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.
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.