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Patriots 2023 offseason preview: Turnover might be in store for the wide receiver group

Our position-by-position offseason analysis continues at the wide receiver position

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

Four teams are left standing in the NFL playoffs, but the New England Patriots are not among them. Finishing the regular season with an 8-9 record, they failed to qualify for the tournament and are already on to the offseason.

It projects to be an interesting one for the team. On the one hand, it is coming off a disappointing year that saw especially the offense fall short of its expectations — a fact that has already led to some changes on the coaching staff. On the other hand, however, the Patriots are among the league leaders in offseason resources and already have plenty of young building-block-type players under contract.

With all that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time by looking at each position individually. Today, we continue things at the wide receiver position.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive tackle | Interior offensive line | Interior defensive line | Defensive edge | Off-the-ball linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Special teams

Final 2022 depth chart

Jakobi Meyers: In a way, 2022 was business as usual for Jakobi Meyers. Playing for a new contract, the former rookie free agent delivered another impressive season as New England’s No. 1 wide receiver: despite missing three games due to injury, he finished ranked first on the team in receiving yards (804) and touchdowns (6), while also ranking second in receptions (69). Meyers continued to be a reliable player on an offense lacking them.

DeVante Parker: Offseason trade acquisition Parker had some ups and downs early in the season and missed time due to a concussion late, but he did also have some solid moments in his first year in New England. Serving as the starting X-receiver in the Patriots’ offense, he finished the year with 13 in-game appearances as well as 31 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns. His 17.4 yards per catch led the team among its regular contributors.

Kendrick Bourne: Coming off an encouraging first season with the Patriots, Bourne had a curious 2022 campaign. He seemingly struggled to adapt to the new offense led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, had some disciplinary issues in training camp, and was used sparingly for much of the season. When all was said and done, though, he still finished the year ranked fourth in receptions with 35. Bourne took them for 434 yards and a touchdown.

Tyquan Thornton: New England’s second-round rookie missed the first four weeks of the season with a clavicle fracture, but the team made it a point of emphasis to get Thornton involved once he returned. He finished the season as the No. 3 wide receiver in snaps (527) and registered 22 catches for 247 yards and two scores; Thornton also found the end zone on one of his three rushing attempts.

Nelson Agholor: Agholor’s season was similar to that of fellow 2021 arrival Kendrick Bourne. He had some flashes of playmaking ability mixed in with bad performances. Throughout it all, however, he still caught more passes than all but four of his teammates (31) and gained 362 yards while scoring a pair of touchdowns.

Tre Nixon (PS): There was some offseason hype surrounding Nixon but he was unable to turn it into a roster spot. He was let go as part of roster cutdowns before returning via the practice squad. The sophomore wideout did not see any game action for a second straight year.

Lynn Bowden Jr. (PS): Bowden Jr. also spent the entirety of the 2022 season on the Patriots’ practice squad. As opposed to Tre Nixon, the September pickup actually did see game action: he was elevated for one contest (Week 9 against Indianapolis) but did not touch the ball in his 14 offensive snaps.

Kristian Wilkerson (IR): Third-year receiver Wilkerson had an up-and-down training camp that ended when he suffered a concussion in joint practices against Carolina. He was later placed on injured reserve and did not return for the rest of the season.

Position assessment

First up on the Patriots’ list of priorities this offseason should be bringing back Jakobi Meyers. He is highly important to what the team does on offense, and is the most consistent receiver by a mile (as long as he doesn’t try to lateral the ball). DeVante Parker got hurt a few times, and took some games to find real chemistry with Mac Jones, but he was an impactful player when he was on the field.

Kendrick Bourne saw a dip in usage this year, and the reasoning for that was unclear. He always seemed to make good plays when he was on the field, though. Meyers, Parker, and Bourne make a pretty good, although not super exciting, veteran core.

Tyquan Thornton wound up playing a good amount of snaps, but the production wasn’t really there for him this year. Maybe some of that was because of the late start that he got from the preseason injury, but one would have hoped he could have done more. With that being said, there were some flashes of what he can be, and there is hope for him moving forward.

There is also hope that Tre Nixon and Kristian Wilkerson will be back to fight for roster spots in 2023.

Contract assessment

Jakobi Meyers is a key piece of the Patriots offense, and an underrated leader on the team. Bringing him back should be the team’s No. 1 priority in free agency. They will also get some addition by subtraction with Nelson Agholor’s contract expiring this offseason.

Additionally, a trade for a veteran wide receiver such as Deandre Hopkins or Brandin Cooks would make sense, as would targeting another receiver in this year’s draft. Receiver is a position where you cannot have enough talent.

At the moment, however, the following players are under contract for 2023:

  • DeVante Parker: $6.21 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2023
  • Kendrick Bourne: $6.87 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2023
  • Tyquan Thornton: $1.6 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2025
  • Tre Nixon: $750,000 salary cap hit | Signed through 2023

The list of free agents looks as follows:

  • WR Nelson Agholor: Unrestricted free agent
  • WR Jakobi Meyers: Unrestricted free agent
  • WR Kristian Wilkerson: Exclusive-rights free agent

Not on either of those lists is Lynn Bowden Jr. The Patriots declined to sign him to a futures pact before the expiration of his practice squad contract, and he is now already a free agent.

Level of concern: High