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Quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots acquiring wide receiver DeVante Parker via trade

Related: Patriots reportedly acquire Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker via trade

NFL: SEP 12 Dolphins at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots have finally addressed their wide receiver position, adding wide receiver DeVante Parker via trade with the Miami Dolphins. New England is reportedly sending a third-round pick in next year’s draft to its division rivals in exchange for Parker and a fifth-rounder in 2022.

A former first-round draft pick, Parker became obsolete for the Dolphins after their recent investments at the wide receiver position: Miami acquired Jaylen Waddle in the first round of the draft a year ago, and also signed Cedrick Wilson Jr. in free agency last month before a blockbuster trade added Tyreek Hill to the group as well.

What does the move mean from a New England perspective, though? Let’s find out.

The Patriots add a true outside-the-numbers target

New England was linked to multiple perimeter wide receivers during the offseason so far, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Robinson or Odell Beckham Jr. just three of the players who linked to the team the last few weeks. The Patriots’ goal appeared to be obvious: to add an experienced perimeter target for quarterback Mac Jones to work with — something the club sorely lacked in 2021.

Instead of signing an X-receiver in free agency, however, the team has taken to the comparatively cheap trade market. Parker certainly addresses what the team has been looking for.

While he has shown an ability to line up all over the formation, his 6-foot-3, 219-pound frame makes him well-suited to line up on the outside and attack teams vertically. The 29-year-old does not come without his questions — he has missed time due to injury in six of his seven NFL seasons, for example — but he instantly improves the Patriots’ wide receiver position and gives Jones a high-upside downfield weapon.

Speaking of which...

Parker is the best downfield threat New England has had in quite some time

The Patriots have lacked a true deep threat ever since the days of Brandin Cooks in 2017. While Parker and Cooks are two different players — the former wins with size, the latter with speed — they both possess the ability to challenge the deep parts of a defense.

Bill Belichick spoke highly of Parker back in 2020, and his skills as a deep-field receiver were also mentioned by the Patriots’ head coach.

“DeVante’s got a very, very good skill set,” Belichick said about the former first-round draft pick. “He’s a big athlete that runs well. Has good hands. Good run after-the-catch ability and good quickness for his size.

“He presents a lot of problems on deep balls. He’s a big target on intermediate routes, in-cuts, crossing routes, and things like that. He’s strong and can break tackles as a catch-and-run player, so he attacks all three levels of the defense and can be productive in all three spots.”

The Patriots have experienced Parker’s playmaking ability first-hand through the years. In 12 games versus the club, he has caught 42 passes for 597 yards and a touchdown. His performance in the 2019 regular season finale in particular stands out: primarily matched up against soon-to-be NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, Parker caught eight passes for 137 yards and thus played a major role in Miami’s upset victory.

New England improves its wide receiver depth

Adding Parker to the Patriots’ current wide receiver group raises the floor at the position and makes it a better one all around. After all, he is a solid outside target and therefore addresses one of the bigger needs on the offensive side of the ball.

A look at the current depth chart, split up in X-, Z-, and slot receivers, illustrates how the entire position looks better with him in the fold:

X-receivers: DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Kristian Wilkerson, Matthew Slater

Z-receivers: Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Tre Nixon

Slot receivers: Malcolm Perry, Ty Montgomery*

The labels given to each player are obviously not exclusive, but the basic classification still shows how New England’s wideout group stands at the moment: Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne are the top interior options, with Parker as the number one outside weapon.

All three of them are locks to make the Patriots’ roster this year, with core special teamer Matthew Slater set to join them on the 53-man squad. The other six wideouts, meanwhile, will have to prove themselves over the coming weeks and months.

Two players in particular stand out: Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry.

Agholor, who arrived on a two-year, $22 million contract last offseason, served as the primary X-receiver last offseason but now might see his role change heading into 2022. The Patriots might decide to use him as more of a hybrid X/Z option, a rotational outside pass catcher, or to move on from him altogether.

Harry’s outlook, meanwhile, has not significantly changed due to the Parker trade. The 2019 first-round draft choice, who has disappointed so far, is still unlikely to be on the team come the regular season. However, it now seems as if his replacement might have arrived via trade rather than the draft.

Parker comes relatively cheap

The Patriots did not give up a lot to bring Parker aboard: as noted above, New England sent a third-round pick in next year’s draft to the Dolphins in exchange for the wideout and a fifth-round selection later this month. Adding a player of Parker’s experience and proven quality at the net price of a fourth-rounder can be classified as solid business.

The draft capital invested to get him is not the only cost to consider, though. Parker also is under contract for two more years, but his cap impacts are reasonable in both 2022 and 2023: this year, he will hit New England’s books with a cap number of $6.04 million; he will cost $7.3 million in 2023.

Compared to some of the contracts handed to wide receivers in free agency this year, Parker is a bargain. Yes, New England also used a draft pick to acquire him, but the overall investment is still reasonable.

New England bolsters its draft 2022 capital

As noted above, the Patriots did not give up any 2022 draft picks to bring Parker on board. In fact, the team added another selection and now has eight of them:

  • Round 1: 21st overall
  • Round 2: 54th overall
  • Round 3: 85th overall
  • Round 4: 127th overall
  • Round 5: 158th overall (from Miami alongside WR DeVante Parker)
  • Round 5: 170th overall (from Tampa Bay for G Shaq Mason)
  • Round 6: 200th overall
  • Round 6: 210th overall (from Los Angeles for RB Sony Michel)

Whereas the Patriots have some solid capital to work with this year, Miami’s draft portfolio looks a lot like New England’s in 2017: the team currently owns only four picks, with none of them coming before the third round.

Poll

How would you grade the Patriots’ trade for DeVante Parker?

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  • 45%
    A
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  • 43%
    B
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  • 8%
    C
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