FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots are going to need some help.
This became apparent sometime around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Josh Gordon, who got his leg twisted like a corkscrew and injured his knee trying to tackle Giants linebacker Markus Golden on his way to the end zone for a scoop-and-score touchdown, was riding the stationary bicycle on the sideline instead of playing in the game.
If Gordon is out for an extended period of time, the Patriots need to find pass-catcher help. Without Gordon, they were down to Julian Edelman and two undrafted rookies, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, against the Giants with other pass-catchers like tight end Matt LaCosse also getting hurt. So, who could come to the rescue before the Oct. 29 trade deadline?
1. O.J. Howard
Howard is languishing with the Buccaneers where he’s not a featured part of Bruce Arians’s offense and has only 11 catches for 141 yards this season. He’s an obvious fit for the Patriots who love to use tight ends and, well, don’t really have many options there right now. He is a better blocker than Ryan Izzo or LaCosse. He would probably cost a first-round pick, but the Patriots could afford his salary since he’s on a rookie deal. Since Howard was a first-round pick, he could be under team control through 2021, which makes giving up a high pick a bit easier.
2. Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders is a classic trade target because he’s in the last year of his deal and on a team (the Broncos) that isn’t going anywhere. The Patriots could offer a third-round pick, which is better than what they’d get through the compensatory pick system if Sanders walked as a free agent, at most a 2021 third-rounder. The Patriots certainly like him — they’ve made him offers in the past — and they could easily wind up with three third-round draft picks next year because of the compensatory system. You’d think they could part with one of them. There’s still the issue of money here, though. At the deadline, they’d need about $5 million in cap room to afford a trade for Sanders, so they’d still need to do some finagling.
3. Stefon Diggs
For now, it seems like Diggs is staying in Minnesota. It would be difficult for the Patriots to afford him, since he signed a five-year, $72 million contract with $40 million guaranteed this summer. That’s not a bad contract in general for someone of Diggs’s age (25) and skill, but the Patriots have less than $4 million in cap space and already have done a lot of maneuvering. It’s something to monitor because, clearly, there have been moments when Diggs has been unhappy in Minnesota this season and there’s no place like New England for the formerly disgruntled. However, the Vikings are currently 3-2 and, for now, seem to be making this one work.
4. Mohamed Sanu
Unless there’s some rule forbidding an excessive amount of Rutgers graduates on one team I don’t know about, Sanu is worth a call. The Falcons are 1-4 and just aren’t in any position to get the most value from the solid veteran when they’d be better off rebuilding other areas of their team. The Patriots know the Atlanta front office well, too, and could afford Sanu’s contract. Sanu has been reasonably productive and has caught 29 passes for 281 yards so far this season.
5. DeVante Parker
The Patriots do love other teams’ first-round picks. Parker isn’t the type of aquisition who would immediately fly to the top of the Patriots’ receiver depth chart, but he’s an an NFL-caliber receiver whose salary would fit under the Patriots’ cap and whose production could improve with a better situation around him. The Dolphins should certainly be sellers. It’s uncommon to see in-division trades, but Bill Belichick has already made trades with the Jets and the Bills this year, why stop there? It’s not the flashiest, but it’s realistic.