The first week of free agency action is slowly winding down, and it saw the New England Patriots make three additions to their wide receiver depth chart: the team re-signed Phillip Dorsett to a one-year contract, and also acquired outside free agents Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris. Furthermore, New England placed the original-round tender on restricted and still suspended free agent Josh Gordon.
Despite the moves, however, the Patriots are likely not done addressing their wideout situation — too unproven are the players they got from the open market, too shallow the depth surrounding Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman. In order to further improve the position, the Patriots have five avenues to explore if they indeed feel as if their wide receivers need further infusion of talent and depth.
Let’s now take a look at them and some potential options they might hold in store.
1. Re-sign Chris Hogan
This one is pretty straight forward: bringing back unrestricted free agent Chris Hogan, who was a key cog in New England’s offensive machinery the last three years. While his 2018 season was marked with inconsistent playing time and up-and-dow performances, Hogan is an experienced player that a) has built a chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady, and b) served as the Patriots’ second/third option in the past. While he is more suited in a rotational than a starting role, re-signing the 30-year-old would ensure stability within the group.
2. Sign unrestricted free agents
New England already brought two unrestricted free agents in by signing the aforementioned Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris. There are still plenty of wide receivers available on the open market, however, and the world champions could opt to go back to this well to get additional wideouts whose markets apparently did not develop quickly and who might be available at a comparatively reduced price.
The following players are among the more realistic options to potentially be brought aboard by the Patriots:
Cobb, Nelson and Thomas are the biggest names on the list. And even though they are no longer number one receivers, they are still capable options as third or fourth wideouts. Bringing either of them in would add some depth and proven experience to the present group of wide receivers — at the right price that is. After all, New England will not overspend on a big name but first and foremost try to find value no matter how deep into the free agency process we are.
3. Sign restricted free agents to offer sheets
The Patriots are known for leaving no stone unturned when it comes to roster construction, and signing restricted free agents is one way to do it. While New England’s financial resources are limited at the moment — the club is around $9.90 million under the salary cap, according to the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan — it could still try to pry a wideout away from another team.
The following options are available at the moment and realistic targets (the New York Giants’ Corey Coleman, for example, is not one of them considering that he failed to establish himself on the Patriots’ practice squad just last season):
Geronimo Allison, Green Bay Packers
Rashard Higgins, Cleveland Browns
Chester Rogers, Indianapolis Colts
While Allison and Higgins both received the original round tender, which in both cases constitutes of a one-year, $2.095 million contract and the right of first refusal without any compensation attached, Rodgers was tendered at the second-round level. Realistically, New England would therefore probably rather target the first two players if not for the fact that both the Packers and the Browns have considerably more salary cap room.
Allison and Higgins would certainly be intriguing additions, and possibly seen as expendable by their respective clubs, but the financial wiggle room the Patriots lack might make a move such as signing either to an offer sheet difficult.
4. Make a trade (or two)
Never afraid of making a trade, the Patriots could again look around the league to find targets at the wide receiver spot — and if the past is any indication, underperforming players or such entering the final years of their contract might be worth keeping an eye on. There are candidates in both categories, but the following appear to fit what New England is lacking at the moment and might therefore try to target:
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings
Green is by far the biggest name on this list, given that he is still among the NFL’s best wide receivers. Acquiring him would therefore likely not be cheap despite his comparatively advanced age (he will turn 31 in July), his recent injury history and his $15.7 million cap hit in 2019 — one that would have to be restructured to fit under the Patriots# cap as it stands right now. Nevertheless, the veteran would be a tremendous addition to New England’s offense due to his athletic skill set and outstanding route running.
Tajae Sharpe, Laquon Treadwell and Green’s teammate John Ross, meanwhile, might become available due to different circumstances: Sharpe will likely lose playing time due to the Titans’ free agency acquisition of Adam Humphries, Treadwell has failed to live up to his first-round expectations behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and John Ross — another former first-rounder — has been a huge disappointment and could benefit from a change of scenery. All three of them would add tremendous but unproven upside.
5. Focus on the draft
New England has a solid but unspectacular foundation in place at wide receiver, but one that would allow the team to stand pat at the moment and focus on a deep wide receiver draft. From early-round options like Georgia’s Riley Ridley and South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel to mid-round prospects like UMass’ Andy Isabella and Hunter Renfrow, the position has plenty of depth at various wide roles. New England could therefore afford to try its luck via the draft — a crapshoot to a certain degree, but one able to pay big dividends.