Bill Belichick and the Patriots are no strangers to making moves by the trade deadline that is rapidly approaching on October 28th. The Patriots have a short list of needs including interior defensive line, interior offensive line, running back and maybe, just maybe, a deep threat option for Tom Brady as the Patriots offense will need to eventually keep pace with Denver both in a little over a week, and when they likely meet in the playoffs.
The Patriots offense as been so over-analyzed and over-scrutinized for an offense that has talent, but lacked protection early in the season. Since the protection improved on Sunday Night Football against the Bengals, the Patriots have averaged nearly 36 point per contest. For the season, the Patriots are 7th in the league in scoring averaging 26.7 per game, but the problem is Denver is first averaging 32 points per game. So the question becomes, how do you make up that 5.3 point difference?
In the dreamiest of all pipe-dreams, There is a player that has been talked about in past years at the trade deadline – Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has somewhat of a contract situation brewing, but though his cap number jumps from this season’s $8.6 million to $23.6 million next season, a winning atmosphere may entice the 32 year old Fitzgerald, as he enters the latter stages of a wide receivers career, to restructure that contract which he already said he would do for Arizona.
A certain love affair between Bill and Fitzgerald doesn’t hurt either: (2012)
“[Fitzgerald] does everything well” said coach Bill Belichick. “He’s a great receiver. He’ll go down as one of the all-time greats. He might end up as the best one ever, I don’t know. You have no idea where he’s going to line up from play to play. He has a very big route tree. He runs all the routes – one route sets up another. It’s very hard to find him. It’s very hard to defend him.”
Meanwhile, for Fitzgerald, his praise seems equal for Belichick: (2012)
“Coach Belichick is not the best coach in history for no reason,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s done it for a long time. He does a great job defensively. It was good to get out with a win, to be honest. I mean it’s an honor that he even knows my name to be honest with you,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s arguably the best coach to ever do it. You look at his record and what he’s been able to accomplish over his career. He’s an unbelievable football coach. I have a long way to go. I have a lot to improve on and a lot to work on. Obviously I’m envious of him with all his hardware he has and his team has.”
The hardware in New England isn’t quite the same in 2014 as it was in 2012 when Fitzgerald and Belichick made those comments, but one intriguing piece for Fitzgerald still remains – Tom Brady. Since Kurt Warner, the crap that Fitzgerald has had throwing to him in Arizona is epic. Kevin Kolb, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Ryan Lindley, Drew Stanton and finally Carson Palmer. All the while Fitzgerald has been a pro-bowler, averaging 85 catches and nearly 9 touchdowns per season heading into this one.
So what makes this somewhat possible? How about the fact that Fitzgerald isn’t being utilized this season? Though he’s saying all the right things publicly, there’s no way Fitzgerald can be happy with just 23 receptions and a single touchdown in 6 games. He’s only been targeted 39 times. That’s how many times Brandon LaFell has been targeted and he just started being a part of this offense within the last two weeks.
The fact is, Larry Fitzgerald has never had a Tom Brady throw the ball to him and if you think Brady-to-Moss was legendary, just think of what a Brady-to-Fitzgerald could be. I mean, the poor guy has been in the league since 2004 and has only made the playoffs two times. The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years.
The love affair with Belichick started back in 2004 when Fitzgerald was in the NFL Draft. Fitzgerald was drafted way out of the reach of the Patriots at the time, but prior to the draft, the Patriots met with Fitzgerald in a meeting that left a lasting impression on Fitzgerald: “I could understand why they’ve had so much success because they deal with a cerebral kind of football player,” said Fitzgerald.
The Patriots definitely need a receiver comparable to what Denver has in Demaryius Thomas and they just flat out don’t. I like this offense to get to the AFC Championship, but keeping up with Denver’s offensive output in the playoffs is not possible with who New England has currently. Your only hope would be to shut down Denver with your defense, which is easier said than done as Manning and the Broncos have already shredded the entire schedule, including Seattle and San Francisco.
Finally, I’ll wrap it up with this: The Patriots need a legit threat to take it to the next level, which is Super Bowl. I’m not worried about the Patriots throughout the season, but in the playoffs and Fitzgerald’s post-season numbers are flat out good. In 6 post-season games, Fitzgerald has had 42 receptions, 705 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s also added 30 first downs to those numbers in the playoffs as well – those numbers are just sick.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m just saying the Patriots have just under $14 million in cap room for this season according to the NFLPA, minus whatever the cost of Akeem Ayers and Alan Branch are, which isn’t much. They have the space; the only issue is with the Cardinals leading their division (San Fran, Seattle, St. Louis), will Arizona, who seemingly doesn’t need Fitzgerald, play ball?