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New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers talking blockbuster trade

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are a true wildcard heading into the 2021 NFL Draft in the matter of days. Recent suggestions indicate that the Pats are looking to move into the top 10 for a quarterback to finally solve the team’s long-term issues following the departure of Tom Brady.

Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers seem to be sitting pretty with the eighth pick in the draft. New general manager Scott Fitterer made the bold move for Sam Darnold and doesn’t necessarily need a quarterback early in the annual event.

Could the two be potential trade partners during the 2021 NFL Draft? According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, they have laid the “groundwork” for a potential deal should the top-seven picks play out to the Patriots’ liking.

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New England Patriots reportedly targeting Justin Fields

New England Patriots trade for Justin Fields
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The backdrop here are recent reports indicating that New England’s willingness to trade up has to do with its interest in Justin Fields. This makes some sense with the Ohio State product potentially slated to fall down the draft board come Thursday evening in Cleveland.

Selecting No. 3 overall, the San Francisco 49ers have played it close to the vest relating to who they plan to pick. With that said, national media outlets project that the decision is down to Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Whether that is indeed the case will play a huge role in the Patriots’ decision-making process.

As we have noted in the past, it’s been against Belichick’s MO to trade up in the NFL Draft during his two-decade reign of dominance in New England. With that said, pretty much everything the New England Patriots have done this offseason runs contrary to what we’ve seen from Belichick.

At issue here is the possibility that the Atlanta Falcons either select Fields at four or trade down with a quarterback-needy team. If that were to become a likelihood, the Pats would then have to call Atlanta up about the fourth selection. In turn, the bounty would be similar to what San Francisco gave up to Miami to move up from 12 to three (two future first-round picks, 2022 third-round pick). Is that a price the Patriots might be willing to pay? We’re not too sure.

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Potential New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers trade

Obviously, moving up from 15 to eight would cost New England less than acquiring the fourth pick. Again, it’s all about how the top-seven picks of the draft play out. Heck, the Detroit Lions might opt for Fields even after trading Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff.

Hence, why the two sides have laid the groundwork for a potential blockbuster trade. At this point, it’s going to be all about whether Fields is available at eight. If so, New England moving the 15th pick, a 2022 first-round pick and another higher-round selection to Carolina for the right to select Fields could make sense.

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Carolina’s decision to trade Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos pre-draft also changes the dynamics a tad here. Denver is slated to select ninth and no longer needs a quarterback. They join the Panthers as options to trade down should Fields’ slide to the bottom end of the top 10.

The interesting backdrop here is that betting odds have the Panthers and Patriots as the favorites to land Fields once the draft comes calling. Fitterer could throw a huge curveball into the equation by selecting the quarterback even after acquiring Darnold earlier this offseason.

Stay tuned!