-15 for 98 yards and zero touchdowns compared to three ugly-looking interceptions.
We don’t want to make excuses for Newton, but he simply hasn’t looked like himself the last two weeks following his bout with COVID-19. Whether he’s still shaken up from the virus is up for debate, but what also isn’t helping the former MVP is the Patriots’ lackluster (to say the least) wide receiving corps.
Julian Edelman’s age appears to finally be catching up with him as he’s racked up just eight receptions for 79 yards and zero touchdowns over the last four games while playing his lowest snap share of his career. 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry can’t create semblance of separation and is looking more like a bust with each passing week. And Damiere Byrd, who has been a pleasant surprise so far, is quietly averaging just one catch every 20 or so plays. That simply isn’t good enough for somebody who’s being treated like he holds the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
With all of those damning facts in mind, it goes without saying that Belichick should look to target a wideout ahead of the fast approaching Nov. 3 deadline. Luckily for him, one of the consensus top players at the position plays for one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. That’s right, folks. We’re talking about Atlanta Falcons superstar Julio Jones, so let’s dive into what it would take for the de facto general manager to acquire him via trade.
Jones has been banged up seemingly all season long and he was just added to the injury report yet again this week with a hip injury, but given his esteemed resume and the fact that he’s still very much in the prime of his career, he will still come at an expensive price. With that being said, a master negotiator like Belichick might be able to exploit the Falcons’ impending fire sale of appealing assets in order to expedite their rebuild project and come out the other side with a reasonable deal.
The way we see it, the Patriots will have to jettison both a first- and fourth-round draft pick in 2021 in order to pry Jones from Atlanta. Another plus is that the seven-time Pro Bowler’s contract is sorted out after he signed a three-year, $66 million extension last September. Given the fact that deal runs through his age 32-35 seasons, the Falcons shouldn’t ask for anything more than the previously mentioned package.
Acquiring a player like Jones, regardless of his Hall of Fame talent, wouldn’t solve all of the Patriots problems on offense, but he’s undoubtedly the greatest bandaid available right now. From 2014 to 2019, the Alabama product averaged a mind-boggling 103.8 receptions for 1,564 yards and 6.2 touchdowns per season. In other words, you don’t pass up the opportunity to trade for a player like this. Jones’ best days are probably behind him, but his current top form is still better than 90% of the league’s wideouts, and the Patriots’ wide receiver situation stinks out loud right now.