Yesterday, news broke that the New England Patriots are in the finalizing stages of signing free agent wide receiver Kenny Britt to a two-year contract. Britt, who entered the league as a first round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans, was on the open market after getting released by the Cleveland Browns last week: The team opted to let him go after a so far disappointing season.
Now, Britt goes from one of the worst teams in the leauge to one of its best. Let's take a look at what this means for the Patriots.
New England adds size to its receiving corps.
At 6'3, 225 lbs, Britt immediately becomes the tallest wide receiver on the Patriots' active roster and the third-tallest weapon overall behind tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister. His size projects to make him a good fit on the perimeter in New England's offense and a player capable of beating man-to-man coverage and making contested catches. His catch radius also could make him an intriguing option as a red zone weapon and on jump balls.
Malcolm Mitchell probably won't return this year.
Malcolm Mitchell is a smaller target than Britt but one that often played the above-mentioned perimeter role in the Patriots' offensive attack. Brining the free agent aboard naturally raises the question whether or not this is a sign that Mitchell will not come back off injured reserve this season. With Britt in the fold, all signs point to the second-year man staying out until next season. This also means that defensive tackle Vincent Valentine now becomes the most realistic option to use the final returnee designation on.
The team finds 2017's version of Michael Floyd,...
On December 15, 2016, the Patriots claimed ex-Arizona Cardinals wideout Michael Floyd off waivers. The former first round draft pick was released one day earlier after a DUI arrest and went on to win a Super Bowl ring in New England as a depth option that caught five passes for 51 yards in his three active games. Will Britt's tenure look the same? It would not be a surprise given that he offers a similar skill set and projects to be the number four/five wide receiver option behind top options Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola.
...one that also comes with off-field questions.
In 2014, the Patriots pursued the then free-agent but ultimately decided to go a different route and sign Brandon LaFell. The belief at the time was that Britt's off-field issues – he was arrested multiple times during his tenure with the Titans and suspended for one game in 2012 – played a role in the decision. Of course, things move fast in the NFL and the Patriots and owner Robert Kraft could have a different opinion of the 29-year old three-and-a-half years later.
New England has another wide receiver under contract beyond 2017.
If the Patriots indeed sign Britt to the reported two-year deal, it would – depending on the structure and final numbers – secure that the team has another wide receiver under contract beyond this season. Britt would join Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Bernard Reedy. Furthermore, current practice squad receivers Cody Hollister and Riley McCarron are candidates to receiver future contracts, while Danny Amendola is a re-signing option.
All in all, signing Britt is a low-risk move for the Patriots that gives the team another big bodied wideout that provides depth at a position that has seen some significant injuries – both short and long term ones – this year. A classic New England transaction.