The New England Patriots could lose one of the their veteran wide receivers in NFL free agency.
Phillip Dorsett has garnered interest from multiple teams, according to reports.
Phillip Dorsett’s camp has meetings scheduled with multiple teams in Indy, per source. I’d be surprised if the Patriots WR re-signs.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) February 27, 2020
Multiple teams have shown interest this week in Phillip Dorsett, per source. He could still come back around to the #Patriots with his best offer after testing the market, as he did a year ago.— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) February 27, 2020
Dorsett was acquired by the Patriots during the 2017 season in a trade that sent third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts.
The veteran wideout tallied 29 receptions for 370 yards with a career-high five touchdowns in 14 games last season. Dorsett also was effective in the 2018 playoffs, where he caught a touchdown in both the AFC Divisional Round against the Los Angeles Chargers and the AFC Championship Game versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl LIII over the Los Angeles Rams, but Dorsett did not tally a reception in that 13-3 victory.
The Patriots have several free agents, in addition to Dorsett, to consider bringing back. Starting quarterback Tom Brady is obviously the most important free agent for the Pats, but there's also a few key veterans on defense who need new contracts, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins.
Dorsett would be a nice No. 3 wide receiver in New England or on any other contender looking to bolster its pass-catching depth. Amari Cooper, A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders are the three best wide receivers in the 2020 free agent class. Dorsett is a solid second-tier option who would cost less than those three players to sign.
As Tom Brady's free agency approaches, the language of the reporting about him is getting stronger.
NFL reporter Jeff Darlington joined ESPN's "Get Up!" on Thursday to state quite confidently that he believes Brady will sign with another team rather than return to the New England Patriots for a 21st season.
"There are people very close to Tom Brady who are being told by Tom Brady, 'It's not going to happen. I'm going somewhere else,' " Darlington said. "That's the way we're operating here.
' ... I am now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady returns to the Patriots."
According to Darlington, Brady is looking at free agency as a way to "reinvigorate himself and do something different" by joining a new team.
Which team could that be? Joining Tom E. Curran on a recent episode of NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Talk Podcast, Darlington mentioned the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders as favorites to sign Brady.
Brady has familiarity with Titans head coach and former Patriots teammate Mike Vrabel, while it was reported earlier this month that the Raiders are prepared to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million contract, which may exceed what New England is willing to give him.
Not all hope is lost for Patriots fans: Darlington added that even those "close" to Brady could see Patriots head coach Bill Belichick convincing the 42-year-old quarterback to stay for another year.
But Darlington also offered this warning:
"We need to wrap our minds around the fact that it is far more likely that Tom Brady will not be back with the Patriots."
UPDATE (8:50 a.m. ET): The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian and The Athletic's Vic Tafur both followed Darlington's comments with their own reports that don't bode well for Brady returning to New England.
The Patriots still have not reached out to Tom Brady. According to a source, “it’s not looking good”— Karen Guregian (@kguregian) February 27, 2020
The strong buzz in Indy this week is that Tom Brady won’t return to the Patriots. Will be first domino to fall in QB musical chairs. #NFLCombine— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) February 27, 2020