Finishing the 2022 season with an 8-9 record and out of the playoffs, the New England Patriots have plenty of work to do to return to postseason contention. One big part of this process will be taking care of their own class of free agents.
Quite a few players are headed for the open market, with a total of 19 players left that were with New England last year in need of a new contract. Among them is wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 15.
Name: Jakobi Meyers
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 16
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
What is his experience? Coming off a college career at N.C. State that saw him transition from quarterback to wide receiver, Meyers did not hear his name called in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he found a home at the pro level when the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent. Regardless of his status as an unselected player, Meyers was able to earn regular practice reps as a rotational pass catcher during spring and training camp practices and eventually made New England’s 53-man roster.
Even while starting out as a rotational backup player, he showed his potential, versatility and reliability. Those attributes would ultimately help Meyers develop from a backup option to the team’s most productive wide receiver as a sophomore. He never looked back, and has been a core member of the Patriots offense ever since. All in all, he appeared in a combined 61 regular season and playoff games during his four seasons in New England, catching 241 passes for 2,798 yards and eight touchdowns.
Along the way, Meyers also became the team’s leading receiver for three straight seasons between 2020 and 2022. The Patriots’ most consistent chain-mover at the wide receiver position, and safety blanket for quarterbacks Cam Newton and Mac Jones, Meyers’ contributions to the Patriots extended beyond his pass-catching skills. The former college quarterback 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 2022 season look like? Meyers entered the 2022 offseason off the best year of his career, and with some questions about the future. The Patriots answered those when they decided to tender him as a restricted free agent, thus preventing him from making it to the open market. Meyers received the second-round tender at a value of $3.99 million, and signed the pact three months later. With him back in the fold, New England secured the services of its most productive wideout of the past two years for another season.
That season was business as usual for the former undrafted rookie. Despite the Patriots offense as a whole struggling, and he himself acknowledging problems with learning new terminology in Year 1 after long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Meyers put up another good campaign. Despite missing three total games — two with a knee injury and a third with a concussion — he played 689 of a possible 1,052 offensive snaps (65.5%) and ended the season as one of New England’s most productive players.
In total, Meyers was on the receiving end of 67 passes while leading the team in both receiving yards (804) and receiving touchdowns (8). When measured by scores and yards per game, the 2022 season was the best of his career so far. Meyers accomplished all that even with the change from McDaniels to a Matt Patricia/Joe Judge-led offense being a challenge, and while catching passes from two different quarterbacks. Regardless of Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe being in the lineup, however, Meyers was his usual reliable self.
As such, the Patriots’ No. 1 wide receiver was integral to the limited success New England enjoyed on the offensive side of the ball. Nonetheless, not all worked well for him either. Not only did Meyers miss those aforementioned three games, he also was credited with two fumbles — including one on the last play of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders: the former college quarterback attempted an ill-fated lateral that wound up in the hands of Raiders defender Chandler Jones, who returned it for the game’s decisive touchdown.
That play might have had the power to define Meyers’ fourth season as a pro, but it very much did not: over the final three contests that followed the loss in Las Vegas, he caught a combined 15 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns — one in each games. The story of Jakobi Meyers’ 2022 campaign can therefore also be seen as one of perseverance in light of some difficult circumstances: despite the coaching change, his injury situation, and the later against the Raiders, he was as steady a player as any on the Patriots offense.
Free agency preview
What is his contract history? Meyers arrived in New England in 2019 on a standard three-year UDFA deal at a value of $1.77 million. After completion of that contract, he was tagged as a restricted free agent by the club, effectively signing a one-year, $3.99 million deal through 2022. All in all, Over the Cap has calculated his overall career earnings at around $6 million.
Which teams might be in the running? Several teams are in the market for some wide receiver help this offseason, and will likely have Meyers on their radar as a result. The Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans come to mind as potential landing spots. The same is true for three teams led by ex-Patriots: the Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals.
Why should he be expected back? In a wide receiver room with significant question marks, Meyers is the one constant: he has been the team’s most reliable and productive player at the position the last three years, and as such carries significant value to the offensive operation. While the team could turn to somebody like Kendrick Bourne as a potential replacement option, the fact of the matter is that nobody currently under contract comes close to having had the same production — or rapport with Mac Jones — as Meyers.
Why should he be expected to leave? The Patriots may be among the league leaders in salary cap space this year, but that does not automatically guarantee them re-signing Meyers. New England, after all, is usually one of the most financially disciplined teams in the league. This means that if they will have to compete against offers out of their comfort zone, the Patriots will usually not be afraid to say farewell.
What is his projected free agency outcome? Despite his status as WR1 over the last three seasons, it is not unreasonable to predict Meyers pricing himself out of New England’s comfort zone. That is one of the problems with him being among the top free agent wide receivers available this year: supply and demand will dictate his value, and it would not be a surprise to see it get inflated as a result. The projection therefore is Meyers leaving on a deal in the ballpark of three years and $45 million.
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