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Perry: The wide receiver room could still see an addition

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At the risk of belaboring a point made on 2021 NFL Draft weekend, it would've made some sense for the New England Patriots to invest in their receiver group a bit earlier than they did.

They came away with one wideout -- seventh-rounder and UCF product Tre Nixon, a pick made by the retiring Ernie Adams -- but they're currently looking at having one of the least-threatening receiver groups in the NFL.

Longtime Bill Belichick confidant Mike Lombardi, whose son Mick Lombardi coaches Patriots receivers these days, acknowledged on a recent episode of his GM Shuffle podcast that the team probably would've liked to upgrade at receiver.

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"Look, I think there's no doubt they could've used a speed receiver," Lombardi said. "I think they'd like to get one. But sometimes you just can't get everything that you want. They've got [Nelson] Agholor, they've got [Kendrick] Bourne, they've got Jakobi Meyers. They still don't know what they're going to do with N'Keal Harry. They've gotta find a way."

Last year's speed option on the outside, Damiere Byrd, signed with the Chicago Bears on Tuesday. That's one option off the table. But there are others. Or there will be. Maybe.

Let's have a look at some of the pass-catchers who could shake free this offseason -- and could make sense for the Patriots -- now that the draft has come and gone.

 

Golden Tate, free agent

The Patriots may want a speed element for their offense on the outside, but that could be Agholor. He was one of the most efficient down-the-field threats in football last year with the Las Vegas Raiders, seeing an average depth of 15.5 yards per target and averaging 18.7 yards per reception. If Agholor becomes the outside-the-numbers option, then perhaps someone like Tate could be a No. 2 in the slot.

The Patriots have two long, lean slot options in Meyers and Bourne, but Tate could give them something a little different on the inside. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Tate is built more like Julian Edelman and would provide a little something to the offense after the catch. In 2019, he averaged 5.8 yards after the catch per reception. In his last two seasons, he has 84 catches combined for 1,064 yards.

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He'll be 33 when the season begins, but if the Patriots are looking for a more low-cut player to work the middle of the field, Tate might make sense. Coming off a career-low 35-catch season, wherever he ends up, he won't break the bank.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

This is one player who seems destined to move on. It's a bit of a surprise he hasn't already, to be honest. Over the weekend, the Jets used a second-round pick on dynamic slot receiver Elijah Moore -- who looked like a great fit for the Patriots. Is there any chance Moore ending up in Jersey could end up making a positive impact on the Patriots roster?

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Not only do the Jets employ Crowder, a six-year veteran slot specialist, but they also have former Patriots slot understudy Braxton Berrios on their roster. One or both could become available now with Moore entering the Jets mix.

The Jets could save over $10 million against their cap by releasing Crowder so it would come as little surprise if he became an option for New England if Belichick was comfortable having Agholor be the team's explosive threat on the outside.

Jakeem Grant, Miami Dolphins

Grant isn't available. Yet. He's still under contract with the Dolphins. But Miami just acquired an undersized, lighting-quick, blazing-fast receiver with their No. 6 overall pick in Alabama's Jaylen Waddle. Waddle also happens to be the best return man in this year's rookie class, too. Not a great sign for Grant's long-term prospects on South Beach.

Grant has been a tremendous special-teamer since entering the league in 2016, but he became a bigger part of the Dolphins offense last season (career-high 36 catches and 373 yards). Grant saw about a third of his targets when playing from the slot, so he has experience inside, but he was a 4.37-second 40-yard dash guy leaving Texas Tech so he has the explosiveness to maybe make defenses think twice about him heading deep.

 

If the Patriots are OK with an undersized speed element for their offense after losing an undersized speed element this offseason in Byrd, maybe Grant is a match.

Others receiving votes

Did someone say undersized speed element? The Cardinals just drafted one in the second round in Purdue's Rondale Moore, meaning Arizona receiver and former UMass star Andy Isabella -- another diminutive fast guy (4.31-second 40 in 2019) -- could become free sooner rather than later.

The Chargers added Tennessee's Josh Palmer in the third round, which could mean that last year's late-round pick to play in the slot and return punts, KJ Hill of Ohio State, could be looking for a new home soon.

In Washington, DeAndre Carter -- who spent portions of two seasons in New England and was with the Houston Texans and their Patriots-related offense between 2018 and 2020 -- could end up elsewhere after the Washington Football Team brought UNC's Dyami Brown aboard in the third round. That could bump everyone there down the depth chart a tad and result in a familiar face returning to Foxboro. 

The Patriots have cap space and a need for either a speed element or a change-of-direction dynamo in the slot. Even though the draft is over, they shouldn't be done adding to the receiver spot just yet.