The New England Patriots are supposedly going younger at the wide receiver position, and that seemed like the clear message following the signings of Donald Jones and Danny Amendola, along with the interest showed in Pittsburgh Steelers vertical threat Emmanuel Sanders and the release of veteran Brandon Lloyd. However, the Patriots most recent acquisition at the position bucked that trend, as they signed 30-year-old WR Michael Jenkins yesterday.
Jenkins, known as “Molasses Mike”, is the definition of an aging receiver. Possessing great height at 6’4″ and the ability to be a factor in the red zone, Jenkins gets little to no separation and is the opposite of a deep threat. Basically, Jenkins is a taller, poor man’s Brandon Lloyd. On the bright side, Jenkins is also a very good blocker and, unlike Lloyd, a stabilizing locker room influence who received praise from Leslie Frazier while with the Minnesota Vikings for that.
Hopefully, Jenkins is nothing more than a camp body at this point. We’ll see if he makes the roster in training camp, and I always thought Donte’ Stallworth (mutual interest for a deal down the road) or even Deion Branch would just fill in the void for “veteran wide receiver” on the Pats. Heck, even Jabar Gaffney seemed like a more likely option.
The Patriots decision to sign Mike Jenkins can be either good or bad, and that’s where context comes in. As mentioned above, I am a fan of signing Jenkins as a camp body at- or very close to- the veteran minimum. He is a good character guy, solid at the back end of the wide receiver corps, can move the chains, can block, and he can be a factor in the red zone. However, Jenkins offers no upside, is aging, can’t stretch the field, and he can’t separate from defensive players. Thus, he does not fit what the Patriots need at wide receiver, which is a vertical threat.
So if the Patriots think that they can sign Jenkins and all will be well at the position, then I don’t think they are on point. Because then, their wide receiver corps is not only bereft of a true No. 1 guy, but it will also have just one No. 2 guy. Think about it, their group of receivers would go Danny Amendola, Donald Jones, and then Michael Jenkins as their top three guys.
Uh, yeah…not the best idea. But the Patriots are most likely juts bringing in Jenkins to be a camp body, so signing him might not be a waste of time, much less “stupid”. The Pats will probably sign Sanders or draft wide receiver like Justin Hunter or DeAndre Hopkins in the draft to add a true vertical threat, because that’s what they need- they need another dimension in this offense. Heck, I could also see them signing Sanders and even drafting a wideout in the draft like Aaron Dobson in the second. But the Patriots will likely “spend” their draft pick (that third-rounder) for the Steelers RFA wide receiver.
The signing of Michael Jenkins needs context, and it will be interesting to see if the New England Patriots gives us the context that they are definitely not done morphing their wide receiver corps. But Jenkins isn’t some garbage player, because he did catch 40 passes last season for the Minnesota Vikings.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.