The New England Patriots are no strangers to draft-day trades in the Bill Belichick era. This year, the Patriots may be looking to trade away a player who has been a big part of their running game since being drafted in the third round in 2011: RB Stevan Ridley.
There are a few reasons why the Patriots may look to move Ridley during the draft. The first has to do with ball security problems. As anyone who has followed Ridley’s career with the Patriots surely knows by now, he has had a big issue with fumbles. Since entering the league in 2011, he has fumbled the football nine times, losing six of them. The team responded to these difficulties by demoting Ridley to third-string running back at the latter part of the 2013 season.
Given the fact that the Patriots preach ball security with all of their running backs and offensive players in general, the likelihood that they would extend Ridley long-term when he can cough the football up at any moment seems unlikely. He is talented, but in today’s NFL, the running back position is deemphasized. You can usually find running backs with a similar skillset to Ridley who can actually hold on to the football.
Another reason why the draft would be an ideal time to move him is because the majority of good players in free agency have been claimed. Teams around the league still have holes to fill and at this point, they are most likely weighing their options between only a few good players at each position. Simply put, teams may find a proven commodity in Ridley more enticing than a rookie running back who has never taken a snap in an NFL game.
Perhaps the most important reason why the Patriots may decide to move him at some point during the draft is due to financial reasons. With Ridley set to become a free agent at the end of this upcoming season, he will likely be seeking a big pay raise despite his fumbling issues. One team out there with a major need at the position will probably give him that pay raise.
Will the Patriots be willing to give a player who was demoted to third string less than a year ago a long-term deal for significantly more money? My guess would be no. The team will likely want to get something in return by trading him now instead of losing him for nothing in free agency.
With that in mind, the Patriots probably will be looking to add a running back or two in the draft. Keeping Ridley may not be in the cards for a team that prides itself on getting the job done. For a running back, that job is holding onto the football. Two teams that could have interest in a trade for Ridley are the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns. Both teams need a running back with Chris Johnson gone from the Titans, and the injury-prone Ben Tate coupled with aging running back Willis McGahee at the position for the Browns.
In any case, a potential Ridley trade is something to keep an eye on perhaps during the second or third day of the 2014 NFL draft.