Breaking down the Patriots current receiving corps for 2024

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington
Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

After the draft, there are 11 wide receivers on the Patriots roster. But who are they, and what can they do? 

Luckily, they fall into three categories: some are veterans on more expensive contracts, others are youngsters who were drafted this year or in 2023, and then there’s everyone else. 

The veterans 

Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, K.J Osborn, and Kawaan Baker have all been there and done that. Although Baker hasn’t done much on the field. He was drafted by the Saints in 2021 and played on their special teams unit for two games. But then he was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season, and the Saints waived him in October of that year. 

Bourne could be the WR1 since he has been in New England for the last three seasons. But in his seven seasons in the league, he’s never started more than eight games, and he hasn't started that many games in six years.

Osborn will earn more money than Bourne this year, but he only arrived in New England in free agency and caught only 48 of 75 targets last year in Minnesota. Maybe Alex Van Pelt envisages him stepping up to lead the receiving corps, but he was the Vikings slot receiver in 2023. 

Talking of slot receivers, Smith-Schuster has been one of the premier slot receivers in the league for a while. Even though he never found his feet in 2023, and most Patriots fans expect (or want) him to be cut, he is the Patriots’ highest-paid receiver in 2024. There would be a dead cap hit if they released him this year, although the cap hit would be smaller if they were to trade him.

The new(ish) guys 

Kayshon Boutte and Demario “Pop” Douglas were drafted in 2022. This year, the team drafted two more receivers.

Boutte has some legal issues to deal with before he can worry about playing football this year. Douglas had his issues in 2023, but they were concussion-related. If he can stay healthy in 2024, he could provide the spark the offense lacked last year. 

Ja’Lynn Polk was drafted in the second round, 23 places higher than he was expected to go! In college, he specialized in finding some late separation to haul in deep passes unleashed by Michael Penix Jr. That ability might be helpful with Drake Maye and Joe Milton III having huge arms. But if the offensive line can’t keep their quarterback upright, Polk might have a quiet first season. But if the offensive line can’t keep their quarterback upright, Polk might have a quiet first season. 

Javon Baker is another 2024 draft selection. The Patriots took him with the 110th pick, 34 picks later than he was expected to go! Baker is more of a possession receiver than Polk. He has an uncanny ability to beat defenders with his two or three strides, reminiscent of Stevie Johnson or Davante Adams. Baker's ability to get open immediately will be vital in a very new offense.

The other guys 

Jalen Reagor was the 21st overall pick in 2020 but is still just 25. He’ll probably handle the kick-returning duties. Tyquan Thornton was one of Bill Belichick’s whiffs in the 2022 draft. He is a second-round pick who has only managed 338 receiving yards in two years, but he’s contracted until the end of the 2025 season.

T.J. Luther, on the other hand, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets in 2023. However, they cut him at the end of August, and the Patriots picked him up in September. Then, the Patriots cut him and later re-signed him to the practice squad. It’s safe to say he’ll be back on the practice squad come September.  

The Patriots find themselves in an odd position. Yes, all teams load up on players during the offseason to generate competition during the preseason, and the Patriots can still sign 12 more players to do that. But they currently have 11 wide receivers with no obvious candidates to cut.

Meanwhile, they only have three defensive ends and one kicker, who was the worst in the league last year. 

More Patriots coverage: