Patriots interested in speedy deep threat as a receiver and returner

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 22: Dede Westbrook #12 of the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 22: Dede Westbrook #12 of the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots spent a ton of money in free agency last year, but they haven’t been as active as many expected this year. With Shaq Mason in Tampa and JC Jackson in Los Angeles, several familiar faces have now been tossed aside.

If Belichick decides to wake up and sign some impactful free agents, he should prioritize the wide receiver position. Adding Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith has a positive impact on Mac Jones, and Belichick should look to continue reinforcing his pass-catchers to keep Jones performing at a high level.

While deals for players like Christian Kirk and Mike Williams currently have the market all out of sorts at that position, that shouldn’t stop the Patriots from making a more cost-effective signing. One player that makes a ton of sense for New England might be a slinky speed demon who used to ply his trade in the AFC South.

According to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, New England has shown interest in former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook. With Gunner Olszewski now on the market and Jones in need of some more support at wide receiver, Westbrook could be a solid fit in New England.

Will the New England Patriots sign Dede Westbrook?

Concerns about his size and behavior helped Westbrook fall to the fourth round despite a fantastic college career at Oklahoma. His career in Duval County started with some impressive numbers, as he amassed 1,700 yards and nine touchdowns in his first three seasons despite some generally poor quarterback play.

This signing would be a complete gamble on his physical tools. In 2020, Westbrook caught just one pass before tearing his ACL. He signed a one-year contract with the Vikings in 2021, but he amassed just 10 catches for 68 yards in Minnesota. Could Belichick get him back to his old level?

Westbrook does have some baggage that he will need to explain to the Patriots. Before arriving at Oklahoma, he was arrested twice on family and domestic violence charges, though both cases were eventually dropped.

Westbrook has reportedly matured emotionally since then, but those incidents should still be considered before offering a contract.

If the Patriots don’t have any off-field concerns about Westbrook and are convinced by their medical team that his knee issues are not significant, he might be a worthwhile addition as a third or fourth receiver. He won’t fix all of New England’s issues, but he’d help give them more speed.