Yesterday, the New England Patriots began a major overhaul of their receiving corps. First, the team informed restricted free agent Brian Tyms that he won't be tendered. A few hours later, the Patriots released wide receiver Brandon LaFell and tight end Scott Chandler.
While seeing Tyms and Chandler go was not that big of a surprise, LaFell's release was, at least this early in the offseason.
While the wide receiver had a down year in 2015, he was still able to catch 42 passes for 521 yards in 11 regular season games and two playoff contests. Unfortunately for him, due to his inconsistency he was passed on the depth chart by mid-season acquisition Keshawn Martin late in the year and by the time of the AFC Championship Game was only the team's fifth target.
LaFell's struggles could have been the result of a foot injury that forced the 29-year old to miss the entire offseason training program and spend the first five weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. After all, his first year with the club was a huge success.
After signing a 3-year, $9.0 million free agency contract in 2014, LaFell became one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, combining length with good route running on the outside. After not catching a pass the first two weeks of his Patriots career, LaFell finished the regular season as New England's number two wide receiver and with 74 receptions for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns.
He added 13 catches for 119 yards and 2 scores in the postseason and was an integral member of the Patriots' Super Bowl run. He was a success-story in his first year in Foxboro and, most importantly, helped the team win its fourth Lombardi Trophy.
However, the story looks less successful when the entirety of his career as a Patriot is looked at: a good first year, an inconsistent second year and a release before the third year even started. This leads to question whether or not signing LaFell as a free agent in 2014 was retrospectively a successful move.
From this point of view, it was. After all, LaFell was a relatively cheap option compared to his cap numbers. While his 2015 season did not live up to the standards he set the prior year – and the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately?"-league – his 2014 season cannot be ignored. Just like the fact that he helped the Patriots reach the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.
Let us know what you think in the comments!