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Should the Patriots go after recently released Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts?

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Oakland parted ways with the 28-year-old earlier today.

Indianapolis Colts v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Earlier today, the Oakland Raiders made another change to a wide receiver group already undergoing a major transformation process: as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the club released Seth Roberts today, its second leading wide receiver from a year ago in terms of receptions (45), yards (494) and touchdowns (2) as well as playing time (54.61%). Despite past production, Oakland’s offseason moves apparently have made Roberts expendable.

The 28-year-old now hits free agency and as a player released will not count against the compensatory draft picks formula if picked up by a new team. Could that team be the New England Patriots? Let’s take a closer look at him to find out whether or not the reigning world champions should go after him.

Roberts’ skill set

Like he did ever since joining the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama in 2014 (sounds familiar?), Roberts served primarily as an inside receiver in 2018. Despite being a bigger option at 6’2, 195 pounds, he lined up in the slot on 77% of his snaps last season, catching 30 of his 45 pass receptions from that alignment (for 346 of his 494 yards). His athletic skills make him a solid option there, however, as he ran a 6.77 3-cone drill . at his Pro Day in March 2014 — a time that would tie the fastest among wide receivers at this year’s combine.

Roberts’ past production

As noted above, Roberts played a big role in Oakland’s offense last year, and he did so even before the team traded away fellow wideout Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. 2018 was therefore a continuation of his previous three seasons:

Seth Roberts (2015-2018)

Season Games Playing time Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Yards/Reception Touchdowns
Season Games Playing time Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Yards/Reception Touchdowns
2015 16 53.6% 55 32 480 15.0 5
2016 16 66.9% 77 38 397 10.4 5
2017 15 76.2% 65 43 455 10.6 1
2018 15 54.6% 64 45 494 11.0 2
Roberts spent his entire 2014 rookie season on Oakland’s practice squad.

Production-wise, Roberts’ 2018 season was a weird year for him. While he saw his smallest playing time share since his first year on the Raiders’ active roster, he did put up new career-highs in both receptions and yards. Needless to say that the limited role under new head coach Jon Gruden fit him, even though the Raiders opted to part ways with their top slot receiver from the last four years today.

Roberts’ Patriots fit

The Patriots already have a pretty good slot receiver in the fold in reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, but will always find a way to get talent onto the field no matter its skills or previous experience. In Roberts’ case — if he gets signed, that is — this might lead to a development similar to Chris Hogan’s after he joined the team as a restricted free agency pickup from the Buffalo Bills in 2016.

With Edelman and Danny Amendola under contract, New England did not insert him into the previous role he previously filled in Buffalo but instead opted to use him as more of an X-receiver. The move worked well and Hogan ranked second in the league with 17.9 yards per reception in his first season. In case Roberts gets picked up, he could be used in a similar fashion and as more of a boundary receiver alongside Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.

Roberts’ costs

As noted above, one of the positives of picking up Roberts following his release would be him not counting against the compensatory draft picks formula: only players whose contracts expired “naturally” get included. That being said, the ex-Raider will likely still not be cheap. For starters, he was scheduled to hit Oakland’s salary cap with $4.9 million this season and the Patriots would likely look at a similar number if they picked him up.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief, for example, signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency coming off a season with somewhat similar production as Roberts: 48 receptions, 668 yards, 3 touchdowns. Devin Funchess, meanwhile, registered 44 catches for 549 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018 and was given a one-year, $10 million contract.

Roberts would likely not cost as much as Funchess and is two-and-a-half years older than Moncrief, but it would still not be surprising to see him command around $4.0 million annually on the open market. New England would fit him under its $18.25 million salary cap room, yes, but the question is whether or not the team actually values him at that level — especially considering that Edelman himself is hitting the books with “only” $5.4 million this year.

Verdict

Given his skills and past production, Roberts looks like a potentially intriguing addition to the Patriots’ offense. He wouldn’t be a number one X-receiver in the mold of still-suspended Josh Gordon, but he could very well serve as an upgrade over still-unsigned Chris Hogan’s 2018 version — if the price is right. Nevertheless, New England should at least explore him as a possible late-free agency pickup to compete for snaps alongside Julian Edelman.