Patriots free-agent outlook: Wide receivers

Patriots free-agent outlook: Wide receivers

In the second of a five-part series, Phil Perry and DJ Bean take a look at potential free agents New England might have interest in. Today: wide receivers


Of the four receivers to make at least five catches for the Pats last season, three of them will be 29 or older next season. Julian Edelman turns 31 in May, Chris Hogan turns 29 in October and Danny Amendola, should he still be with the team, will turn 32 in November.

PATRIOTS FREE AGENCY: Curran on Pats' plans, plus position-by-position breakdown

Only second-year player Malcolm Mitchell, coming off an encouraging rookie season, provides hope for the future, but the 2016 fourth-rounder can’t do it alone. The Pats need help, if not now, then certainly in a year or two. 

Edelman is entering the final year of his contract. It was after Wes Welker’s age 31 season that the Pats parted with the receiver. The last time the Patriots locked up a receiver over 30 was Brandon Lloyd, whom they released one season into a three-year pact signed in 2012. 

So the Patriots need to get younger and, ideally, better at receiver. It’s why they’re wise for their reported interest in trading for Brandin Cooks, a 23-year-old whom they’d have to pay after the 2018 season. It’s why they should also be looking at the draft and free agency. 


Brandon Marshall, 32, Jets: Did we say 32? We meant 33, which is the age he’ll turn on March 23. Marshall is one of the great possession receivers of his time, but his numbers took a dive from his first season with the Jets to last season. You can attribute that to putrid quarterback play, but it could just be the decline that comes with age. With that said, the Patriots have never shied away from bringing in star receivers near the end — Torry Holt, Chad Ochocinco — so don’t rule out Marshall completely. 

Terrelle Pryor, 27, Browns: It took Pryor five years to find his place in the league, but it’s safe to say he’s found it. The former Raiders quarterback’s move to receiver with the Browns resulted in a 77-catch, 1,007-yard season in Cleveland in 2016. The Patriots let him get away after working him out in 2015; will they shell out the cash to make up for it this time?

Pierre Garcon, 30, Redskins: The former Colt enjoyed a five-year stay in Washington, topping 750 receiving yards in four of them and 1,000-plus yards twice. He’ll be 31 at the start of next season, though. 

Kenny Britt, 28, Rams: For all of the trouble he had staying healthy early on in his career, Britt can flat-out play. He somehow had 1,002 receiving yards in 15 games with whatever the hell was throwing the ball for the Rams. Plus, he went to Rutgers. 

Kenny Stills, 24, Dolphins: He’s young and he’s fast, and he’s reportedly going to get offers of $12 million a year. That’s close to Julio Jones/Dez Bryant money, and Stills (no 1,000-yard seasons in his four-year career) is no Jones or Bryant. 

Kendall Wright, 27, Titans: Tennessee’s first-round pick in 2012 plans on playing elsewhere next season. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder missed a combined 11 games over the last two seasons due to knee and hamstring injuries, keeping him under 500 receiving yards in both campaigns. 

Cordarrelle Patterson, 25, Vikings: The Patriots could have taken the speedy Patterson with the 29th pick in 2013, but they traded down with the Vikings, allowing Minnesota to grab Patterson while New England took Jamie Collins 52nd overall. That proved to be the wise move for the Pats, as Patterson never really became a top receiver in Minnesota. Though a good kick returner, Patterson has not come anywhere near his ceiling as a receiver (just 1,316 yards over four seasons). Despite his lack of production, his potential means he still might not come cheap. 

Robert Woods, 24, Bills: The Pats have had recent success in plucking one Bills receiver (Hogan), but considering that Woods has had better numbers in his first four years prior to free agency than Mohamed Sanu (five-year, $32.5 million), Woods could outprice himself from quite a few teams. 

Patriots release Shea McClellin

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Patriots release Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin will be blocking kicks for somebody else next season. 

The Patriots announced Monday they've released the veteran linebacker, ending his tenure with the team after two seasons.  ESPN's Field Yates broke the news.

The Pats signed McClellin to a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season, but that was the only season in which he played for the team. McClellin missed all of last season due to injury. Prior to coming to New England, McClellin played four seasons with the Bears, who chose him 19th overall in 2012. 

McClellin's biggest contribution with the Pats came when he blocked a Justin Tucker kick in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the Ravens.

Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

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Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

When the Patriots traded for Danny Shelton earlier this offseason, sending a 2019 third-rounder to Cleveland in exchange for the defensive tackle, they traded for a player who was already being mentored by one of their own. 

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Shelton explained that one of his agents put him in touch with former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork so that Shelton could pick up some tips from one of the best defensive tackles in football of the past 15 years. 

"For me, he’s someone that I still look up to even when he was with the Texans," Shelton said. "I got the opportunity to reach out to him and kind of pick his brain and just learn a couple of tips from him. He’s been really responsive. He’s been a guy that has been really helpful this offseason and I’m looking forward to reaching out more and learning some more from him."

When Shelton was coming out of the University of Washington in 2015,'s Lance Zierlein's "NFL comparison" was Wilfork. Both carried similar builds -- Shelton is now listed at 335 pounds -- and both were viewed as surprisingly good athletes for their body types. Shelton was also viewed as the top two-gapping tackle in the draft that year, which is exactly what the Patriots ask their interior linemen to do. 

Shelton has made good on those projections over the last couple of years. Last season, he was a key part of a Browns defense that ranked fourth against the run by Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA. In 2016, Shelton was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its eighth-best interior lineman against the run. Per PFF, he was second that year -- behind only Damon Harrison -- in terms of the number of run stops he recorded from the interior.

It's clear that Shelton, the No. 12 overall pick three years ago, understands what his strengths are. 

"Honestly, I’m just going to go with whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] wants me to do," Shelton said. "My best feature is stopping the run, so if he wants me to play at a specific position I’ll do it, and I’ll make sure I do my job for the team’s success."

So how can Wilfork help? If he has any tips on how to be a consistent player from the inside in Belichick's system, that could go a long way. Over the course of Wilfork's 13-year career, few defensive tackles were as effective from week to week and year to year. Wilfork played at least 830 snaps in four of his last five seasons with the Patriots (he was injured in 2013), and even during his two seasons with the Texans, he averaged about 600 snaps per year. He made five Pro Bowls with the Patriots and was named a First or Second-Team All-Pro four times.

In what form might Wilfork's advice on consistency be delivered? Would it be nutritional, which was an aspect of his preparation he embraced later in his career? Would it be technique-based? Would it be simply how to take the coaching dispensed inside the walls of Gillette Stadium? 

Shelton, who missed two games last season and played in 469 snaps, doesn't have a long-term contract with the Patriots to be able to prove his worth over multiple years the way Wilfork did. And he may not be asked to take on the myriad roles Wilfork was during his time under Belichick. But if Shelton can pick up some advice from Wilfork on how to stay on the field and how to help the Patriots win on first and second downs, that might make him the team's most valuable offseason addition. 

New England finished the season 20th in rush yards allowed per game, and they were 31st in yards per attempt allowed. In the Super Bowl, with run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch a healthy scratch, the Patriots allowed 6.1 yards per carry to the Eagles on their way to 164 yards rushing. 

Shelton is in the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.03 million this season. The Patriots may not be willing to pick up his hefty $11.7 million fifth-year option for 2019, but if he can continue his upward trajectory then maybe the Patriots will work to extend him before the end of the year. 

How Wilfork impacts that trajectory, if at all, remains to be seen. But he's certainly not a bad guy for Shelton to have in his corner as the 24-year-old embarks on life with the Patriots.