Patriots not trading for Patrick Peterson, but they won't stand pat either


Patrick Peterson desperately wants to be traded.

The Patriots are annually active at the trade deadline.

Bill Belichick’s already declared the Patriots open for business and the Patriots rejiggered Stephon Gilmore’s contract recently.

Does that mean it’s just a matter of time before Peterson is a Patriot? No.

A source tells me the team hasn’t had a single conversation about making a deal with Arizona for the 28-year-old corner. Noodling about how the team would be able to make him fit is a “waste of time.”

It’s not that Peterson isn’t good. He’s terrific. It’s just not feasible given the Patriots current salary cap situation.

Miguel Benzan, who’s been my go-to on Patriots salary cap information since 2001 and is now at Boston Sports Journal, laid out why the Gilmore tweak shouldn’t be seen as the precursor to a big move.  

The Patriots needed to clear space because they are closer to the cap than they’ve been in years (subscription required) and players hitting Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives over the coming weeks could have conceivably pushed them over.

So the $5.2 million in cap space that now exists is, Benzan theorizes, closer to about $2.5 million. If the team wanted to cram Peterson under the cap, they’d have to start restructuring other contracts in order to make it happen. Benzan lays it out here (subscription required).

Why are the Patriots so snug to the cap? They have a cadre of players with fat cap hits this season led by Tom Brady’s $22 million. Devin McCourty’s is $12 million. Rob Gronkowski’s is $11.5 million. Gilmore’s was $12.5 million before the restructure. Donta Hightower’s is $8.5 million.

Deciding to give Brady some incentives this year rather than extending his deal and dropping his cap hit may give the team flexibility at the position down the road, but it’s tying their hands right now.

Meanwhile, Peterson’s $11 million salary means he’s going to be paid $687,500 per game no matter who he’s playing for.

Aside from the financial contortions a Peterson deal would necessitate, the team’s not going to sink more than $20 million in 2019 cap space into Peterson and Gilmore.

So if not Peterson, then who? We know Belichick and Nick Caserio aren’t just going to sit there while half the the league is auctioning talent and the other half is bidding on it.

To figure that out, we need to figure out where a plug-and-play need exists. Because Belichick has been clear in the past that any in-season move is a plug-and-play proposition.

Last October, prior to the trade deadline, Belichick was an open book about the team’s general approach.

 “When you acquire a guy at the beginning of the season or in the season, like [Kyle] Van Noy or [Cassius] Marsh or [Johnson] Bademosi or Akeem Ayers or [Jonathan] Casillas or [Aqib] Talib or guys that we’ve done that with, you’re usually acquiring that player to fill a specific role at that time,” he said. “He’s not like in competition with eight other guys for something. I mean, the reason you’ve acquired him is because A, he’s available and it’s worked out and all that, but B, you see a role for that player that you can use.

“I’m saying if you trade for a guy, you’re definitely giving up something to get somebody to put into a certain position or role, whatever that happens to be,” Belichick added. “So, I’d say that’s a little bit of a different -- it’s different than when you get a guy in March . . . [when] you’re still trying to see how it’s all going to play out. Well, in September or October, you have a lot better idea how it’s playing out and if you acquire a player, generally it’s to put that player into a role that you feel is necessary and that he can do.”

On Tuesday’s Quick Slants, Jerod Mayo said that an edge defender who can get to the quarterback would be the most valuable addition. The pass rush is too inconsistent, he said, and the trickle-down effect from speeding up opposing quarterbacks would improve coverage.

Between now and the deadline, we’ll plow through the possibilities. For now, though, scratch Patrick Peterson. 

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