The New England Patriots announced the firing of head coach and general manager Bill Belichick on Thursday morning. The 71-year-old football guru spent 24 seasons with the franchise, which includes six Super Bowl victories and several other shattered records.
With the Belichick era officially over, one can only assume that a complete rebuild is on the way. After all, the Patriots have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons — something that hasn't happened to the team in over 20 years.
Assuming that a rebuild is coming, New England fans can expect to see a lot of players sent packing in favor of younger options and draft capital.
Here are four Patriots who must be traded to help kickstart the rebuild.
4 Patriots Who Must Be Traded in Post-Belichick Era
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
If the Patriots start to send veteran players out the door, JuJu Smith-Schuster must be one of the top candidates.
The veteran wide receiver just didn't live up to the hype of the three-year, $33 million contract he signed to join the Patriots last offseason. Once a 1,400-yard wideout, Smith-Schuster finished his seventh NFL campaign with 260 passing yards and one touchdown on 29 receptions across 11 games (7 starts).
Yes, you can argue that pesky injuries are the reason why Smith-Schuster didn't have the best year, but it isn't like he was the most appealing target, either. He only yielded a 61.7% catch percentage with a 48.2 passer rating whenever he was targeted. Whatever juice the Patriots thought he had left in the tank might be gone by now.
With two years left on his contract and a rebuild on the horizon, it'd be wise for New England to part ways with the ex-USC Trojan. The good news is that the Patriots can save just over $5 million if they trade him before June 1 or $7.6 million if he's moved after that date, per Spotrac.
A WR-hungry team might be convinced that they can help Smith-Schuster return to form. If that's the case, the Patriots shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal.