New England tried to rekindle some old magic by signing Malcolm Butler after the former Super Bowl hero had spent the 2021 season retired. However, that didn’t work out because Butler had clearly lost a step, and an injury led to his release with a settlement.
As it is, veteran Jalen Mills and Jonathon Jones are the team’s top two players at the position, and they will get the task of trying to corral players like the Miami Dolphins‘ speedy duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs.
The Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard said he believed the Patriots would need to make a trade for a “No. 1” corner if they want to make the most of this season. Bedard listed this bullet point as one of his “paths back to the playoffs” for the Patriots.
“[Bill] Belichick swings a big trade for a corner with No. 1 traits by the trade deadline,” Bedard wrote on September 4. “One of the big glaring weaknesses on the team is patched up, leading to more confidence into the big final stretch run for this team.”
How Weak Is the Patriots’ CB Situation?
The cornerback position was considered a weak area of the team when Jackson left in free agency. There were some trepidatious hopes for Butler to regain Super Bowl form, but we quickly learned that seemingly wouldn’t be the case. The Patriots seemed to get the picture early on they put things in place to move forward without Butler as a part of their plans.
However, do the Patriots still need to give up trade assets and take on salary to find a No. 1 corner?
Mills, Jonathon Jones, rookies Marcus Jones and Jack Jones, and Myles Bryant have all had their moments during training camp and the preseason. No spot on the defense has looked like the Patriots’ weakest link.
Still, Bedard doubled down on his take in response to the question: “Where is the team most likely to add before the trade deadline?”
“Cornerback, no question. You and I should spend every week looking to see which cornerbacks are on struggling teams either in the final year of their deal or with one more year left and their team will look to cut bait (think an Aqib Talib situation). Unfortunately for the Patriots, the 2023 FA cornerbacks are … not good.”
If the Patriots can find a corner who is set to be a free agent at the end of the 2022 season, they might be able to rent him for stretch run in exchange for a reasonable draft asset. However, it seems unlikely the Patriots would do that with a player they knew they wouldn’t be able to retain the following year.
Belichick would have to believe that his team is a No. 1 corner away from being a legit contender even to consider something like that this season.
Also, the players who fit that profile don’t exactly look like world-beaters. The Philadelphia Eagles‘ James Bradberry and the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ Cameron Sutton might be the best of the bunch, and the former is the only one with any name recognition.
Don’t Sleep on Jack Jones
Yes, Jack Jones is only a rookie, and he’s played in a total of three preseason games, but we shouldn’t underestimate his potential over the long haul or even this season. Jones was a highly regarded high school player before running into some legal issues in college.
Those problems are what likely led to him slipping into the fourth round, where the Patriots drafted him in April. The 24-year-old is still learning but is already flashing the kinds of “No. 1 traits” Bedard has referred to in his posts. The Patriots’ best course of action may be to allow Jones to develop this season in hopes that he develops sooner rather than later.