Bill Belichick foreshadowed the lack of movement around the NFL’s trade deadline Tuesday morning when he said there’s often “a lot more talk than there is action.”
The Patriots, however, were one of the few teams getting in on the action when they bulked up their receiving depth by landing Isaiah Ford from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round draft pick, a league source confirmed.
With New England (2-5) riding a four-game losing streak, speculation was rampant the team would try to sell off some of its higher-priced, higher-value assets, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore and guard Joe Thuney.
Gilmore, the reigning defensive player of the year, is on the books for another year and $7 million, while Thuney, who is playing under the franchise tag, is set to be one of the most coveted offensive linemen on the free-agent market after the season.
Instead, the Patriots were shoppers, adding a player that Brandon Bolden labeled a “great guy and former locker mate” on Twitter. The two were in Miami together in 2018.
This is the first trade between the AFC East rivals since 2007, when Bill Belichick acquired Wes Welker in exchange for second- and seventh-round picks.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound Ford was a seventh-round selection in 2017 from Virginia Tech and has 41 catches in two-plus seasons in Miami. Ford missed his rookie season after sustaining a knee injury in training camp.
Ford excelled in the slot for the Dolphins, but also has the speed to play outside the numbers and the size to fight for contested balls. Ford, who has displayed good body control in the past, has 18 catches for 184 yards in seven games this season.
Antonio Callaway, who has been on Miami’s practice squad, likely paved the way for Ford to be dealt. Callaway recently completed his suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse and is poised to soon be elevated to the active roster.
New England has been thin at receiver, with Julian Edelman on injured reserve following a knee procedure and N’Keal Harry recuperating from a concussion. Edelman and Harry have combined for 40 catches this season.
The Patriots also beefed up their defensive line depth by claiming Isaiah Mack off waivers from the Titans. Mack has classic nose-tackle size (6-1, 299 pounds) and has played in 19 games since signing as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
The Patriots will get a temporary roster exemption for Mack as he proceeds through the COVID-19 protocols.
New England has been in need of help on the interior front seven, with Beau Allen out for the season following a leg injury setback at practice last week and Carl Davis recuperating from a concussion.
In addition, Lawrence Guy left Sunday’s game at Buffalo with a shoulder injury.
Belichick described how trade deadline day can be a roller coaster ride for both teams. There are times when prolonged conversations lead to nothing, and other instances when a deal can get completed lickety split.
“Sometimes it seems like this is really a dead issue — we’re not interested, they’re not interested based on the conversations — and then in a short amount of time, something changes and all of the sudden there’s a conversation that’s on the table or there’s a transaction that occurs and it goes from not happening to happening or vice versa,” Belichick said.
And coincidentally, with the Masters right around the corner, the coach used a golf analogy to sum it up.
“It goes from it looks like the ball is going to roll into the cup, and then at the last second, it spins out,” he said.
Unexpected twists and turns are commonplace as player availability and depth charts are constantly changing.
“Sometimes a team could be involved in a trade and then you feel like, ‘OK, we can trade this player,’ and then you find out that maybe a player at his position is going to be out for a couple of weeks and then it falls through, or vice versa,” Belichick said. “You think that you don’t have anybody available and then all of a sudden, maybe the team makes a different trade or something else happens and then they do have a player available.”
The coach also explained how things generally work when it comes to discussing deals.
“If something were to come up during the day, then [director of player personnel] Nick [Caserio] would grab me and we’d discuss it and, whether it’s talk to Robert [Kraft] or a position coach or somebody that might have information on the subject, then that would probably be the next step.”
The Patriots are projected to have a lot of salary cap space next season — when the cap is projected to drop due to lack of revenue from playing in largely empty stadiums — and Belichick agreed with the premise that protecting that space is a consideration when acquiring players at the deadline.
"When you’re looking at the salary cap and player salaries and things like that, you can’t just look at it in a short-term window,” he said. “At some point, you have to take a longer look at things.”