With free agency and the draft firmly in the rear-view mirror and organized team activities underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2022.”
The team currently has 85 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with fourth-year wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
Name: Jakobi Meyers
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 16
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 UFA)
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 having comparatively little opportunities together during the summer — Meyers spent most of the time working 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.
What is his projected role? The Patriots regularly used Meyers both on the outside and in the slot over the course of his first three seasons in the league, and he generally responded well to being moved around the formation. Entering 2022, he therefore will likely again be employed in a similar fashion: the 25-year-old will be used predominately as a Z-receiver, and serve as one of the team’s starter-level wideouts alongside Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and trade acquisition DeVante Parker.
Does he have positional versatility? The Patriots opted to give Meyers a variety of looks over the last three years. Not only did he align all over the formation — from the perimeter, to the slot, to the backfield — he also saw action beyond catching passes. He registered three carries for a combined 18 yards, and proved himself a viable trick play quarterback: as noted above, Meyers is 4-for-4 as a passer with two of his completions turning into touchdowns. It would not be surprising if he attempted at least one other pass in 2022.
What is his special teams value? While undrafted players oftentimes find their way onto the Patriots’ roster through their special teams work, Meyers went a different route: he made the team despite not having any noticeable impact in the kicking game. In fact, he played only 12 combined snaps in the game’s third phase over the last three seasons (plus four more in preseason) with the majority of those coming in 2022: he was used on special teams for 10 snaps last season, seeing irregular action on kickoff and punt return teams as well as the kickoff coverage unit. Despite the recent increase, Meyers should not be expected to suddenly become much of a factor outside of his offensive responsibilities.
What is his salary cap situation? Entering the offseason as a restricted free agent, the Patriots decided to use the second-rounder tender to keep Meyers from hitting the open market. The tender offer itself is pretty straight-forward: in its essence it is a one-year contract at a salary of $3.99 million — a number that is simultaneously also his cap hit for the 2022 season, and currently the 17th highest on the team. The deal does not include any guarantees.
How safe is his roster spot? Meyers has been the Patriots’ most productive wide receiver but his outlook for 2022 is somewhat unclear. For once, the team has made some serious investments in its wide receiver group recently; Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor are in line for a second-year jump, with trade addition DeVante Parker and second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton both brought aboard this offseason. As a result, the WR1 status he held the last two years might be in jeopardy — and not just that: New England has never been afraid of trading players in the final year of their contracts. Such a move appears unlikely at this point, but if Meyers’ role changes compared to 2020 and 2021 it could be one the team might entertain.
One-sentence projection: The Patriots know the importance of depth, which is why they will keep Meyers around throughout the 2022 season and again use him as a prominent part of their offense — albeit one with a smaller playing time share compared to last year’s.