It’s never too early for New England Patriots head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick to start thinking about what the future might hold. Unfortunately for football fans, something tells us his next few years don’t involve playing Bingo while living in Florida.
Belichick seems like a man who’s here to stay, especially with Mac Jones now leading the way at quarterback. For Jones to succeed in an AFC East division featuring three other young quarterbacks, the Patriots’ longtime head coach needs to start preparing for a risky offseason trade involving his defense.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots need to start thinking about acquiring Marcus Davenport in 2022
The 2018 NFL Draft might feel like forever and a day ago, but the players selected that year — or those, like Houston Texans running back Phillip Lindsay, who have carved out careers for themselves after going undrafted — are already in their fourth professional seasons.
Those selected in the draft’s first round, such as Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson, were eligible to have their fifth-year option picked up earlier this year. The New Orleans Saints exercised the option on pass-rusher Marcus Davenport, the 14th overall selection three years ago, and a talented player with an injury history.
After totaling 10.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his first two seasons, things have slowed to a halt for Davenport since the 2020 campaign began. Last year, he primarily came off the bench after missing time with an elbow injury. He watched Trey Hendrickson, one of the Saints’ rotational pass-rushers, parlay the added starting snaps into a four-year, $60 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to Spotrac, Davenport’s fifth-year option will pay him $9.5 million next year. However, the Saints can give him a new contract, as the Buffalo Bills did with star quarterback Josh Allen, ahead of the 2022 season.
Or, the Saints can do something else entirely and trade Davenport, who turned 25 on Sept. 4, to the Patriots in the coming months. The idea doesn’t sound as ludicrous as you might think.
Davenport’s injury history could make him a trade chip
Belichick loves his reclamation projects and buying low on players he thinks can become playmakers in his system. Remember when the Patriots signed former San Diego Chargers safety Rodney Harrison in 2003 when the two-time Pro Bowler was 30 and viewed as nearing the end of his career? How about Chris Hogan, the journeyman receiver who became one of Tom Brady’s vital targets after joining the Patriots in 2016?
Davenport makes sense as the next low-risk, high-reward target. He’s already slated to miss time with a pectoral injury he suffered in a Week 1 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. As of publication, the Saints had not announced a realistic timetable for when they expected him to return.
Davenport has never played more than 13 games in a season, which doesn’t bode well for him earning a massive contract from the Saints next spring. It’s also worth noting the Saints used the 28th overall pick in April’s NFL draft on Houston defensive end Payton Turner. The rookie did not play in Week 1 and is working his way back from an undisclosed injury.
If the Saints feel trading Davenport for draft picks is the safest move, then one should certainly expect Belichick and the Patriots to make a run at him. If the veteran pass-rusher plays well in New England, he’ll hit the market in 2023 with a significant chance to cash in at 26 years old.
The Patriots will need more pass-rushers if they’re to stop Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa
The AFC East belongs to the young quarterback. A generation of football fans may remember this division for its matchups between Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa rather than Tom Brady and … well, whoever suited up for the other three teams across a 20-year span.
If the Patriots want to get back into the race and ensure Allen’s Buffalo Bills don’t replace them as the division’s perennial champion, they’ll need capable pass-rushers. Josh Uche, a second-round pick in 2020, looked the part in Week 1 when he sacked Tagovailoa in the Patriots’ 17-16 loss.
Ronnie Perkins, a rookie from Oklahoma, could eventually grow into that role. The third-round pick missed the season-opener with a shoulder injury.
If Perkins and Uche emerge as playmakers this season, Patriots fans can only grin while imagining Davenport potentially joining the mix next year. The rest of us will be left to sigh and watch as Belichick works his magic yet again.
All contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.