Never complain about how the New England Patriots are being quiet in free agency, because the only thing they are quiet about is their plan and which players they are currently looking at. The Patriots have started to pick up some steam in their free agent activity ever since signing Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker, and they have since worked out a few players. One of them was former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Donald Jones, who worked out with the Patriots yesterday.
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According to Adam Schefter, the New England Patriots have signed Donald Jones to a three-year deal, and the 25-year-old Youngstown State product will stay around in the AFC East after being snapped up by Bill Belichick. As we saw with Welker, Belichick has a knack for turning other AFC East wideouts into something more.
The Bills did not see Jones as something more, because they did not tender the restricted free agent. The Bills mission this offseason is to find a true number one wideout, and it was evidently to also cut loose the receivers who didn’t fall under that category. That’s why they also foolishly declined to tender David Nelson.
So the Patriots have scooped up the young receiver, who had his first truly productive season in 2012 thanks to Nelson’s ACL Tear. Jones caught 41 passes for 443 yards (10.3 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. Those are decent numbers, but Jones has never posted numbers anywhere near those during his three year career.
Jones is also a bit of an injury risk, as he missed 12 games in the past two seasons and missed one game as a rookie. However, he has some nice upside and projects to be a possession receiver outside the numbers.
Possession receiver? Outside the numbers? Unless if the Patriots think Brandon Lloyd can become a deep threat again or they want their top three receivers to be possession guys, then Lloyd might have been replaced by Donald Jones as the possession receiver on the outside. I’m just speculating here, but this is an interesting topic to run on. We’ve all heard about Lloyd’s “erratic behavior”, and the damning piece on him from CSNNE that stated the Patriots don’t even have Lloyd on their depth chart for the next season.
By the way, Lloyd’s $3 million option kicks in tomorrow which will make things even more interesting. Just keep your eyes peeled on that, because it is a possibility.
Jones isn’t a big-play guy despite his height and speed, but it could be possible for the Patriots to morph him into one. If they think that can happen, then screw whatever I just said about this affecting Lloyd. But if they don’t, then I think we’ll see the Patriots draft a wide receiver like Justin Hunter or another guy they deem as a potential big-play threat. At this point in time, it seems like a CB like Johnthan Banks is the Pats priority in the draft- but that’s just me guessing (and remembering a report from Tony Pauline).
To me, Jones is more of a number three receiver at this point in time, so it will be interesting to see if the Pats can try and morph him into something bigger. That means if they keep Lloyd, they think Jones can stretch the field or be the heir-apparent (the former is more likely than the latter in his scenario). If they release Lloyd, then they view Jones as a potential replacement but will also sign a wideout. Or they could keep both guys and have some totally different plan- anything is possible depending on what the Pats think.
This guy comes from the “rough”, but he could be a diamond from Buffalo. Donald Jones is also a great blocking wide receiver, and I bet that’s something Belichick was quite fond of when he decided to take a flier on this guy. What do you guys think about Jones and how he fits with the Pats? And Lloyd? How about draft strategy? Sound off in the comments section.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.