If you’ve followed my written work or my Twitter feed for long, you’ll know that I generally find proposed trades amongst the media and fans to be one of the biggest wastes of our time. They are rarely logical, rarely happen and usually don’t take into consideration the financial implications for both teams.
But today, I’m going there. I’m proposing a trade that probably won’t happen but absolutely should, because it makes sense from a roster and financial perspective for both parties.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should absolutely attempt to trade for New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has 599 receptions for 6,507 yards and 36 touchdowns in his 10-year NFL career, especially since the team did not re-sign third wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
Let’s look at each of the naysayer’s points, eliminating them one by one.
1. Will the Bucs have to trade too much?
No chance. Edelman will be 34 years old in May and has two years left on his contract. The No. 162 overall pick (fifth-rounder) should get the trade done at this point, and I’d even be fine with the Bucs offering the No. 139 pick (fourth-round comp pick) as compensation for the veteran receiver.
Nobody Tampa Bay picks at No. 139 is likely to critically help them win a Super Bowl over the next two years, where Edelman absolutely can. If you sign Tom Brady at almost 43 years old, your Super Bowl window is very real, and very brief. The Bucs need to do everything they can to maximize this season and next, so giving up a Day 3 pick for a receiver of Edelman’s caliber is a no-brainer.
2. Does it make sense for the Patriots? Would they consider it?
My answers to these two questions: “Yes” and “I have no idea.” The Patriots have the worst quarterback room in the NFL right now, and it doesn’t sound like that is gonna change before the 2020 season. Their receivers are weak, they don’t have a tight end, and even their vaunted defense lost a couple of important pieces and is aging in multiple spots.
New England isn’t a Super Bowl contender, probably isn’t a serious playoff contender in 2020 and Edelman’s presence on their roster doesn’t change either of those things. Moving older assets for draft picks to stockpile talent and re-load is absolutely the wisest strategy for Bill Belichick and the Patriots right now. I’m not talking about tanking like Miami attempted last offseason. I’m talking about trading away players who won’t be impactful by the time their roster is ready to truly compete again.
Will Belichick see it the same way? That’s where this whole plan could fall apart.
3. Can the Bucs afford him?
A trade for Edelman would carry about a $7 million cap hit this season, which is affordable for the Bucs right now (estimated $16-18 million in cap space). His contract has only two years left on it, and the second year is an even lighter hit of $6.6 million. Tampa Bay could also cut Edelman after the first year, if things went poorly for whatever reason, and absorb just a $2.6 million dead cap hit. So the contract isn’t an issue, and even if it is, Edelman is at the point in his career where restructuring to a more team-friendly contract in order to play with his best friend for a final run at another ring might be appealing to him.
4. Do the Bucs need Edelman?
Yes. Tampa Bay’s WR3 spot is wide open right now, and they are running out of options that can be expected to contribute early on. Remember, this is a position that will play 70-80 percent of the offensive snaps on a pass-heavy team that runs a lot of three-wide formations. This guy can’t be a slouch, especially not in this two-year Super Bowl window.
Edelman is one of the smartest, most football savvy wide receivers in the league. Yes, there would be some new things for him to pick up, but Bruce Arians would hopefully also adapt to what he does well, too. More on that marriage in a second.
If the Bucs don’t trade for Edelman, here are their options for WR3:
• Scotty Miller, Justin Watson or Bryant Mitchell.
• Sign a current free agent from an extremely depleted crop of remaining receivers.
• Draft a wide receiver and hope he can play that much as a rookie and play as well as Perriman played last year.
I’m not high on option No. 1 or option No. 2 producing a good enough option to thrive in Tampa’s offense, and option No. 3 carries significant risk. I’d love for Tampa Bay to draft a wide receiver, but what is the earliest they do that? No. 76? Who is on the board at that point?
Tampa Bay wants to prioritize offensive tackle and running back in the upcoming draft, while also adding talent on the interior offensive line, interior defensive line and at safety. Where does a receiver fit into those plans? If the Bucs add one earlier than expected, does that leave them hurting at other position groups?
I like the draft as an option, especially since it is so deep at wide receiver, but trading for a proven veteran like Edelman fills a big need for relatively cheap and frees Tampa Bay up to spend their top 3-4 picks on other positions that desperately need reinforcements.
5. Does Edelman fit in Bruce Arians’ offense?
This is where a lot of people will get hung up; Edelman doesn’t look or play like any of the other receivers the Bucs have. At 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, he’s not as big as Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, and he’s not as fast as Miller or maybe even Watson at this stage of his career. Can Edelman fit in what Arians’ offense does? Would his presence kick Godwin out of the slot, where the third-year receiver just had a Pro Bowl season?
Many would be surprised to learn that Edelman actually played outside more than Godwin did last year, and has aligned as an outside receiver for more snaps as a Patriot than he has in the slot. Much like Godwin in Tampa Bay last year, Edelman has moved all around New England’s offense and still found success, often utilized outside in stacked alignments or reduced splits.
Arians has used smaller receivers in much the same way in the past, and the flexibility he would have with Edelman and Godwin would be almost unfair. How do teams defend Edelman on the outside in man coverage? Do they leave their bigger, outside cornerback on him and hope for the best? Because Godwin is going to chew up most true nickels – the third guy on the depth chart – on the inside.
Teams can’t put their third best cornerback on Godwin, so now their outside cornerback comes inside and is playing a spot many outside cornerbacks aren’t used to playing. That advantage existed last year for Tampa Bay, but now it becomes two-fold because Edelman, unlike the Bucs current WR3 options, is gonna whip most third-string cornerbacks playing on the outside like he’s done for the past decade playing with Brady.
Although it is true that Arians’ has recently gravitated toward bigger slot receivers that can block, Edelman will still get his chances inside because he plays like a bigger receiver and has been a very good blocker throughout his career. He’s just two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Godwin.
Few receivers get after it in all phases of the game like Edelman, as some would even call his scrappy style of play “dirty” at times. The point is, the edge and physicality that Arians and general manager Jason Licht want their offense to play with is what Edelman’s entire career represents.
Edelman, who had 100 catches for 1,117 yards (11.2 avg.) and six touchdowns last year, and Godwin can not only co-exist, they would help each other thrive. Add another speedy outside receiver on Day 3 to compete with Miller and Watson, and this corps will be complete.
Another reason why adding Edelman would be a terrific move: anything you can do to make your quarterback more comfortable in a new offense is always a plus. Add to that fact that Tom Brady may not have an offseason program to get acclimated to all his new pass catchers, and the Bucs are going to want to make a move that will help this offense hit the ground running in 2020.
Over his career, Arians has had plenty of option routes built into his offense, and that is a feature that could become more prominent in 2020 with Brady at the helm. Having a receiver in Edelman, who has spent years being on the same page as Brady in these situations would be a huge asset to Tampa Bay, gashing defenses in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field to open things up for Godwin and Evans, well, everywhere – but especially deep.
Trading for Edelman is a move that has no real downside for the Bucs, unless you consider his past injury history (although he has missed just three games due to injury the past three years). He’s a proven receiver who can succeed outside or inside, plays with the right demeanor and attention to detail, has instant chemistry with Brady in a year with an offseason program looks limited at best and fills a huge need on the team’s roster. I’m not saying this trade will definitely happen, but I am saying the Bucs should pick up the phone and call to see if it can.