Bill Belichick Almost Traded for Star WR Before Patriots' Downfall

2022: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick look on after a Bears interception in the fourth quarter in which the Bears won, 33-14.
2022: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick look on after a Bears interception in the fourth quarter in which the Bears won, 33-14. / Bob Breidenbach / PROVIDENCE JOURNAL /

Over the last few seasons, the New England Patriots offense has struggled immensely, and the lack of ability to drive the ball and put up points on offense is probably a main reason why Bill Belichick was fired and failed to land a coaching gig this offseason. One of the key reasons for the offensive struggles? A dismal receiving corp.

Appearing on the Pardon My Take Podcast, the Adam Thielen revealed that former New England head coach Bill Belichick had kicked the tires on a trade for the star wideout from the Minnesota Vikings following the 2018 season.

At the time, Thielen was coming off of a sensational season in which he caught 113 passes for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns. At that point in his career, Thielen had established himself as one of the best wideouts in the league.

Brady's 2019 season would prove to be his last in New England, as he would jump ship for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following that season. Brady's lack of targets was often cited as a reason for his displeasure in Foxborough. During the 2019 season, Belichick had seemingly tried to offer a last-ditch peace offering by swapping a second-round pick for Atlanta receiver Mohamed Sanu, but it wasn't enough to keep Brady in town as the Pats crashed out of the playoffs in their opening game.

Belichick and Thielen also exchange infamously exchanged pleasantries back in Week 13 of the 2018 season. Apparently, Belichick wasn't dissauded by the exchange, and according to Thielen - he might have even been persuaded by the heated interaction:

"I believe going into that next offseason, (Belichick) had reached out to the (Vikings) about, you know, possibly trading for me, trying to get me to come there. So it must have been like a good impression, he must have liked that kind of tenacity or competitiveness."

Adam Thielen

Thielen, now with Carolina, posted some impressive numbers in 2023 even at age 33. The Panthers offense ranked last in yards per game and tied for last (with the Patriots) in points per game, but Thielen still racked up over 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving.

The Patriots leading pass catcher, Ezekiel Elliott, had 51 catches. Thielen had 103. The Patriots leading yardage receiver, DeMario Douglas, had 561 yards receiving. Thielen had 1,014. Heck, maybe Belichick should've been in on Thielen last offseason.

New England's player personnel department clearly recognized this area of weakness as well, drafting Washington wideout Ja'Lynn Polk in the second round and UCF WR Javon Baker in the fourth round. The Pats also added former Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn and brought back Kendrick Bourne on a three-year deal. They also attempted addition by subtraction, cutting underperforming veteran DeVante Parker.

It is a fun "what-if" game to play regarding the hypothetical Thielen trade. Would Brady have remained in New England? Would the Patriots have captured another title instead of watching their former QB raise the Lombardi Trophy with Tampa Bay? Would Bill Belichick still be the head coach of New England? I guess we'll never know.

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