When reports broke about the New England Patriots’ first free agency move at the wide receiver position, the immediate reactions were polarizing in nature. While some such as Pats Pulpit’s own Taylor Kyles felt strongly about the addition of Nelson Agholor to the New England offense, others were more critical — especially because of the financial aspect of the deal.
Agholor signed a two-year, $22 million contract in New England. That deal is substantial for a player that has had his fair share of ups and downs over the course of his six-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Las Vegas Raiders.
However, it also reflects what the Patriots see in the 27-year-old. They view him as a potential key cog in their offensive machinery, and are paying him as such.
When it comes to his role within the offense and label as a number one wide receiver, however, Agholor is not wasting any thoughts. As he pointed out during his introductory media conference call last week, he is more concerned with his eventual performance rather than being called one thing or the other.
“I think I’m going to do whatever needs to be done to try to find a way to win,” he answered when asked whether or not he would view himself as a number one option. “I think that everybody else can have a label, however they look at me, but I know that on the field I give myself and my teammates a great opportunity to make plays and win.”
Regardless of how he is called and which role he will play in New England’s passing game, Agholor looked like a starting-caliber wide receiver during his lone season with the Raiders. Playing on a minimum-level contract, the former first-round draft pick finished with 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns.
Along the way he established himself as one of the best deep threats in football: among the NFL’s 107 players who caught more than 40 passes in 2020, no one had a higher yards-per-catch average than Agholor’s 18.7.
When looking at his first six years in the league, his ability to challenge the deep parts of the field is not the only thing that stands out in a positive light. It also is not the only thing that he will bring to his new team, as he himself said.
“First thing I know I will bring is professionalism in how I prepare and how hard I play. Those are things that I can easily control,” he noted. “And then, from there on, I think that Coach McDaniels has a plan and it’s for me to follow his plan and execute it out there.”
How that plan will look like remains to be seen, but it would not be surprising to see Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels take advantage of Agholor’s versatility to line up all over the formation. Whereas the Eagles used him in the slot on 52.3 percent of his snaps compared to 47.7 on the outside, the Raiders employed him on the perimeter on 70.2 percent of the time versus 29.8 inside last year.
New England likes to move its wideouts around as well, and Agholor offers plenty of value and flexibility in this regard.
That said, he is not worried about where he will end up being used.
“I’m just comfortable going out there and executing concepts,” he said. “I like to be able to move around depending on scenario or situation or routes that need to be executed. I think Coach McDaniels, historically, has done a great job with moving his receivers around and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
The Patriots, who struggled to move the ball through the air last year, can feel excited as well if Agholor lives up to his potential. He did just that with the Raider, while playing a complementary role alongside tight end Darren Waller and fellow wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.
With New England having added two bona fide tight ends — Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry — as well as wideout Kendrick Bourne in free agency alongside him, Agholor could find himself in a similar situation. If his production then also matches his 2020 output, the team’s sizable investment will prove itself a smart one.