Coming off a 2021 season that saw them return to the playoffs but eventually come up short on wild card weekend, the New England Patriots have a long list of to-dos this offseason. One of its items is bringing back players who are scheduled to enter free agency.
There are quite a few of them: all in all, 18 players that were with New England last year are in need of a new contract. Among them is wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who is a restricted free agent and will therefore hit the open market on March 16.
Name: Jakobi Meyers
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 16
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Contract status: Restricted free agent
What is his experience? Following a college career at N.C. State that saw him transition from quarterback to wide receiver a week before the start of his redshirt freshman campaign, Meyers did not hear his name called during the NFL’s 2019 draft. However, he found a home at the pro level when the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent a short time after. Despite his status as an unselected player, Meyers earned regular practice reps as a rotational pass catcher during spring and training camp practices.
He eventually made New England’s 53-man roster as a depth option at the wide receiver position as a rookie, and has not looked back since. Starting out as a backup player, he quickly showed his potential as a reliable and versatile player. Over the next three years, Meyers developed from backup option to the team’s most productive wide receiver. Along the way, he appeared in a combined 47 regular season and playoff games, catching 174 passes for 1,994 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Meyers’ value to the Patriots extends beyond his production as the team’s leading receiver in both 2020 and 2021, though. The former college QB has also completed all four of his pass attempts so far, gaining 88 yards through the air and adding two touchdown throws to his résumé.
What did his 2021 season look like? After establishing himself as the Patriots’ most consistent pass catcher during his 2020 sophomore campaign, Meyers saw the addition of some considerable receiving talent in free agency: the Patriots signed wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to multi-year deals, and invested considerable sums in tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Despite those four being brought aboard, however, Meyers was able to keep a prominent spot in the rotation.
In fact, the former rookie free agent ended his third season in the NFL as the Patriots’ number one wide receiver in terms of playing time. Seeing the field in all 17 regular season games as well as the playoff loss in Buffalo, Meyers was on the field for 987 of a possible 1,169 offensive snaps. His 84.4 percent playing time share ranked fourth on the team behind only offensive linemen David Andrews (98.7%) and Shaq Mason (87.3%) as well as quarterback Mac Jones (96.5%).
Speaking of Mac Jones, Meyers developed some good chemistry with the Patriots’ rookie passer in their first season together. Despite the two seeing comparatively little time together during the summer — Meyers primarily worked with incumbent starter Cam Newton and the first-team offense — they ended up connecting 88 times for 895 yards and a touchdown. Add another 11-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer and you get an impressive output for the 25-year-old.
Meyers was able to end the 2021 season as the Patriots’ leader in both receptions (89) and yards (906). While he ranked only seventh in total touchdowns (2), those scores were special on a personal level: they were Meyers’ first ever TDs since entering the NFL in 2019. After not catching a touchdown over the first 41 games of his career, he broke the dry-spell in Week 10 versus the Cleveland Browns: Meyers caught the aforementioned 11-yarder from Brian Hoyer, diving into the end zone to complete the catch-and-run.
As was the case in 2020 as well, his contributions to the New England offense extended beyond his receiving skills. Meyers also registered a 9-yard carry and was once again used as a passer as well: he attempted two more throws, completing both of them for a combined 45 yards. His third season as a member of the Patriots was therefore another successful campaign on an individual level; he set new career-highs in the major statistical categories and most importantly built a productive relationship with Mac Jones.
Free agency preview
What is his contract history? When Meyers joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent, he signed a standard three-year contract at a total value of $1.77 million. He has far exceeded expectations and, thanks to the NFL’s performance-based escalator system, has earned more money than originally associated with that deal. According to Over the Cap, his career earnings are estimated at roughly $2 million.
Which teams might be in the running? Meyers’ status as a restricted free agent will impact his market: it seems likely that only a few teams might be willing to give up assets to try to sign him away from New England. More likely than not, Meyers will not receive any outside offers. Among the teams potentially in the running, though, are the Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders; the latter now coached by Meyers’ offensive coordinator of the last three seasons, Josh McDaniels.
Why should he be expected back? Even though he entered the league as a draft-day afterthought, Meyers has developed into a reliable member of New England’s passing attack. He has built some good chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones and although neither a classic WR1 nor among the most talented wideouts in the game, has proven himself as a consistent chain-mover. Keeping him for at least another year would make sure Jones has the best possible supporting cast around him.
Why should he be expected to leave? There is only one realistic scenario in which Meyers would leave New England: the team tagging him at the second-round level and another club signing him to an offer sheet the Patriots do not match. While that could happen, especially given the club’s current salary cap situation, it appears that Meyers is not worth a second-round draft pick in the eyes of those outside of One Patriot Place.
What is his projected free agency outcome? The Patriots are expected to offer a tender to Meyers before the start of free agency on March 16. The value of said tender is up in the air, but the second-round level at a cost of $3.97 million would make sense. Meyers would see a significant pay-bump, while New England would keep its most reliable wideout in the fold for at least one more year. That said, a contract extension at round $5 million per year also should not be out of the equation.
Will the Patriots re-sign Jakobi Meyers?
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