New England Patriots Links 3/21/12 - Patriots Set For Massive WR Competition at Training Camp

Will Deion Branch be in the running to compete for a roster spot this year?

Jeff Howe thinks Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are the only safe receivers for the Patriots, and 19 other thoughts.

1. With the addition of three wide receivers in three days, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is clearly setting up a massive competition to make the roster out of camp. That will only benefit the team because there are some good players who are going to push themselves purely for jobs, whereas in the past, their only worries may have been their snap totals.

2. At this point, wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd will be the only true locks to make the team out of camp. Matthew Slater can fall in that category, too, but he's a special teamer for all intents and purposes. From there, Chad Ochocinco, Donte Stallworth, Anthony Gonzalez, Tiquan Underwood, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch (I'm still assuming he re-signs) will battle for the last three or four spots.

3. I also think the Patriots will draft a receiver in the first three rounds. Obviously, if it's a first- or second-round pick, the player would essentially be a lock to make the team. Third-rounders usually get the benefit of the doubt, but they don't have the same clout.

4. The recent signings -- but the Gonzalez one, in particular -- puts one of the most surprising storylines of 2011 back into focus, and I think it's one of the best questions surrounding the Patriots this offseason. What is Edelman's positional fate? No, he doesn't have to line up at just one position, but if the Patriots are loading their depth at receiver, will Edelman even have a place on that side of the ball? And if not, is his punt returning ability enough to find him a more permanent role on defense? There are so many layers to this question, and it will be difficult to pinpoint an answer for a few months.

5. There's plenty of speculation that Gonzalez could be depth for Welker in the event of a holdout, and I think that's fair. But at the end of the day, from everything I know about him, I'd be stunned if Welker held out.

6. I spoke with Stallworth on Monday, and he's genuinely ecstatic to rejoin the Patriots. I thought it was a good signing, and those who have read my stuff over the last couple of years probably already knew that. He's a good complementary player who has proven that he can step in and learn the offense, which has obviously been a challenge for other successful veterans in recent seasons.

7. I also understand plenty of Patriots fans don't like the move, but it didn't cost the Patriots much to bring him back. And if he doesn't make the team, hey, that means there was someone better. That's all you can ask for, right?

8. Anyway, I had two leftover quotes from the Stallworth interview that I thought were worth sharing. First, he noted the hype that's been building up in Washington over the eventual arrival of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom the Redskins will draft with the second pick. Washington acquired the pick from St. Louis for three first-round picks and a second-rounder. "I know the fans were very excited about that," Stallworth said. The fans were wanting that even before they knew what the Redskins had to give up. They have a lot riding on that kid, and I hope he does well. I'm sure he will. He's going to bring a lot of excitement to the city and the organization, so good for them. I'm excited to watch that kid play, and I hope he does well. I'm a big fan of his."

9. Second, Stallworth said it was pretty fun to have a big game against his former team last season. The wideout had four receptions for a season-high 96 yards during the Redskins' loss to the Patriots, and he also beat cornerback Devin McCourty for a season-long 51-yard catch. "It felt pretty good," Stallworth said. "It's always good. Obviously, there were no harsh feelings with me leaving [New England], but any time you have your old team, you always want to play with a competitive drive. You always want to play well against your old team. Obviously, I always feel I can play better, but it was good to make a couple plays and give our team a chance to win that ballgame."

10. Since the Patriots are approaching double digits in the first week of free agency, it's worth noting how advantageous it will be for every team to run through a full offseason of camps. It will help on so many levels, and I'm only pointing out this obvious fact because I've heard from players who are really excited about it.

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