Jakobi Meyers has led the New England Patriots in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons and looks like Mac Jones' clear No. 1 target.
So, the Patriots should prioritize re-signing him in NFL free agency next month, right? Well ... it might depend on Meyers' price tag.
You could argue Meyers is the top wide receiver in a relatively weak free-agent class headlined by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Thomas, D.J. Chark and Allen Lazard. At the very least, Meyers is in the top five.
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The top free-agent wideout in the 2022 class, Tyreek Hill, landed a $ 30 million-per-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. While Meyers isn't in Hill's stratosphere, there's a case for the 26-year-old earning at least half of Hill's average annual salary.
ESPN analyst and former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told ESPN's Mike Reiss he expects Meyers to "do well" in free agency after the wide receiver market (absolutely exploded). Tannenbaum added that agents will often point to comparable players when it comes to negotiating a contract, and Reiss mentioned an interesting comp for Meyers: Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk.
After four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Kirk earned a four-year $ 72 million deal from the Jaguars last offseason with $ 37 million guaranteed. And his career stats through those first four seasons are remarkably similar to Meyers':
- Jakobi Meyers (2019 to 2022): 235 receptions, 2,758 yards, 8 TDs
- Christian Kirk (2018 to 2021): 236 receptions, 2,902 yards, 17 TDs
While Kirk more than doubled Meyers' TD totals, their reception and yard totals were essentially the same. So, even if a team isn't willing to pay Meyers $ 18 million per year, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, can reasonably demand in that ballpark.
Reiss also pointed to Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow as a potential comparison to Meyers; Renfrow landed a two-year, $ 32 million deal from Las Vegas after catching 244 passes for 2,629 yards with 17 touchdowns through four seasons.
That all means Meyers is within his right to demand at least $ 15 million per year in free agency. (Pro Football Focus projects Meyers' next deal at four years, $ 64 million with $ 40 million guaranteed.) Such a deal would make him the Patriots' highest-paid wide receiver by a wide margin and mean the team is devoting at least $ 15 million per year to three skill players after signing tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to lucrative deals in 2021.
Meyers is a strong fit in New England, so perhaps he and the Patriots can find common ground. But it's worth wondering whether Bill Belichick will try to take his chances in the NFL Draft or trade for a wideout instead of ponying up to keep Meyers in Foxboro on a long-term deal.