Let’s be honest, the Patriots do not have a true No. 1 wide receiver. And without a healthy Julian Edelman, they don’t even have a No. 2 wide receiver.
Over the past two seasons now, one of the glaring issues on this Patriots team is the lack of talent and production from the wide receivers. In fact, the Patriot’s wide receivers are trending in the wrong direction. The talent level is on a downward spiral, as is the amount of money these wide receivers are making.
The Patriots should consider revamping their entire wide receiver room because aside from Jakobi Meyers, nobody has been reliable or made enough plays to prove they should be part of the Patriot’s future.
Should the #Patriots entertain revamping their entire wide receiver room?
— Kevin Tame Jr. (@Kevin_Tame) January 6, 2021
Current Group of Wide Receivers
Julian Edelman: He played in just six games in 2020 and was placed on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery. In 2021, Edelman will earn a base salary of $2,800,000, and a roster bonus of $337,500.
N’Keal Harry: A first-round pick in 2019 who has not lived up to his expected potential. In 14 games in 2020, he caught 33 balls and two touchdowns. In 2021, Harry will earn a base salary of $1,413,032.
Jakobi Meyers: By far the most reliable Patriots wide receiver in 2020. Had his best statistical season in 2020 with 59 catches and 729 receiving yards. Meyer’s only real downfall is he’s yet to score a touchdown in his career. In 2021, Meyers will earn a base salary of $850,000.
Damiere Byrd: He signed a one-year deal last offseason. Had his best statical season in 2020 with 47 catches, 604 yards, and one touchdown. He is a nice little player but would be better suited as the 4th or 5th option. In 2021, Byrd is an unrestricted free agent.
Donte Moncrief: He played in six games and had just one 15-yard catch to show for it. Most of his playing time was as a kick returner. He had seven kick returns for 165 yards. In 2021, Moncrief is a free agent.
The rest of the wide receivers under contract are Gunner Olszewski, Marqise Lee, Isaiah Zuber, Kristian Wilkerson, and Devin Smith.
According to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, the Patriots should have a busy offseason. Curran said the following on the Dale & Keefe show:
“Everything I am hearing from down there is that the Patriots are going to be extremely and uncharacteristically aggressive in this offseason.”
Bill Belichick does, indeed, have the tools for an aggressive offseason. The Patriots own the 15th overall selection in the first round, and a projected $64 million in cap space, per PatsCap’s Miguel Benzan. The Patriots should have three compensatory picks for losing Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins in free agency last year.
Let’s take a look at some realistic options Belichick could take to revamp their entire receiver room.
Wide Receiver Options
- Tier 1 free agent: Kenny Golladay
- Tier 2 free agent: Nelson Agolor or Corey Davis
- Day 1 draft pick: Ja’Marr Chase, LSU or Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
- Day 2 draft pick: Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC or Amari Rodgers, Clemson
As you read that list of wide receivers, the first thing you probably thought was, “where is Atlanta’s, Julio Jones? What about Chicago’s Allen Robinson or Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin?” Obviously bringing in stud wide receivers like Jones, Robinson, or Godwin would be ideal, but is it realistic? If we just look at Belichick’s track record with wide receivers, whether it’s through the draft, free agency, or trades, other than Randy Moss, has Belichick ever really brought in a top wide receiver? I suppose you could argue that Belichick signed Antonio Brown, but even that signing was a bargain compared to what Brown would have been making had he not shot himself out of Oakland.
Since 2000, the Patriots have acquired players like David Patten, Deion Branch, David Givens, Bethel Johnson, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Doug Gabriel, Wes Welker, Donte’ Stallworth, Joey Galloway, Brandon Tate, Brandon Lloyd, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, and Brandon Lafell. I’m sure there are other names I left out, but the point is not many of those players, if any at all, were big-name true No. 1 receivers.
The Patriots had two opportunities to draft Kenny Golladay in the third round of the 2017 draft. First, New England selected defensive end, Derek Rivers, at No. 83, and then they selected offensive tackle, Antonio Garcia at No. 85. The Detroit Lions drafted Golladay at No. 96.
Golladay put up back to back 1000 yard seasons when he was healthy in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, Golladay caught 70 passes, for 1063 yards, and five touchdowns. In 2019, he was even better with 65 catches, 1190 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Golladay, he suffered a lingering hamstring injury that only allowed him to play in five games in 2020.
One thing that does work in Belichick’s favor is prior to Golladay’s injury-plagued season in 2020, he was likely on pace for a huge payday. Could Belichick sign Golladay for a more reasonable deal due to those injuries? That was a method that worked for years. Belichick earned a living on signing either veteran players or underachieving players to one-year contracts. If that player met all the incentives, they could earn that next big contract the following year.
