Good wide receivers resemble starting pitching in baseball — you can never have enough. Everyone remembers Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007, but the presence of Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney helped boost the offense from merely “One of the Greatest Ever” to “G.O.A.T.” The Pats dropped Super Bowl 46 to the Giants a few years later in part because their depth receiver offseason addition, Chad Ochocinco, couldn’t do squat once Gronk went down in the AFCCG. And in Super Bowl 49, Brady threw a touchdown pass to 4 different receivers and still hit Shane Vereen for 11 catches. In the pass catching league that the NFL is today, any contender needs more than just 1 or 2 legitimate receiving options. The injuries that the Pats have suffered in recent weeks only makes that fact so much more obvious.
Now let’s look at trades in the NFL. Since the turn of the century, the only in-season trades that I can remember consisting of players better than depth guys (Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas) involve QBs moving to an injured team (Matt Cassel), cornerbacks, (Aqib Talib), or especially wide receivers (Braylon Edwards, Roy Williams, Randy Moss). This season, the Pats missed out on 2 wide receivers who would have come in very handy right now with the injuries to Gronk, Edelman, and Amdendola and LaFell earlier in the seasons.
Anquan Boldin has done everything in his career. He’s won a Super Bowl, been a part of a prolific offense with the 2008 Cardinals, and he’s one of the most badass players of all time. The dude broke his face and played the next week! More importantly for the Pats, he steps up in the playoffs and is reliable as it gets for a QB like Brady in tight spots. He makes a little over $6 million this year and his dead cap number is a little over $6.5M, so the 49ers would have to eat space and it’d be hard for the Pats to fit him in. But given the facts that player salaries are pro-rated by each week and that the 49ers won’t contend for at least 2 or 3 years now, it’s a trade that I hope Belichick looked into.
Steve Smith Sr. wanted a Super Bowl more than anything else, because that guy is a competitive MFer. Smith and Flacco almost cost the Pats their 4th consecutive trip to the AFCCG last year, and he was putting up numbers this season until his Achilles tear. It’s possible that the injury would have happened even with a trade, but it’s entirely possible that it was a fluke injury that happened on just that play. Smith makes only $4.1 million this year with a dead cap hit of $2.3 million that the Ravens would have been able to split over 2015 and 2016. Given how horribly their season ended, I can’t understand for a second why they wouldn’t look to trade Smith and let him chase a Super Bowl. And I have no idea why the Pats wouldn’t want their best deep threat since they traded Moss. Smith makes less than Boldin and is a little bit better at this point, and I have to believe that Belichick kicked the tires on that potential trade, because it makes too much sense for him to not highly consider it at the very least.
Boldin was a little more unrealistic given his cap hit, but either of these trades would have made a huge difference in these final weeks of the 2015 season. Gronk and Edelman might come back, but wouldn’t you feel so much more comfortable with the Pats possibly going back to Denver in the playoffs to face the number 1 defense in the league if Brady had Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Chandler, and Steve Smith Sr. to throw to? And more importantly, wouldn’t you wanna be on the other side of the Steve Smith – Aqib Talib rivalry? Talib would have had to #iceupson.