Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with newly acquired WR/PR Whalen

Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with newly acquired WR/PR Whalen

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a need, and they took to free agency to fill that need. But it's still somewhat unclear as to what they'll get in signing receiver Griff Whalen to the active 53-man roster. 

The Patriots made the move on Thursday, releasing defensive tackle Darius Kilgo in order to clear a spot for the former Colts and Chargers wideout. Whalen, who has served as a slot receiver and a punt returner, could potentially slide into those roles with his new club -- particularly as Danny Amendola copes with an ankle injury. 

"We'll see how it goes . . . Been more of an inside receiver," Bill Belichick said Friday. "Done some returning."

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is in his fifth NFL season. He has caught 47 passes in 41 career games for 509 yards and three scores. He's also returned 46 punts and 29 kicks in his career.

Belichick indicated that while Whalen's returning experience made him an attractive option for them, he's not viewed solely as a returner. The Patriots have needs in the kicking game as well as at receiver with Amendola out. Whalen gives the team important depth offensively as its fourth healthy receiver -- to go along with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell -- and he provides some welcome experience as a punt returner. 

Should the Patriots opt to go elsewhere in the return game against the Ravens this weekend, they could turn to Edelman or rookie Cyrus Jones. The issue there is that one of those options is perhaps the team's most valuable offensive player after Tom Brady, someone the coaching staff may not want to expose to high-impact collisions, and the other option has had difficulty with ball-security since turning pro this spring.  

Asked if Whalen may have an easier time contributing on special teams than on offense after joining the Patriots at this late stage in the season, Belichick said sure.

"A lot fewer moving parts on that," he said. 

The Patriots had the option of calling up a practice-squad receiver or utilizing someone like rookie running back DJ Foster -- who spent time in college as a receiver and has worked out with Patriots wideouts this year -- instead of signing Whalen. But it's Whalen's game-day experience that made him a valuable commodity for the Patriots.

"It's experience," Belichick said when asked how he chooses between a veteran from outside the team versus a younger practice-squad player who has been around the offense for months. 

"And really the contrast of being in a system and moving up a little bit, or having been at that level but not having as much time in the system. It's a conversation that we've had, obviously. Sometimes I kind of feel like you know for sure you're making the right decision. Other times, you're kind of in a wait-and-see mode.

"It's what you feel like is best at that time, but in the end, is there a better way to go? I don't know. Until you get a player in that you haven't had before, it's hard to evaluate. At least the guys you have, you have an idea of where they are. You have to wait and see how they perform at the next level. Guys that aren't on your roster you sort of have to wait and see how it goes.

"We've been in that situation before this time of year. You know, Austin Collie a couple years ago. Guys like that. Just have to see how it works out. We'll see with Griff how it goes. We haven't had him before. Haven't had him in a camp. Haven't had him in our system so we'll see."

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...