Opportunities Have Risen for Patriots in Final Hours Before Trade Deadline

As the final hours ahead of the NFL trade deadline begin to dwindle, some previously closed doors have opened for the Patriots.
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With the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline just hours away, trade chatter has ramped up. This has not only caused multiple trades to take place already after the Week 8 slate of games over the weekend, but it has led to a chance for teams to place price tags on some of their players. The figurative "for sale" signs popping up in locker rooms around the league to begin this week have set the market for some of the coveted assets who were previously unavailable, which has sparked some new opportunities for the New England Patriots. 

The Patriots have been looking to buy before the trade deadline. It's been no secret. From signing Antonio Brown, to trading for Mohamed Sanu, this team has not been quiet about their desire to acquire offensive talent in-season. However, as we are now coming to the deadline, New England is still in need of some key offensive pieces that could make them a more well-rounded football team and solidify their chances of another Super Bowl appearance this season. 

Early last week it was reported that the Patriots had inquired about trading for 24-year-old tight end O.J. Howard, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said no. 

Any chances of acquiring a pro-bowl caliber left tackle from the Washington Redskins were shut down very quickly this season when the organization continually said they were not trading Trent Williams despite his holdout, which is still going on. 

However, like the flip of a switch, both teams are now open to trading those players. 

According to ESPN's Jenna Laine, Howard is now available for trade, though it would take a "substantial offer" for Tampa Bay to trade him away. For the Redskins, they have finally decided that keeping Williams despite his refusal to play has earned him a spot on the trade block and they are now fielding phone calls for the 31-year-old tackle. 

We know they are available now. But what would it take to get them?

A "substantial offer" for Howard would likely fall in the range of a first-round pick when considering that's the round he was drafted in and the Alabama product has shown playmaking ability at the NFL level at a young age. The belief was always that because of his talent Williams would go for the same price, though it was never reported as fact. Instead, one report suggests that the Redskins may be seeking a playmaker in a trade involving Williams. 

Acquiring either of those players if you're the Patriots makes perfect sense if you are trying to fill a need no matter the cost or financial implications that are involved. But in terms of trading for a player that has value into the future while also not providing too many financial hurdles, only one of these players fits the profile - O.J. Howard. 

Howard is young, has displayed his talent and can continue to evolve his game, all while in the midst of a four-year, $11 million deal. His pro rated cap hit at this point in the season would be approximately $1.5 million. Heading into Monday New England had about $2.8 million in cap space available, though that will now change after they re-signed quarterback Cody Kessler. Trading for Howard would also fill a huge void at tight end left by Rob Gronkowski and has been filled by the likes of Ben Watson, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse and Eric Tomlinson, all who provide no elite talent to the position this season.

Williams is worth mentioning in this conversation, because, well, the Patriots need a talented left tackle who can keep Brady upright through January this season. But based on the finances involved in acquiring Williams, there may be too many hurdles to jump over for New England to make him a Patriot. Nevertheless, the door is open if they chose to venture in that direction. 

It'll be interesting to see what transpires between now and the deadline on Tuesday. But for now, we can only hope that any news coming from Foxborough is revolved around  the Patriots adding firepower to their inconsistent offense.