One of the concerns for the Patriots in the Golladay sweepstakes is that his former quarterback, Matt Stafford, wanted to be traded anywhere in the league except to New England. On top of that, former Patriots wide receiver, Danny Amendola, went public saying Tom Brady is the Patriots Way, not Belichick. If Golladay has had Amendola chirping in his ears in Detroit, will he want to come to play for New England?
One way or another, even if Golladay commands a long-term deal in the range of $18-$20 million annually, New England should unquestionably pursue Golladay once free agency officially begins in March.
Nelson Agolor, a former first-round pick, feels like the perfect wide receiver free agent signing for Belichick. Agholor has never surpassed 900 yards in a season since entering the NFL in 2015. To be fair, he came close in 2020 with the Raiders, finishing the season with 896 yards. In fact, Agholor caught 48 passes for 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. Agolor is not an elite player, but he does have impressive numbers and an attractive skill set. He is an athletic receiver with solid downfield speed.
Patriots fans may remember Agholor when New England faced Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII. Agholor had a big game, catching nine passes for 84 yards. He also ran the ball once for nine yards.
I said I was told by an NFL member of team management that, "I'm hearing Raiders will do a deal with Agholor for 2 years $15 million." I didn't say done yet. Thank you. https://t.co/2Su3g5zdn0
— Hondo Carpenter (@HondoCarpenter) January 14, 2021
As reported by Hondo Carpenter, of Sports Illustrated, Agholor is likely to re-sign with the Raiders and get around $15 million over two years. Agolor being offered $15 million does not bode well for the Patriots unless Belichick is actually planning on putting some money into his wide receiver group.
According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, “Agholor told his teammates that they sucked after their week 16 loss to the Dolphins. He said his teammates were selfish and didn’t work hard enough, and that they had quit against the Dolphins as well as in the previous two losses. He said there was no accountability in the locker room, and on winning teams, players play for one another and the coaches.”
After harsh comments like that, it is unclear whether Gruden still wants Agholor around. It will be interesting to see whether he decides to stay with the Raiders or test free agency.
To clarify, I still think the Patriots should do their due diligence and try signing Agholor. He is a much cheaper option than the tier 1 free agents but could provide similar production. He would instantly be the best wide receiver on the Patriots roster.
Just like Agolor, Corey Davis, who just turned 26, is also a former first-round pick. The knock-on Davis is that he has not quite lived up to the hype. He is coming off his best season, however, with 984 yards receiving and five touchdowns. In a contract year, he set a career-high in receptions, yards, yards per catch, touchdowns, yards per target, and yards per game this season.
Davis is listed at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, and has plenty of explosiveness in that body frame. He would definitely fill a dire need as a downfield threat and player to stretch the field. He could fill the role previously filled by Chris Hogan and Brandon La Fell. Better yet, Davis could fill the role Harry has failed at.
According to Spotrac, Davis could command a contract worth $39.4 million over four years, averaging just short of $10M per season. This would be a more financially friendly deal than say, Allen Robinson, or Chris Godwin — who are undoubtedly better players but will both probably cost close to $20 million per season.
NFL Draft 2021
Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle are all more than likely going to be off the board by pick No. 15. The only way the Patriots can draft one of the elite receivers in the draft is by trading up. I would be shocked if the Patriots used another first-round pick on a wide receiver. A couple of names to keep an eye on are Amon-Ra St. Brown, out of USC, or Amari Rodgers, out of Clemson.
Amon-Ra St. Brown does an exceptional job creating separation, which is something the Patriot’s wide receivers struggled with. He also has good speed after the catch, which the Patriots are lacking. At 6’1″ 195lbs, Brown can develop into a good No. 2 receiver in New England’s offense.
Amari Rodger’s run-after-catch potential is by far his most intriguing trait. At 5’9″ 210lbs, Rodger’s play style and stature would remind a lot of fans of the Deion Branch days. I’m not suggesting Rodgers comes in and becomes the next Deion Branch, but I do think he would be a good 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Belichick is well overdue to finally hit on a wide receiver in the draft.
To sum it up, if the 2019 and 2020 Patriots offensive production (or lack thereof) taught Belichick anything, it’s that this Patriots team desperately needs to upgrade their wide receiver room. If New England wants to get back to their winning ways, Belichick needs to spend some money on revamping his entire wide receiver room. Players with the skill set and experience as a No.1 receiver do not come cheap. In other words, rather than paying the bare minimum for wide receivers, Belichick has to be willing to pay market value to get more talent to play in New England. In addition, the Patriots scouting department needs to do a better job at identifying and drafting talented wide receivers.
–Kevin Tame, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Tame