New England Patriots

Report: Patriots looking at trade market to add veteran wide receiver

The Patriots still don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver on their roster.

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NFL free agency is a week old and the New England Patriots have yet to make a major addition to their wide receiver depth chart.

Re-signing Kendrick Bourne was a good move. Signing free agent K.J. Osborn was a strong addition, too. But the team still lacks a true No. 1 wideout that can create all sorts of problems for opposing defenses. The Patriots reportedly made a competitive offer to Calvin Ridley before he signed with the Tennessee Titans on a four-year deal worth $92 million last week.

Given what's available on the free agent market, the best way for the Patriots to acquire a star wideout is via trade.

And based on a new report from Adam Caplan of Pro Football Network, it sounds like the Patriots are looking at their options in the trade market.

"Not only did the Patriots have serious interest in signing WR Calvin Ridley, but a league source with knowledge of the situation said the team has looked into the trade market for other veterans at the position," Caplan wrote.

"As another source points out, New England has gotten little production out of the wide receiver position for years (especially drafted players), and they’re looking to add at least one impact player at the position this offseason."

Which players might be available?

Well, Tee Higgins reportedly requested a trade before free agency began this month. The Cincinnati Bengals placed the franchise tag on him in late February and haven't been able to work out a long-term extension yet. Higgins has been the Bengals' No. 2 wideout behind Ja'Marr Chase since 2021. He tallied 42 receptions for 656 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games last season. Higgins posted back-to-back campaigns of at least 74 catches, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in 2021 and 2022.

The 25-year-old star would be a No. 1 on a bunch of teams, including the Patriots. He also has tremendous size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, which helps him win 50-50 balls against defensive backs.

Another 2020 draft pick who could potentially be available is San Francisco 49ers star Brandon Aiyuk. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will be due for a massive extension in the near future. The 49ers have an expensive roster and will need to figure out an extension for starting quarterback Brock Purdy at some point.

There's no rush for the 49ers here. Aiyuk is signed for 2024 and they could always franchise tag him next offseason. If the 49ers do trade Aiyuk, would it happen before the draft next month?

"Yes, that’s my sense," The Athletic's Matt Barrows wrote in his latest mailbag story. "Just go back two years to when Deebo Samuel was agitating for a trade. The 49ers kept their phone lines open before, and especially during, the draft to see what kind of offers Samuel would bring. They got draft-day proposals from the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, but the 49ers didn’t budge. They were solid offers (especially the Jets’) but the 49ers needed to be blown away to let go of Samuel, who was coming off his incredible 2021 campaign.

"I think a similar scenario is in play for Aiyuk, who has excellent chemistry with Brock Purdy: The 49ers will listen to offers but it will take something monumental to let him go."

Aiyuk was one of the league's top-10 wide receivers last season. He tallied 75 receptions for a career-high 1,342 yards, along with seven touchdowns in 16 games.

The price to acquire either Higgins or Aiyuk likely would be pretty high. Should the Patriots consider giving up the No. 34 overall pick (second round) in the draft to acquire one of them? The short answer is yes. It's a steep cost, but if the Patriots plan on drafting a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick, there's a ton of value in having a legit top-tier wide receiver.

The Patriots didn't surround quarterback Mac Jones with enough high-end talent at the skill positions, and this failure was among the reasons why he wasn't able to reach his full potential in New England.

They cannot afford to make the same mistake with their next rookie QB, which is why acquiring a wideout of Higgins or Aiyuk's caliber would be a really smart move before the 2024 season.

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