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Patriots 2023 roster breakdown: DeVante Parker returns as the No. 1 outside receiver

Our offseason series kicks off with an in-depth look at the veteran wide receiver.

New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With the NFL free agency and draft both in the rear-view mirror, and the second phase of voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are officially “on to 2023.”

At the moment, the Patriots have a full 90-man roster. Only 53 of those players will be able to survive roster cutdowns and ultimately make the active team, with others competing for practice squad spots. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take an in-depth look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping New England rebound from a disappointing 2022 season.

Today, the series kicks off with the lowest jersey number currently issued: veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker.

Hard facts

Name: DeVante Parker

Position: Outside receiver

Opening day age: 30 (1/20/1993)

Size: 6’3”, 219 lbs

Jersey number: 1

Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)


Coming off a highly productive college career at Louisville, Parker was the third wide off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft: the Miami Dolphins used the 14th overall selection to bring him in. After having only a small impact on the team’s offense his rookie season, Parker’s role grew substantially the following year and; he improved in every statistical category. His sophomore campaign was a sign of things to come for Parker, for better or worse.

While he proved himself a productive pass catcher capable of playing at a starter-caliber level, he also struggled to stay healthy. His next two seasons were more of the same — good production, uneven availability — but the Dolphins still decided to exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. Parker showed the team that it was right to make that call, producing the best season of his career up until that point: not missing any games due to injury for the first time, Parker set new career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

He earned a four-year, $40 million contract extension as a result, but just two years into that deal was traded to New England in the 2022 offseason. Parker appeared in 13 games as a Patriot, bringing his career total to a combined 107 regular season and playoff games. In those contests, he caught a combined 373 passes for 5,321 yards and 27 touchdowns.

2022 review

Stats: 13 games (11 starts) | 544 offensive snaps (51.7%), 2 special teams snaps (0.4%) | 47 targets, 31 catches, 540 yards, 3 TDs

Season recap: As part of the Dolphins’ efforts to overhaul their offensive operation last offseason, the team decided to part ways with the longest-tenured member of its wide receiver group. Following the additions of Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson Jr., the club made DeVante Parker available via trade; the best offer came from one of Miami’s division rivals: the Patriots decided to invest a 2023 third-round draft pick in Parker and a 2022 fifth-round selection.

Having previously spent time in a Patriots-like system under former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, Parker brought some experience to the table and used it to quickly establish himself as a valuable member of his new team’s offense. Following an encouraging training camp, he entered the season as New England’s top perimeter weapon and primary deep threat — a job he would hold all year and turn into some solid production.

As one of the better players in a largely disappointing offense, Parker finished the year with 31 receptions on 47 targets, gaining 540 yards and scoring three touchdowns. His 17.4 yards per reception ranked first among the team’s offensive skill position players, and fifth in the league among pass catchers averaging more than 1.0 receptions per game. His size and body control gave New England a somewhat reliable outside-the-numbers target that could go up and make back-shoulder and jump-ball receptions.

Parker was a bit hit-or-miss, however, especially early on in the season. Over the first three weeks of the season, four passes thrown his way were intercepted; while one of those looked like a questionable decision on quarterback Mac Jones’ part, the others appeared to be either miscommunications or the receiver being boxed out on contested catches. That said, he appeared to grow more comfortable within the offense and his new quarterback(s) as the year went along.

Unfortunately for the player himself and a Patriots offense that actively tried to push the ball down the field, Parker’s availability also was inconsistent down the stretch. He suffered a knee injury on the very first snap of Week 8 that forced him to miss next week’s game as well; he then sustained a concussion in the first quarter against Arizona in Week 14 and had to sit out the subsequent three contests. As a result of those injuries, he ended the year having played only 544 of a possible 1,052 offensive snaps (51.7%) over 13 games.

Despite those ups and downs, however, Parker’s first season in New England had more good than bad. His chemistry with Mac Jones developed nicely throughout the year, and his presence added a new element to the team’s offense. The numbers might not be eye-opening, but 2022 was quite solid for him as a foundational year.

2023 preview

What will be his role? Parker’s job in New England in 2022 looked very much like it did in Miami his first seven seasons as a pro: he aligned primarily on the outside filling the X role — one is expected to also play heading into his second season as a Patriot. As such, he will be the team’s top option outside the numbers and together with speedster Tyquan Thornton provide a vertical element to the offense. Parker will also be a red zone target again due to his frame and ability to win contested catches and come down with jump balls.

What is his growth potential? From a fundamental level, Parker is who he is entering his ninth year as a pro. That said, he is still a candidate to make the famous second-year jump even as a veteran. He now has one year of experience in the Patriots’ system, and plenty of practice and game reps alongside Mac Jones. His growth over the course of the 2022 season was already impressive; if he can continue on his trajectory, Parker brings some WR1 potential to the equation.

Does he have positional versatility? There is some nuance to Parker’s game; he is more than just a deep threat but also very good on slants, for example. That said, he also is not a true do-it-all wideout like teammate Kendrick Bourne. He will align outside the formation most of the time — he did it on 88.8 percent of his snaps in 2022 — and play a relatively clearly-defined role. What will it look like? Probably a lot like last year, even though New England’s new-look offensive coaching staff might try to scheme things up to take advantage of his size and yards-after-the-catch abilities.

What is his salary cap situation? Entering the final season of the four-year contract extension he signed with Miami in December 2019, Parker is carrying a salary cap hit of $6.21 million. That number has him ranked eighth on the team, and second among its wide receivers (behind Kendrick Bourne’s $6.87 million), but it alone does not tell the full story: Parker, after all, has zero remaining guarantees, meaning that a release would clear the entirety of his contract of the books and create net savings of over $5.2 million considering another player would take his spot on the Top-51 contracts list.

How safe is his roster spot? Simply due to the nature of his contract, Parker cannot be considered a lock to make the team. That said, due to the Patriots’ current roster construction he appears to be very close to that category. Unless they find a way to acquire a high-profile perimeter target to challenge him, or Tyquan Thornton becomes a reliable X-receiver, he is the only player on the team providing proven experience as an outside-the-numbers target.

One-sentence projection: Availability will be key for Parker in 2023, but he has shown that he can be a functional and productive member of the Patriots offense when healthy.