Being that it is the off-season and this is Bill Belichick's New England Patriots, it's safe to always expect the aggressive when unsure about trade rumors. In recent years, the Patriots have made multiple high-profile trades both during the off-season and even once in the regular season. Aqib Talib, Chad Johnson(then Ochocinco), Albert Haynesworth, Nate Solder, Ras-I Dowling, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Tavon Wilson have all been added to the Patriots' roster through trades in recent years.
Of those trades, four involved relatively high-profile players at the time. Talib was a former first round pick last year. Johnson may have been old, but he was a proven veteran at the time. Haynesworth had formerly received the largest free agent contract in the history of the league, while Nate Solder was the eventual result of a trade that sent Richard Seymour to Oakland. Belichick isn't intimidated about adding or subtracting big-name players when it comes to his roster.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the franchise is enveloped in the speculation that is surrounding multiple trade targets right now. Most notably, the Minnesota Vikings' Percy Harvin, who is said to be available for as little as a second and fourth round draft pick, and their very own Ryan Mallet, the team's backup quarterback for the past two seasons.
Not only do the Patriots have a history of making trades, but they have also already made multiple similar moves to these ones in recent years.
Part of the reason why Percy Harvin is available is a reported bust-up with the team's head coach, Lesley Frazier. Acquiring Harvin would be a similar move to what the team did in acquiring Randy Moss ahead of the 2007 season. Moss was a perceived character flaw, but represented great value from a sheer physical abilities point of view. Harvin has less of a reputation for trouble-making than Moss did at that point, but he also has more issues with staying healthy.
The Patriots also traded Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs just a few years ago for a second round pick. Cassel started for an injured Tom Brady in 2008 and impressed enough to move to the Patriots for a second round pick. Mallet hasn't played as much as Cassel, in fact he is yet to start in the regular season. The only real reason Mallet is a potential trade option is because of Michael Lombardi's presence in Cleveland. He hasn't done anywhere near enough to recoup a second round draft pick from the Browns, but a deal for multiple mid-round picks or a third round choice could be a possibility.
Harvin is the more likely possibility, but that would be an even bolder move than the one they made for Moss in the past. Unlike Moss, Harvin wouldn't come for cheap compensation because he is still young and will command a market of multiple suitors. His arrival would also signal the departure of Wes Welker, who is an unrestricted free agent that has been a key component on the offense in recent years. Harvin is owed just under $3 million for the coming season and is a free agent after this year. Adding him to the roster would allow the Patriots to explore more options in free agency to improve their secondary, but also force them into integrating a new receiver into their offense.
If Harvin can be had for a second and fourth round pick, or even a late first rounder, then the Patriots should be considered one of the favorites for his signature. He is the type of versatile receiving threat that the Patriots' offense thrives with and offers greater long-term potential than any other receiver currently on their roster.
As for Ryan Mallet, if the Patriots can get anything more than what they gave up for him, then they will be very fortunate.