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New England Patriots: Should Team Explore Trade for Hakeem Nicks?

Bringing in Offensive Help Like Nicks Could Solidify Pats as Legitimate Contenders

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots may be 4-1, but their offense has clearly struggled this year, particularly in the passing game.

As the team fights to remain viable contenders, should it explore a trade for New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks?

Through the first five contests, the Patriots' offense is averaging an uncharacteristically low 19 points per game. If they remain at that pace, it would represent their lowest mark since 2000 when they finished an abysmal 5-11.

New England has faced a number of obstacles in its passing game.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested on murder charges, and subsequently released. His counterpart, Rob Gronkowski, has yet to play this season following offseason surgeries.

Productive wide receiver Wes Welker was allowed to leave via free agency, while his replacement, Danny Amendola, has continued an alarming trend of injuries.

The Patriots entered the season with three rookie receivers (Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins) who have flashed great promise while also dealing with the typical growing pains associated with young players.

Finally, quarterback Tom Brady, one of the most productive players of all time at his position, is suffering through his worst statistical season to date. While it may be a product of the issues with his receiving options, he is sitting on a QB rating of 80.6 and a completion percentage of 56.6 percent, which represent career-lows.

As players return from injury, and development hopefully continues with the young players, things could get better, but is that something the team is willing to gamble on?

The 36-year-old Brady is not getting any younger. The window of opportunity New England has to contend with him is rapidly closing. Instead of trying to piece things together, injecting a major weapon like Nicks into his arsenal could be just what the offense needs.

Nicks, who will be a free agent after the season, has an uncertain future with a team that has started 0-5. A former first-round pick, the 25-year-old has two 1,000-yard seasons already under his belt in his four-plus years with New York.

For his career, he has accumulated 276 receptions for 4,098 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Normally a consistent performer, he has had extreme ups and downs this season.

In Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, he was targeted just once by quarterback Eli Manning, finishing with no catches. According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the receiver told Charles Chandler of the Newark Star-Ledger. "You've got to control what you can control. I can't throw it to myself."

Nicks is coming off his best game of the year. Although the Giants were crushed 36-21 in Week 5 by the Philadelphia Eagles, he finished with nine catches for 142 yards.

Because of its futile start and Nicks' impending free agency, the team could look to move him for a draft pick or two. New York general manager Jerry Reese has already put his team on notice, and moving a veteran like the receiver would certainly shake things up.

If New England was interested in bringing a player like Nicks aboard, it should be about wanting to give Brady the best tools to work with in the hopes of him winning a fourth Super Bowl. It should not be a reactionary move to the team's 13-6 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5.

Having allowed just 14 points per game thus far, the Patriots boast a stout defense. Enhancing the offense could solidify their status as serious contenders.

Brady is clearly frustrated by the offense's inability to consistently move the ball and score, as it has typically done during his previous 12 years as a starter.

According to MassLive.com's Nick Underhill, Brady didn't hold back in expressing his opinion in a recent interview with WEEI radio. The veteran quarterback explained, "We're trying to be a productive offense that puts points on the board every time we go out there. But the way we're playing right now, we're so far from that."

Currently, the Patriots have one pick in each of the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. Head coach Bill Belichick has hoarded picks in the past, but using one or two to upgrade his offense could be worth the expense.

There would be nothing preventing Nicks from re-signing with the team, and it is something he might relish if the money was right and he had the opportunity to catch passes from Brady for several more seasons.

Barring a miracle, this may already be a lost season for the Giants. They could be looking to turn assets into draft picks to help move in a different direction next year. If that's the case, the Patriots should strike while the iron is hot and see if they could pry Nicks loose.

The Patriots are traditionally a very patient team with a penchant for regimented systems, while steering clear of quick fixes. They very well may improve on the offensive side of the ball by doing nothing more than simply waiting. However, the finish line for Brady is on the horizon, and making a play to add Nicks would be a strong statement to indicate they are all-in on capitalizing on the final years of their legendary quarterback's career.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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