New England Patriots

Aug 9, 2018; Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross catches a pass but is called out of bounds against Chicago Bears cornerback Doran Grant in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 9, 2018; Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross catches a pass but is called out of bounds against Chicago Bears cornerback Doran Grant in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bengals wide receiver John Ross is hitting the trade block. Should the Patriots take a chance on the former first-round pick?

It wouldn’t be the first time. Bill Belichick has made a habit of collecting receivers with first-round ability to try and maximize their talents on an affordable deal. Even when he shipped a first-round pick to the Saints for Brandin Cooks in 2017, he got the receiver on his rookie contract and paid him just $1.5 million for one season before flipping him back around for another first.

Overall, the approach has delivered mixed results. Cordarrelle Patterson (29th overall in 2013) was essentially the same player he’s always been: excellent kick returner, dangerous with the ball in his hands, but only consistently effective out of the backfield and not a reliable downfield receiver. Phillip Dorsett (29th overall in 2015) has been a fine complementary piece with a handful of big catches on his resume, but not necessarily a home run addition. Corey Coleman (15th overall in 2016) never made it beyond the practice squad.

Could Ross be the next first-round wideout that Belichick gambles on, in hopes that he unlocks the potential that made him the ninth overall pick in 2017? As always, it will depend on the price.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network tweeted on Tuesday that the Bengals are “shopping” Ross on the premise that both sides could use a “fresh start”. The speedy Ross set a new record at the 2017 NFL Combine with an outrageous 4.22 in the 40-yard dash, so the talent is obviously there.

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 13: John Ross of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI, OH – SEPTEMBER 13: John Ross of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Ross has also had issues with things that may turn Belichick off. He got off to a dreadful start in Cincinnati. He struggled with drops, got put on blast by Marvin Lewis for a lack of competitiveness, and ultimately lost his confidence as he only played three games in a positively disastrous rookie season. Drops continued to plague him in 2018, but he did become a scoring threat with seven touchdowns.

Can Belichick handle Ross better than the now-fired Lewis did? Recent history suggests Belichick would at least see if he can absorb Ross’ contract for a swap of draft picks. As a former top-10 selection, Ross is slightly more expensive than other recent additions at receiver. But salaries of $2 million and $2.7 million over the next two seasons are certainly doable, and if the Patriots maximize Ross’ talent, they have a dynamic receiving threat for a relative bargain.

Ross played some slot receiver and was known as a good route-runner during his time at Washington. He already has tools you can’t coach, like his game-breaking speed. If the Patriots got him, his performance would come down to whether Belichick can get him to hold on to the ball more consistently.

But, like every other ex-first-rounder the Patriots have gambled on in recent years, it comes down to getting the right deal.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.