All bets on Kendrick Bourne; Patriots wide receiver the biggest winner in the Hopkins free agency decision

No DeAndre Hopkins means more Kendrick Bourne in Patriots' offense
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills / Bryan Bennett/GettyImages

The New England Patriots lost out the top remaining free agent on the market, but with All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins deciding to sign elsewhere, could a player like Kendrick Bourne shift into an even bigger role in 2023?

Sometimes the signings or trades that don’t happen can end up being the best-case scenario for a team.  In the wake of Hopkins choosing to sign with the Tennessee Titans over the Patriots, the big story brewing heading into training camp is how the team will upgrade at the wide receiver position, if at all. 

Aside from the obvious backlash surrounding the cheapness of Bill Belichick, the Patriots may just go through training camp hoping a player they already have on the team takes advantage of a major opportunity. Bourne is the first player who comes to mind because he may have been the odd man out if the Patriots signed Hopkins.

Patriots could see a Kendrick Bourne awakening in 2023

As fate will probably have it, Bourne will be re-born in 2023, with Bill O’Brien now calling the plays.  After standing out as one of the team’s best playmakers in 2021, Bourne found himself in Belichick’s doghouse throughout most of the 2023 NFL season despite the team’s apparent need for an offensive spark.

Whatever it was with Bourne, he found himself on the sideline when Mac Jones needed one of his favorite targets the most.  With just 35 receptions for 434 yards and a touchdown, Bourne kept his head up during a tumultuous season, and perhaps that positive attitude is about to pay off, and it could be due to Hopkins not getting the money in New England.

Apparently, Bourne may have been a reason the Patriots didn’t go all in on Hopkins.  As Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed revealed on the “Pats Interference” Podcast, Bourne, as part of a wide receiver group that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton, can be a factor in the Patriots' offense with optimism that he buys in and becomes the big playmaker he was in 2021 when he caught 55 passes for 800 yards and five touchdowns.

“From what I was hearing, there was a good possibility that Bourne was probably going to be on his way out if Hopkins was on the way in,” Kyed said, as transcribed by NESN.

“So there is still optimism about Kendrick Bourne. I think the team is excited to keep working with him,” Kyed added. “… This was quite possibly the difference between Kendrick Bourne being on the 2023 Patriots and not being on the 2023 Patriots.”

With O’Brien calling plays, there’s a good chance Bourne does produce like he did in his first season with the Patriots.  Following OTA’s, you can just tell Bourne felt better about the team’s offense and his role in the offense under an offensive coordinator that knows what he’s doing.

“Bill’s familiar with what he’s doing, so it feels good,” Bourne said back in June.  “You can tell he knows what he’s doing in all areas of the offense from receiver, linemen, running back, he knows offense a lot, so it feels good.”

Bourne went on to say that O’Brien also engages with all the players and gives off the aura that he knows each player's traits and what makes them successful.  It sounded like a clear dig at Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who served as play callers in 2022.

That is exactly what it was, as Bourne was a player who was clearly affected by the ineptitude of play calling…there really is no other way to describe whatever Patricia was trying to do on offense.

So, while Hopkins would’ve brought more buzz to training camp, the Patriots can see how Mac Jones connects with players like Kendrick Bourne, who may come out as a big winner in the aftermath of the Hopkins decision.