Rebuild the receiver corps
The only New England wide receiver guaranteed a roster spot in 2019 is the one wearing No. 11 in the picture above.
Fresh off an abbreviated 14-game campaign in which he still finished as the team’s leading receiver with 74 catches for 850 yards, Edelman delivered a postseason performance for the ages, hauling in 26 receptions off 35 targets for 388 yards across three playoff wins. As a reward, he was named Super Bowl LIII MVP.
Though still strangely averse to the end zone at times, Edelman remains Brady’s go-to receiver for gotta-have-it conversions, particularly on third down. His toughness, route versatility, and uncanny ability to get open at will, all make him a lock to return to the Patriots next year, and presumably for many more years to come.
Behind him, though, is a convoluted puzzle of a depth chart.
Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett are all unrestricted free agents. Josh Gordon, still serving an indefinite suspension and receiving treatment for his substance abuse and addiction issues, is a restricted free agent. The only other two receivers still on the Patriots’ regular roster even are special teams ace Matthew Slater – who has just one career NFL reception in his life – and rookie Braxton Berrios, who has never seen a regular season snap.
Hogan has been a decent addition to the roster in his past three seasons since coming over from Buffalo, but he’s hardly lit the room on fire. Throw out his epic AFC Championship Game performance against Pittsburgh a couple years ago, and it’s hard to remember any signature moments he’s had in a Patriots uniform. Unless he’s willing to take a significantly reduced new salary, it might be time for both sides to move on.
Patterson proved his usefulness this season, doing triple-duty as a return specialist, a receiver, and even as a running back at times. Still, this is a former first-round draft pick whose ceiling remains “streaky gadget-type player.” Like Hogan, if Patterson is willing to take a pay cut to stick around in Foxborough another season to compete for a championship, then why not? Otherwise, he should be allowed to sign elsewhere for more money.
Dorsett didn’t show enough this season to warrant a raise or extension. Gordon was the dynamic deep threat the Patriots sorely needed, but he remains a major liability because of his off-field issues; until and unless he can get the help he needs, he’s doing little more than taking up a roster spot for the team.
New England should explore both the draft and free agency to reload its receiver position this offseason. Hunter Renfrow of Clemson looks like the prototypical savvy route-runner Bill Belichick covets in his offense. Adam Humphries of Tampa Bay and Cole Beasley of Dallas have also been linked to the Patriots via rumors and speculation.
All three of these players would seemingly buy into the Patriot Way and could quickly develop chemistry with Tom Brady. Really though, the Pats need to find their ‘X’ receiver – a vertical threat that can take the top off defenses and shoot for the end zone any given play.
That should be their top priority in terms of offseason personnel acquisition.