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Patriots stand pat at trade deadline; does this signal a long-term rebuild?


No moves on the NFL's last day for trades. Where do the Pats go from here? PIC: David Silverman, New England Patriots


The New England Patriots entered the 2023 NFL trade deadline as one of the most intriguing teams. Sitting at 2-6, the Patriots - as of right now - are comfortably out of the playoff race, but they also had a number of valuable assets that could have been traded to help accelerate a rebuild.


In the end, however, the Patriots opted to stand pat at the deadline. This was a surprising move to many, as it signaled that the Pats are willing to be patient in their rebuild.


A few reasons come to mind to justify the lack of deadline activity in New England.


Firstly, it was reported throughout the day that they may not have received the offers they were looking for for their players; Mac Jones and Ezekiel Elliott were pieces that were thought to at least garner some phone calls, but they received nothing viable.


Second, Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft may even believe that their current roster is still competitive enough to win some games down the stretch. The curious case of the 2022 Detroit Lions is enough intrigue for many pundits, and potentially even the front office. Last year, Detroit started off a dismal 1-6: many thought it would be a reprise of Dan Campbell's first year as the Lions head coach's 3-13 freshman campaign the year prior. But Detroit stuck with the plan, turned it around, and were competing for a playoff spot during the last week of the season, finishing 9-8. Do Belichick and Kraft believe their roster is good enough to have a similar fate? It's a worthy questions.


And third, they may be simply comfortable with the pace of their rebuild. If the above reasons aren't necessarily how the Pats feel, are they comfortable with a very rare total rebuild? Are they ok with just blowing it up in 2023 and looking towards next year to be competitive again? While common in other markets, it's a rarity in New England to simply blow it up...so it'd be interesting to evaluate this theory further.


Whatever the reason, the Patriots' decision to stand pat at the trade deadline is a sign that they are committed to building a sustainable winner. They are not going to sacrifice long-term success for a quick fix.


Here is a look at some of the pros and cons of the Patriots' decision to stand pat:


Pros:

  • The Pats will retain all of their draft picks & younger players. Keeping players like Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche, and Mike Onwenu is important for a team that is building for the future. We'll see if this remains the case.

  • The Patriots will not have to worry about any distractions in the locker room. Trading away key players can often be disruptive to a team, as we saw in many rebuilding or underperforming teams over the past few years. Keeping team chemistry, especially with the injury of locker room leader Matt Judon, is going to be huge to survive this rebuild.

  • They'll will have a chance to evaluate their younger players in game settings. This will help them make better decisions about their roster in the offseason. I'm looking for some of the younger wide receivers to get some more reps, especially Kayshon Boutte, who deserves a shot if he practices well.

Cons:

  • The Pats are all but sure to miss the playoffs again this season, barring a late-season miracle. A loss to Miami last week essentially wrote this in stone. Yes, the schedule lightens up, but not by much.

  • They may have lost out on some opportunities to acquire valuable assets. Chase Young was on the market (even though a deal for him was unrealistic), as well as Montez Sweat - two edge rushers who could've easily made an impact with injuries. Leonard Williams could have had some intrigue, even with a crowded DT core. Not saying any one of these were realistic or made sense, but it proved there were at least some assets on the market.

  • If the Pats let the young players walk, they'll have done it for no equity in return. That would be just about the most dismal ending you could possibly ask for.

The decision to stand pat at the trade deadline is a clear signal that they are committed to a long-term rebuild. They are not going to sacrifice the future for a quick fix. But if it leads to no changes in the offseason, we'll have some questions.


It is too early to say when the Patriots will be competitive again. Maybe it's next year...by some miracle, maybe it's later this one. However, their decision to stand pat at the trade deadline is a positive sign for the future.

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