NFL: Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick leaves the field after their loss to the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium three weeks ago.

The trade deadline came and went with only a few teams making moves to bolster their rosters. And most of those transactions came earlier in the week.

What to make of the Patriots’ activity?

Given they didn’t sell off players to gain more draft capital for next year, they haven’t totally cashed in their chips on the 2020 season.

They haven’t completely given up and waved a white flag. Stephon Gilmore wasn’t moved, most likely because the asking price — reportedly a first-round pick and a roster player — was too steep for a 30-year-old player who is likely going to be looking for more money next year.

The Patriots weren’t willing to take pennies on the dollar, or whatever they could get for their shutdown corner. They wanted a huge return, so the reigning Defensive Player of the Year remains, for now. He could still be dealt during the offseason, heading into a walk year.

And that’s fine.

Guard Joe Thuney, another Patriot rumored in trade talks, also stayed. Ditto running back Sony Michel, who has probably lost his job to Damien Harris if and when he returns.

By the same token, acquiring Isaiah Ford from the Dolphins shouldn’t be viewed as going all-in, either. The wide receiver, even if a prototypical Patriot, is not the top-end playmaker they need.

Ford might prove a valuable addition, but isn’t likely to help them win at least seven of their remaining nine games to give the Patriots a shot at getting into the playoffs. It’s more like one of those no-harm, no-foul type of deals.

Surrendering a conditional sixth-round pick in 2022 for Ford has no real impact on their primary assets in the future, which was the way to go at this deadline.

Being 2-5, it really made no sense for the Patriots to deal for a couple of rentals, giving away important future draft picks.

At worst, Ford provides some depth in an area that could use it, and if he works out, his current contract can be extended.

Bottom line: The Patriots are happy to play out the season with Cam Newton & Co. and see where it takes them. Two wins, four wins, six wins, eight wins, however it plays out.

That’s what’s left for the Patriots, trying to make the most out of the least. And by doing that, head coach Bill Belichick has to stop the excuse-making he’s served up in recent days, first to old friend Charlie Weis on Sirius XM NFL radio, then to WEEI during his weekly Monday appearance.

Belichick claimed a cap space issue was the reason for his roster being so thin.

So he’s cash-strapped? Really?

It’s so unlike him, so beneath him, and so disingenuous to blame everything on not having money to spend. That’s garbage, because a larger part of the reason he had no money to spend falls on all the cash wasted on players who provided little (Antonio Brown, Mohamed Sanu, Michael Bennett) to help the team.

Belichick doesn’t acknowledge poor drafts or bad trades as being part of the problem plaguing his team. He doesn’t acknowledge all the dead money left on the cap because of poor management and spending. He believes the Patriots “sold out” to win championships, and that’s left them lacking in 2020.

Well, if that’s the case, he needs to sell out again. And just do a better job.

Since he blamed everything on the salary cap for this year’s lack of roster depth, he needs to do something next year, when he’s got a boatload of cap space — and that’s even with the expected ramifications and fallout from the pandemic.

While Belichick gains leniency in the eyes of many because of the six championships and sustained success he’s brought to New England, which is understandable, he just needs to get his fastball back. He needs to spend on better talent, and make better decisions in the draft.

Forget the excuses. Stop paying attention to all the noise. And get down to rebuilding the Patriots.

Because now, Newton and/or Jarrett Stidham don’t appear to be the long-term answer at the most important position on the field. So Belichick is going to need to trade for a quarterback next season, and find another in the draft who can be developed into the quarterback of the future.

In other words, Belichick still has to deal with the fallout for not paying and re-signing Tom Brady, and not having a better backup plan to make up for his expected departure. Seeing Brady succeed in Tampa with more talent around him merely makes the issue more of a sore spot.

Belichick also needs better receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and pass rushers. He needs playmakers across the board, because that’s what he had when he was winning all those championships.

Whether it’s in the draft, or via trade, Belichick and his staff need to do a better job assessing players. A large reason for their sustained success in the past, along with Brady, was their excellence in the draft, and trading for under-utilized players on other teams who turned into stars with the Patriots.

Belichick has had a knack for that, and he needs to get it back. If he doesn’t turn it around next season, and bring in better talent with all the cap space he’s due to have, he’ll lose some credibility. His excuses will ring hollow.