The New England Patriots wide receivers were battered all season. Julian Edelman was knocked out in week 10 with a foot injury that he appeared to reinjure against the Broncos. Danny Amendola suffered a knee sprain that bothered him for the rest of the year. Brandon LaFell missed the early part of the season with a foot injury of his own that prevented him from being effective later in the year. Keshawn Martin battled a hamstring injury in the middle of the season after joining in September.
Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, and Brandon Gibson were on the injured reserve. Chris Harper was an undrafted rookie. Matthew Slater has always been a pure special teams player.
While none of the key players will be free agents this season, it's clear that both age and injury have taken a toll on this position, and there are no players being groomed for the future.
Edelman led receivers with 692 yards and 7 touchdowns on 61 receptions, while Amendola was close behind with 648 yards and 3 touchdowns on 65 receptions. LaFell ranked third with 515 yards and zero touchdowns on 37 receptions as he was far less effective due to his foot injury.
Martin collected 269 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 receptions as he passed LaFell in the depth chart during the playoffs and picked up a contract extension. This will be the core of the position moving forward.
|Player||9/1/16 Age||Exp||FA||FA Type||2016 Cap||APY|
Of course that means the core of the team will be roughly 30 years of age next season. This is roughly the time where production peaks and begins to fall, and there is no real youth on the roster to prepare for the future.
Amendola is a top salary cap casualty as his $7.3 million hit is astronomical for a slot receiver. He's still trusted by quarterback Tom Brady and could return if he is willing to restructure his contract. Martin will serve as a super-sub for both Amendola and Edelman.
Edelman will be back and will hopefully be healthy. He seems to have reinjured his foot against the Broncos, and we've seen how foot injuries can really impact a player's development as both Dobson and LaFell have had seasons derailed due to the injury.
LaFell was a major disappointment, but the coaching staff will probably give him an offseason to prove that his performance was a fluke and the result of his foot injury, instead of his actual level of play. His salary isn't too hefty for a #3 receiver, so he'll likely get another shot.
Dobson is likely a camp body, if the team is willing to give him a chance.
The Patriots need to find a player of youth to revitalize the position. Whether that means bringing in a free agent in his mid-20s, or selecting a player in the draft in his early-20s, the position has to change. There could be a major upheaval at this position in 2016.