Even the most die-hard New England Patriots fan will tell you that the Super Bowl XLIX champs could have used more depth at wide receiver in 2014. Well, that issue hasn’t been addressed as well as it could have this offseason, and the injury concern of Brandon LaFell further stresses the need for a veteran receiver. With that in mind, it’s clear the Patriots should take a flyer on veteran wideout James Jones.
Perhaps the most noteworthy absence from Patriots OTAs this month was LaFell. We didn’t know much about the reason for LaFell missing practice until this photo of him in a walking boot was tweeted out during Danny Amendola’s charity event.
The Patriots’ top receiver from 2014 not named Julian Edelman (who was just ranked the 19th best receiver in the NFL) is currently hobbled, and that’s cause for concern. Sure, LaFell should be good to go by the time training camp rolls around, but it plants the seed of worry in your head: what would the Patriots’ receiving corps look like without Edelman or LaFell?
An injury to either of those guys would leave the passing game in varying degrees of disrepair. That’s the main reason the Patriots need to eat the last slice of cake remaining from the free agent wide receiver market.
Jones hasn’t exactly hidden his intention to play somewhere in 2015, as evidenced by the quote below.
The Patriots could really use a receiver like Jones because he can assume the roles of both Edelman and LaFell if one or the other went down with injury. He offers ability as a possession receiver, as indicated by his 73 receptions for the Oakland Raiders last season, so he could replace an injured Edelman in that role. In addition, Jones could fill-in for LaFell because he is a proven commodity on the outside, especially with a top-tier quarterback throwing his way.
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Speaking of quarterbacks and how that has affected Jones’ play over the years, the only reason the former Packer is still on the market is that ugly 9.1 yards per catch he had in 2014 with Derek Carr throwing to him. When Aaron Rodgers was his teammate, Jones was one of the most consistently productive receivers in the NFL, racking up over 600 yards receiving in five of his seven seasons in Green Bay.
It should also be noted that Jones was a favorite target of Rodgers in 2012, as the receiver pulled in a jaw-dropping 14 touchdowns that year. One can say with confidence that catching passes from Tom Brady would revitalize Jones’ career.
The only new receivers on the Patriots’ roster are free agent signing Brandon Gibson and undrafted rookie Chris Harper. At the very least, the Patriots should sign Jones as soon as possible, let him shake off the rust by practicing with Brady over the summer, and give him a fair tryout in August.
New England would be as good a place as any for Jones to prove his worth, and perhaps no other team in the NFL needs him as much as the Patriots.