Bleacher Report is already looking at the 2018 NFL season and they’ve named one free agent that every team should sign heading into next year. Surprisingly, New England Patriots tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Malcolm Butler aren’t mentioned. No player on the Patriots received a nod.
But the Patriots were linked to a wide receiver that I’m sure will elicit a groan and an eye roll from everyone that has followed trade rumors and Hertz Rent-A-Car locations over the years.
New England Patriots: WR Larry Fitzgerald
“The addition of Larry Fitzgerald to New England's offense wouldn't be an outright replacement for [Julian] Edelman,” BR’s Doug Farrar writes. “Brady can still throw the ball deep when he has the protection, but more and more it's about receiver distribution and location based on the coverage.
“In his 14th season with the Cardinals, Fitzgerald is still a volume receiver capable of big numbers; he led the league with 107 catches in 2016 and has 45 catches this season. But he's become as much a slot receiver as an outside guy, and that versatility, combined with his own awareness of how to get open against any coverage, would make him a perfect fit in New England's offense.
“Perhaps the future Hall of Famer could pick up his first Super Bowl ring as well.”
Much of the analysis Farrar provides around signing Fitzgerald is linked to Julian Edelman’s torn ACL and how no player on the Patriots has been able to replicate Edelman’s production.
Fitzgerald will be a free agent and can still clearly play at a high level. He led the league in receptions last year and he’s one of the most reliable slot receivers in the league with fantastic hands. He has 45 receptions for 494 yards and 3 touchdowns through 7 games. He would certainly be able to add value to the Patriots offense.
But while Fitzgerald would be a good fit, does it really make too much sense? Julian Edelman should return, while Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Malcolm Mitchell are still under contract; Danny Amendola would probably pay the Patriots so he could stick around, too. Do you see the Patriots moving on from Edelman, Cooks, Hogan, Dorsett, or Mitchell to make space for Fitzgerald on the roster?
I don’t, unless Fitzgerald is willing to take a cheap deal for a chance to win a ring.
I think the Patriots should really focus on finding that second tight end that could really complement Rob Gronkowski in ways Dwayne Allen has not been able to do (Jimmy Graham or Tyler Eifert, come on down!) or a defensive tackle or linebacker to really pull the front seven together.
Adding Fitzgerald to the Patriots is simply adding a shiny hood ornament to the car. It looks pretty, but there are other parts of the vehicle that could use the resources.