Can you remember the last time that wide receiver was not considered a position of need for the New England Patriots? I can only think of two instances in the past decade: 2008, the year after setting ridiulcous records with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, and then 2015, the year after winning the Super Bowl with the emerging Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola.
Well, we're back to the Patriots needing wide receivers. Time is a flat circle.
It's very possible that New England could cut ties with both LaFell and Amendola prior to free agency, although I'd strongly argue against those moves. Regardless, the Patriots need to invest in wide receivers, both for the now and the future.
The Patriots absolutely need to take advantage of the wide receiver depth in the 2016 draft, where there will be dozens of possible #2 receivers in the middle rounds. However, the team's track record at drafting and developing prospects is pretty questionable and bringing in a proven veteran could save the team a lot of strife.
Here's a short list of wide receivers that could fit in New England:
6. Patriots WR Brandon Gibson; 29 years old. Surprise, surprise. Gibson was on a market minimum contract last season and really emerged during the preseason before tearing his ACL. He's succeeded in the past as an outside receiver in a Josh McDaniels' offense, so why not give him another shot? He'll be cheaper than any other option.
5. Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu; 27 years old. Sanu is not expected to return to the Bengals and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him receive a LaFell-like $3 million per year contract. He's not going to command big money because of his lack of production, but he seems to be a player that could do well with more opportunities. He might opt to join a different team where he'd be higher on the target depth chart.
4. Raiders WR Rod Streater; 28 years old. Streater will be available for dirt cheap since the Raiders couldn't find a way to use him in 2015. In 2013, Streater broke out with 62 touches for 905 yards, but a broken foot ended his 2014 season early on in the year. He missed the start of Raiders camp in 2015 with an illness, and the draft selection of Amari Cooper and the signing of Michael Crabtree bumped him out of the offense. The 6'2, 200 lbs receiver could emerge in New England.
3. Giants WR Rueben Randle; 25 years old. Randle will likely sign a Doug Baldwin-like $4.5 million per year contract, but he flashes the necessary ability to succeed on the outside as a quality #2 receiver. He's not blazing fast, he's not big, and he's inconsistent, which will hurt his value. If he can put it together, though, the sky is the limit. He's really young.
2. Bengals WR Marvin Jones; 26 years old. Jones is a likely option to remain in Cincinnati to play with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but he's worth the pursuit. New England missed out on Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate is thriving in Detroit. Jones is cut from a similar cloth. He'll likely pull in more than $6 million per season.
1. Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews; 26 years old. Matthews is coming off a 662 yard season, bu that undersells his ability. Miami was an offensive disaster in 2015 (which makes the season finale even more painful) and Matthews was a bright star. The Dolphins drafted DeVante Parker in the 1st round of the 2015 draft, which means that Matthews will have to go elsewhere to receive more targets. He could see a deal for roughly $4 million per season.