The New England Patriots needed to add an offensive weapon before the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline. That is why they acquired veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons last week.
While Sanu's ability on the field explains why Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were lobbying to trade for the receiver, the compensation it took to obtain him from the Falcons raises some questions.
New England had to give up a 2020 second-round pick to acquire Sanu, which seems like a steep price for a 30-year-old receiver who has never once in his eight-year NFL career had more than 900 receiving yards, 70 receptions or five touchdowns in a single season.
But to understand why the Patriots gave up a second-rounder to acquire the former Rutgers wideout, you have to understand where the reigning Super Bowl champions stand among the other 31 NFL teams in terms of draft capital. One NFL exec explained this during a conversation with The Athletic's Mike Sando when discussing the Patriots' trade for Sanu.
"Another exec also called (New England's trade for Mohamed Sanu) a win-win trade while pointing out that, in his opinion, New England sometimes has to pay about a one-round premium on picks when making these deals," Sando wrote. "The somewhat elevated price of a second-rounder affected the market for San Francisco’s deal with the Denver Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders.
“'People say, ‘Oh, a two,’ but if anybody else offers a three, they have to offer a two,' this exec said. 'That’s fine. There has been a lot of talk there about their offense sucking, so I thought that trade made sense for both teams.'"
When the Patriots win a much as they do, it pushes them to the backend of every round in the draft, with the exception of any draft capital they might obtain via trades or compensatory picks. In regards to Sanu, if any other team offered a third-round pick to Atlanta for him, New England had to offer a second-round pick in order to one-up that team's offer, because the Patriots' third-round pick could very well be the last one in the round in 2020, and that's including any compensatory picks they may gather between now and next year's draft.
The same goes for any other trade scenarios New England may have found themselves in before the trade deadline. A 32nd overall draft pick may have not been enough for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that was reportedly willing to part ways with tight end O.J. Howard, who was their 19th overall selection two years ago, if they received a "substantial offer".
This isn't a justification for New England trading a second-round in exchange for Sanu. It's just something to think about when it looks like the Patriots overpaid for a player.