Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots made it official and announced that they'd released Kenny Britt, the next logical question was . . . okay, what's next?

Versions of that question cropped up both on Twitter and our Early Edition program soon after the Britt news came down. And they came with a very specific name attached. Should the Patriots make a move on free agent wideout Dez Bryant?

Here's what we know: All indications are that there's nothing brewing between the Patriots and Bryant at the moment. I'm not sure how wise it would be to ever say "never" when it comes to the Patriots and potential personnel calls, but I was told on Wednesday night that they had not budged on Bryant to this point.

On the one hand, that should come as little surprise.

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The Patriots ask their receivers to be nuanced route-runners who can run a wide variety of patterns and adjust those routes on the fly. Bryant hasn't proven that to be that kind of player over the course of his career. And for any club to ask the nine-year vet to rely mostly on his explosion and athleticism would seem to be a less-than-dependable plan of attack. He's not the player he once was as far as some of those traits go.

Earlier this offseason, Bryant planned to work with a route-running coach by the name of David Robinson. That may have very well been a good move for Bryant and his career, but it also may have been a case of too little too late.

 

Bryant posted a career low in yards-per-catch last season (12.1) with 69 receptions for 838 yards. Outside of an injury-shortened 2015, his six touchdowns last season were the least of his career since his rookie year. He led all receivers in drops in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus, with 12.

If Bryant is looking for something approaching the three-year, $21 million deal he reportedly turned down from the Ravens earlier this offseason, then he could continue to have trouble finding work. Especially in New England, which, if his Instagram comments are any indication, is a place he'd be open to joining.

Could Bill Belichick and his front office eventually determine that they should give Bryant a chance? Maybe. With two preseason games left on the schedule and about three weeks before the start of the regular season, there's any number of things that could happen that could force the Patriots to make a move like that.

But that the Pats have been through what they've been through at the receiver position -- they parted ways with both Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Matthews before Britt, and Braxton Berrios has been limited in practice recently -- without making a run at Bryant speaks volumes.

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There's certainly opportunities available for other receivers on the Patriots roster. With Britt out of the mix, the depth chart includes Julian Edelman (suspended for the first four games of the regular season), Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eric Decker, Riley McCarron, Berrios, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner and Matthew Slater.

Though that has the look of what could be a thin group come September, Edelman said on Wednesday -- before the news of Britt's release was announced -- he's confident receivers will step up in his absence.

"We got a lot of guys making a lot of plays, a lot of guys working hard, a lot of guys improving," Edelman said. "Honestly that's all you can ask for. We got a group in there that's very capable. Lot of explosion, lot of quickness, lot of experience. I'm not a talent evaluator . . . but I'm excited for them, for their opportunity, and I'm definitely confident in them."

For now, at least, it's a group that won't include Bryant.

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