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Patriots have an easy decision to make ahead of Monday’s 5th-year option deadline

Related: Cleaning out the notebook from the third day of the NFL Draft: Patriots love their Shrine Bowl guys

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots’ roster-construction process is not over just because the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books. Over the next few days and weeks further calls will have to be made regarding the state of the 90-man offseason squad heading towards training camp, both with some short-term considerations and a big-picture perspective in mind.

One of those decisions touches on wide receiver N’Keal Harry. As a first-round selection in the 2019 draft, the Patriots will have to decide until later on Monday whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract to keep him signed through 2023.

That decision should not be too difficult, but let’s still look at the facts

WR N’Keal Harry

Cost of the fifth-year option (2023): $12.4 million

Why the Patriots should pick up Harry’ fifth-year option: Harry has some theoretical upside as an outside receiver? Experience in the system? Blocking skills? As you can see, we’re grasping for straws here.

Why the Patriots should decline Harry fifth-year option: Ever since joining the Patriots as the 32nd overall selection in the 2019 draft Harry has failed to meet expectations. The second wide receiver to come off the board in what turned out to be a strong 2019 draft at the position, he never established himself as a starting-caliber receiver; injuries and inconsistent play hurt Harry throughout his first three seasons

As a result, Harry has appeared in only 35 regular season and playoff games over the course of his NFL career. Serving primarily as a depth option and a blocking receiver, he has registered just 59 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. He has also carried the ball eight times for 56 yards.

Even when he managed to flash his talents, he was unable to find some consistency. Instead, he dropped down the depth chart and spent 2021 as the Patriots’ fourth option at the wide receiver position. Harry took the field for just 28.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last year and caught 12 passes for 184 yards — all while being a consistent subject of trade rumors.

Projection: As noted above, the Patriots have an easy call to make. They will decline Harry’s fifth-year option and allow him to enter free agency next offseason in search of a new start — if he even makes it so far. While the draft has come and gone, he still appears to be a candidate to be traded at one point between now and the roster cutdown deadline. But even if no trade materializes he should not be expected to be on New England’s roster this season.