After a quiet start to the 2022 league year, the New England Patriots have made some high-profile additions as of late. Not only did they sign free agent safety Jabrill Peppers earlier this week, they also acquired a fellow former first-round draft pick via trade a few days later: wide receiver DeVante Parker.
New England sent a 2023 third-round selection to the Miami Dolphins to bring Parker in; the team also picked up a fifth-round pick later this year along the way. The investment makes him a lock to be on the team this season, and he will likely play a prominent role as a perimeter target for second-year quarterback Mac Jones.
Name: DeVante Parker
Position: Wide receiver
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-3, 219 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023
Coming off a highly productive college career at Louisville, Parker was the third wide receiver off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft: the Dolphins invested the 14th overall selection in the first round to bring him in, but he had only a limited impact on their offense as a rookie. Parker’s role grew substantially the following year, and he improved in every statistical category form catches (26 to 25), to receiving yards (494 to 744), to touchdowns (3 to 4) to playing time share (52% to 82%).
His sophomore year was a sign of things to come for Parker, for better or worse. While he proved himself a productive pass catcher capable of playing at a starter-caliber level, he also struggled to stay healthy throughout the campaign and missed time due to injury. His next two seasons were more of the same — good production, uneven availability — but the Dolphins still decided to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. Parker showed the team that it was right to make that call.
The 2019 season, after all, turned out to be the most productive of his career: not missing any games due to injury for the first time, Parker set new career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He earned a four-year, $40 million contract extension as a result, but just two years into that deal was now sent to New England. The 29-year-old leaves Miami having appeared in a combined 94 regular season and playoff games. Along the way, he caught 342 passes for 4,782 yards and 24 touchdowns.
What is his projected role in New England? The Dolphins employed Parker primarily as an X-receiver on the outside of the formation, and the belief is that his usage will not change dramatically upon his arrival in New England. His 6-foot-3, 219-pound frame makes him an intriguing option to play that role, after all, and to attack the deep parts of the field. It also allows him to make an impact on contested catches and jump-balls either down the sideline or in the red area.
Where does he fit on the wide receiver depth chart? The Patriots have multiple perimeter wide receivers under contract, but Parker projects as the top option among them. While not necessarily a classic WR1 in terms of past production and consistent availability, the ex-Dolphin is the best outside and deep-field receiver on the roster — thus bumping fellow former first-round picks Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry down the virtual depth chart.
Does he have positional versatility? Parker is not a one-trick pony, but he also is not a do-it-all wideout in the mold of new teammates Jakobi Meyers or Kendrick Bourne. He will align outside the formation most of the time, and play a more clearly-defined role. That being said, New England’s coaching staff will likely try to take advantage of his size and yards-after-the-catch abilities in more than one way and therefore use him not just as a deep threat but in the short and intermediate parts of the field as well.
What is his special teams value? Parker’s special teams value is virtually non-existent: in seven years in the NFL, he has played a grand total of eight special teams snaps. That means that not even 0.2 percent of his snaps at the pro level have come in the kicking game. While New England has never shied away from using prominent players in the game’s third phase, Parker earning a regular role there seems highly unlikely.
What does it mean for New England’s salary cap? When New England acquired Parker, it took on the remaining two years of the contract extension mentioned above. The cost associated with that pact is manageable in both years. As far as 2022 is concerned, he will hit the Patriots’ cap with $6.04 million — currently just the 12th highest cap number on the team. Nonetheless, the club will need to free up some resources to fit Parker in: according to Miguel Benzan, it was only $4.2 million under the cap entering the weekend. Expect some follow-up moves in the near future.
What does it mean for New England’s draft outlook? While adding Parker to the equation improves the Patriots’ wide receiver depth, it does not necessarily disqualify the team from adding another wideout early in the draft. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are both unrestricted free agents after the 2022 season, while N’Keal Harry’s days with the organization appear to be numbered. Adding another young wideout on a rookie contract makes sense even with Parker in the fold.
One-sentence verdict: Mac Jones’ supporting cast is a better one with Parker in the fold, but it remains to be seen how his addition will impact the New England offense as a whole.
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