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NFL free agency 2023: Quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots losing Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders

The former undrafted free agent is leaving New England after four seasons.

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

The New England Patriots suffered their first big loss of this week’s free agency. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who led the team in receiving yards the last three years, is joining the Las Vegas Raiders on a reported three-year, $33 million contract.

Make no mistake, Meyers departing for Las Vegas is a blow to an offense in need of all the help that it can get. What exactly does it mean from a Patriots perspective, though? Let’s find out.

New England loses its most dependable wide receiver. After starting his career as an emergency and backup option in 2019 and early 2020, Meyers broke out midway through his second season and never looked back. In fact, the former undrafted free agent developed into the team’s most reliable pass catcher: he led the team in receptions in 2020 and 2021, and in receiving yards from 2020 through 2022.

Regardless of who was playing quarterback for the Patriots over the last three years, they found a trustworthy target in Meyers. New England now needs to find a way to replace this level of contribution, and find a new safety blanket receiver for quarterback Mac Jones.

The Patriots have a hole to fill in the slot. Meyers’ departure does not just leave the team without a WR1 — even though he never fit that label in the traditional sense in the first place — but also with an open spot at the interior receiver department. The 26-year-old was no classic slot guy in the mold of fellow ex-Patriots Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Wes Welker, but he spent most of his time on the inside.

The Patriots do have some potential on their roster to fill the top spot now in the form of Kendrick Bourne. That said, the wide receiver group as a whole is a lot thinner now.

One wide receiver is left unaccounted for. Speaking of New England’s wide receivers, one of them remains unaccounted for on the open market: Nelson Agholor is still a free agent, and there has been little movement so far. While Meyers’ departure in theory would increase his chances of returning, the two players will likely be seen independently from one another based on their roles and production over the past two years.

Meyers reunites with Josh McDaniels... As for Meyers, he gets to play under Josh McDaniels again. The Patriots’ long-time offensive coordinator, who left for Las Vegas last offseason, coached Meyers upon his arrival in the NFL in 2019 and through the 2021 season.

Now, the two get to work together again. Meyers will be catching passes from another ex-Patriots, meanwhile: the Raiders also brought in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who also got his NFL start under McDaniels, as a free agent on Monday.

...at a lower price tag than anticipated. As noted above, Meyers signed a three-year contract with the Raiders at a total value of $33 million. While the structure will tell the whole story of the deal, the basic numbers available show that Las Vegas did not pay the projected numbers of $15 million per year.

Measured by the deal’s annual value — which, again, does not say anything about structure — Meyers’ deal is the 28th most expensive in the NFL. The $11 million per year figure is the same the Patriots gave Nelson Agholor two years ago.

The contract is therefore also an interesting reflection of how the Patriots potentially valued Meyers and his future contributions in a Bill O’Brien-led offense. They are not always quick to hand out big-money deals to former late-round/undrafted contributors to begin with, but that price tag was certainly within their range of capability. Alas, New England either valued Meyers differently or the wideout himself simply wanted to leave.

Meyers’ departure factors into the compensatory draft picks formula. With Meyers off to Las Vegas, New England is in line to receive an extra selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. According to cap expert Nick Korte, the wideout is currently on the border between yielding an extra fourth- or fifth-round selection.

The Patriots and Meyers will meet in 2023. The Patriots may have lost Meyers to the Raiders, but they will see him again this season: New England will visit Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium for a regular season matchup — trying to defend an offense that not only features the newest Raider, but also the likes of Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs.