Mohamed Sanu trade gives Patriots the flexibility they covet

Orlovsky: The Patriots will become unstoppable with Sanu (0:52)

Dan Orlovsky and Marcus Spears agree that Mohamed Sanu is a perfect addition to the Patriots offense to help them make a Super Bowl run. (0:52)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A second-round draft pick is a significant price for the New England Patriots to pay in a trade for veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu, but as coach Bill Belichick seems to say every year, "To get something, you have to give up something."

Interestingly, the Patriots' brilliant 16-play opening touchdown drive in Monday night's 33-0 win against the New York Jets is a good example of why the club felt the need to make the move.

Start with receiver Josh Gordon. He was inactive for the game because of a knee injury, and while the Patriots are optimistic about his return, they also aren't operating in a vacuum. They saw how quickly Gordon's situation changed last December, when he went from key contributor to NFL suspension, so it has always been a week-to-week approach.

Without Gordon, the Patriots were limited in their options. They essentially had two personnel groupings on their opening march.

One of them featured two receivers (Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett), two tight ends (Ben Watson, Eric Tomlinson) and one running back (Sony Michel).

The other had four receivers (Edelman, Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski) and one running back (James White). Meyers and Olszewski are undrafted free agents who are chipping in admirably for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but they have also never experienced postseason football -- and the grind of an entire NFL season.

As the drive showed, the margin for error was thin. It took razor-sharp execution to convert on three third downs and one fourth down.

And the Patriots were one injury from a dire situation, similar to the second half of a Week 6 win against the New York Giants when they spent the entire time in the same personnel grouping -- the first time quarterback Tom Brady can ever remember that happening.

Enter Sanu.

Ever since Rob Gronkowski's retirement in March, and even before that, the team has been looking for an inside receiver to fill his void. They had it with Antonio Brown, but we all know how that turned out.

Asking first-round pick N'Keal Harry to do it was a solid fallback plan, as he has been designated to return off injured reserve and is eligible to play for the first time Nov. 3 in Baltimore. But he is truly a better fit on the outside. He's also unproven.

So Sanu's inside presence gives offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels more decisive, proven options, and should help Edelman most. Some mistakenly view Edelman as a pure slot, but he's actually just as capable on the outside, where he still aligns almost half the time.

Gordon, Edelman, Sanu and Dorsett will be a tough four-receiver package for any defense to combat. Meyers, Harry and Olszewski offer promise and insurance at receiver, while Watson and Tomlinson, at tight end, can now fall into the spots that suit them best as role players.

So a second-round pick for Sanu is a premium to pay.

But the reasons why the Patriots felt inclined to do it have been on full display in recent weeks.