All the hype over the last few weeks has been about the Patriots finally landing their much-needed star wide receiver with DeAndre Hopkins.
The receiver was in for a visit that reportedly went incredibly well, with both sides remaining interested and in contact. But since that meeting, little has been said about where the two parties sit regarding moving forward with a contract.
The news of DeVante Parker's contract extension earlier this week brought Hopkins' potential to sign with New England into question, mainly due to it being an unexpected move considering the little impact that Parker has had on the team. However, that has since been debunked, with NFL insiders stating the Patriots are still very much interested in Hopkins, and signing him is not off the table.
That is definitely great news, especially since it feels like the offense still needs a big-time contributor like Hopkins on the team. But what if the five-time Pro Bowler decides to sign elsewhere?
Should Belichick look to sign another accomplished receiver instead? It wouldn't be a bad idea.
Who could be a good replacement if Hopkins doesn't sign with the Patriots?
Since summer is officially about to begin, most top-name free agents, especially the receivers, have already been signed.
The class of free-agent pass-catchers this year did not have teams fighting to sign the same player, with Jakobi Meyers being considered the best of the group. Of the players available, Belichick chose to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has been considered a comparable player to Meyers. Still, he isn't the significant boost and playmaker the offense needs right now.
There is a player who could still be that type of guy on the field, with a history of unbelievable plays and a resume that's hard to believe was made by a single player.
What if the Patriots signed Julio Jones?
No, he's not a young receiver at his prime anymore, and he hasn't had a lot of stellar performances over the last two seasons, basically since he left the Falcons in 2021. But he's a proven talent that hasn't appeared to be drastically slowing down. He could be an exciting replacement for Hopkins if he chooses not to sign with New England.
Besides the obvious mutual respect between Belichick and Hopkins, the apparent reason to bring a receiver like him in is to add a game-changing offensive weapon for Bill O'Brien and Mac Jones to play with. The defense has already earned a reputation as a well-balanced and dominant unit. On the other hand, the offense has remained the weaker side of the team that doesn't intimidate opposing defenses like in the past.
Adding a player like Hopkins or Jones could get them back to that point, which would be beneficial overall, especially for Mac Jones, who hopes to get back to rookie form this upcoming year and impress the team with his performance.
So in the case of Hopkins choosing to sign with another team, Jones could be a viable option, as most of what he can bring to the table is similar to that of Hopkins.
Since he remains a free agent in almost July, however, it's also possible that signing a 34-year-old Jones isn't appealing; it seems that way with most teams around the league not expressing interest in signing the seven-time Pro Bowler. It's also possible that Belichick is fine with the team's receiving corps as it is now, even if most fans would disagree.
No matter what, Hopkins' decision to sign with the Patriots or not will dictate if entertaining the possibility of Jones signing there instead could even be considered.
They won't both be signed. But either scenario won't happen for at least a few weeks since Hopkins is reportedly planning not to sign anywhere until closer to the start of training camp.