Free agent wide receiver Chris Hogan has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal to leave the New England Patriots and join the Carolina Panthers instead.
Hogan’s defection to the Panthers isn’t necessarily a huge surprise, nor is it a death-blow to a Patriots team that just won their third Super Bowl championship in the past five years. When we considered the list of New England players that would enter free agency this spring way back in February, we identified Hogan as a player the team should let walk if his price tag was too high.
His best year as a Patriot came in his first season with the team in 2016. Hogan started in a career-best 14 games that season, catching 38 passes for 680 yards. That receiving yardage total also represented a career-best for Hogan, who somehow was even better in the postseason: finishing with 17 catches for 332 yards and two touchdowns.
His performance in that season’s AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is undoubtedly the defining moment of his New England tenure. Hogan was a one-man wrecking machine, catching nine balls for 180 yards and two touchdowns in Foxborough that evening and propelling the Patriots back to the NFL championship game, where they’d win the first overtime Super Bowl in history.
But in subsequent years, Hogan’s performance always seemed to underwhelm just a bit. He missed seven games during the 2017 season as he battled a shoulder injury, and was ineffective for stretches of play on the field even when healthy. Though setting a new career benchmark for touchdown receptions that season with five, he also had the fewest catches in a season since his rookie year with the Buffalo Bills back in 2013.
Hogan played a full 16-game slate for the first time as a Patriot last season, but he only got the starting nod in seven of those 16 games. Compared to 332 postseason yards in 2016 and 152 postseason yards in 2017, Hogan had just 58 receiving yards in this most recent playoff run, further underscoring his diminishing returns.
While some fans may scratch their heads and wonder why a team as receiver-needy as the 2019 Patriots would let an established veteran walk out the door to sign elsewhere, his M.I.A. performance in Super Bowl 53 speaks volumes about how the team must have seen him moving forward. Especially in a game where fellow wideout Julian Edelman seemed to be the only viable option for Tom Brady and the New England offense, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to see Hogan going elsewhere this offseason.
He now will join a Panthers receiving corps that is also in desperate need of reinforcements, having only Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright, Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore, Rashad Ross, and Mose Frazier currently listed on their starting roster.