New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett is no stranger when it comes to the workings of NFL free agency. The former first-round draft pick experienced them just last year, when he was scheduled to enter the open market only to be re-signed by the Patriots on a one-year, $2.6 million contract on the first day of the 2019 league year. Due to the structure of this contract, however, Dorsett finds himself in a familiar position one year later.
But while New England was his preferred free agency destination 12 months ago — leading to him not making any visits with other clubs before returning to the organization — his outlook has apparently changed since then and with another trip to free agency on the horizon. As Dorsett told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, he is entering the process this year with a more open mind than last year when it comes to potentially changing teams.
“I would say that [this year] will probably be a little different. Last year, I had my heart set on where I wanted to go and I didn’t have an open mind. This year, I know I have to go into it with an open mind,” said Dorsett when previewing his free agency. This mindset certainly appears to be shaped by his experiences over the course of the 2019 season, when he failed to carve out a regular role within the team’s struggling passing offense.
“It’s just something that I feel like I need to be honest with myself about. The way the roles changed in New England in the middle of the season out of nowhere [...] it took me off the field,” said Dorsett after starting the 2019 season with a productive game against the Pittsburgh Steelers — he had four catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 — and ended it as the number four option on New England’s wide receiver depth chart.
Along the way, Dorsett saw his playing time and targets decrease. While he finished the year as one of only five pass catchers in the NFL who saw more than 30 targets but did not register a single drop, he failed to crack the rotation alongside veteran Julian Edelman and in-season trade acquisition Mohamed Sanu. And with rookie N’Keal Harry also developing into an option on the perimeter, Dorsett registered just four catches over the last seven games of the season.
Following a season during which he caught a total of 30 passes for 403 yards and five touchdowns, the writing therefore seems to be on the wall for Dorsett: while there have been reports about preliminary talks between the team and the his camp, the 27-year-old appears to be on his way to testing the market next week. And given his reliable hands, championship pedigree and status as a former first-round draft pick, he should be able to draw some interest.
“At the end of the day, I have to be smart about it and make the best decision,” said Dorsett coming off his third season with the Patriots after they acquired him via trade from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The team itself, meanwhile, will also do just that — and with a depth chart consisting of roster locks Edelman and Harry, as well as Sanu and second-year men Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, it would not be a surprise if this best decision did not include Dorsett.