New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 26: Levi Wallace #39 of the Buffalo Bills breaks up a pass intended for N'Keal Harry #1 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots now know how much it would cost to pick up the fifth-year option on 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry. As you might’ve expected, it’s bad news for the 24-year-old wideout.

But if you’re wondering why, it’s because a fifth-year option for Harry would be a massive overpayment. Based on the new figures for fifth-year options in 2022, Harry would cost the Patriots $12.4 million on the option in 2023. That’s generally closer to middle-of-the-road money for a wide receiver by modern standards, but production-wise, Harry hasn’t even been middle-of-the-road.

The new fifth-year option numbers come in four tiers: players with two or more Pro Bowl selections in their first three seasons, players with one Pro Bowl, players who meet the playing time criteria with no Pro Bowls, and players who meet no playing time criteria. Playing time qualifies as at least 50 percent of snaps averaged over the first three seasons, or 50-75 percent of snaps in two of the first three.

Harry only played more than 50 percent of snaps in one of his first three seasons (57.8 percent of offensive snaps in 2020), so he lands in the least expensive group. He played only 29.8 percent of snaps in 2021. While he performed at a high level as a run-blocker, Harry in three years hasn’t produced as a pass-catcher at nearly the level one would reasonably expect from a first-round pick.

NFL fifth-year option numbers for 2022

  • The NFL’s official fifth-year option amounts for 2022 were released this week, listed by position and grouped by different criteria. Albert Breer of The MMQB shared a memo from the league containing the figures. Here’s how it’ll all break down.

    Players with two or more Pro Bowls

    Quarterback: $29.7 million
    Running Back: $9.6 million
    Wide Receiver: $18.4 million
    Tight End: $10.9 million
    Offensive Lineman: $16.7 million
    Defensive End: $17.9 million
    Defensive Tackle: $17.4 million
    Linebacker: $18.7 million
    Cornerback: $17.3 million
    Safety: $12.9 million
    Special Teams: $5.2 million

  • Players with one Pro Bowl

    Quarterback: $27.2 million
    Running Back: $8.0 million
    Wide Receiver: $16.8 million
    Tight End: $9.4 million
    Offensive Lineman: $15.3 million
    Defensive End: $16.0 million
    Defensive Tackle: $14.7 million
    Linebacker: $15.8 million
    Cornerback: $15.2 million
    Safety: $10.8 million
    Special Teams: $4.7 million

  • Players who meet playtime criteria

    Quarterback: $22.4 million
    Running Back: $5.7 million
    Wide Receiver: $13.4 million
    Tight End: $6.9 million
    Offensive Lineman: $13.2 million
    Defensive End: $12.4 million
    Defensive Tackle: $10.8 million
    Linebacker: $11.7 million
    Cornerback: $12.0 million
    Safety: $7.9 million
    Special Teams: $3.9 million

  • Players who do not meet playtime criteria

    Quarterback: $19.6 million
    Running Back: $5.2 million
    Wide Receiver: $12.4 million
    Tight End: $6.2 million
    Offensive Lineman: $12.6 million
    Defensive End: $11.5 million
    Defensive Tackle: $9.6 million
    Linebacker: $10.9 million
    Cornerback: $11.2 million
    Safety: $7.3 million
    Special Teams: $3.6 million

  • Teams will have until May 2 to pick up the fifth-year option for eligible players. Click here to learn more about the key dates on the 2022 NFL calendar.

Fifth-year options only apply to the first round, so the next time this topic will come up in New England is when quarterback Mac Jones (15th overall in 2021) is heading into his fifth year, assuming he’s not extended before then.

But for Harry, it should only mean he’s one step closer to his exit from the Patriots after a disappointing first few years.

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Get to know the key dates on the 2022 NFL calendar

  • Football season may be over, but there’s still plenty to talk about for next year. Here are the key dates on the 2022 NFL calendar to know about as we head into the off-season.

    March 1-7: NFL Scouting Combine

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and friend Vinnie Colelli look on during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and friend Vinnie Colelli look on during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

    The first big party of the year for prospective players, as well as GMs, coaches, scouts, and agents. And reporters sniffing around for nuggets of information from all of them. The top draft prospects separate themselves in these drills, which figure to be more important and involved than they were in the more COVID-limited 2020 and 2021 seasons.

    For draft enthusiasts, it’ll be their first chance to pore over the performances of their favorite prospects. For the casual fan, it’s a chance to get the first look at the top players to know.

    The Combine is also an opportunity for more unheralded draft prospects to rise up the boards. But the event remains invite-only, so you’re guaranteed to see the best of the best on the TV broadcasts. (Yes, the Combine is on TV.)

  • March 8: Franchise tag deadline

    This is the last day of the league year that teams can place the franchise tag on impending unrestricted free agents. Tagged players are typically coming out of their rookie contracts having significantly outperformed them, making the value of a franchise tag lower than that of a long-term deal.

    Franchise tags are one-year deals for a set number, which varies by position. Teams still have the option to trade players after tagging them. Over The Cap has a list of projected totals for the franchise tag and transition tag. The latter grants a team the right to match or refuse an offer sheet that a tagged player signs with another team, but is rarely used.

    Notable NFL players who should be considered candidates for the franchise tag include Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson, Saints safety Marcus Williams, Chiefs tackle Orlando Brown, and Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki.

  • March 14-16: “Legal Tampering” begins

    This is where it really gets fun. In recent years, players signings had begun to inundate the news right at the official start of free agency, exposing the plain reality that teams, players, and agents had done all kinds of negotiating (read: tampering) before anyone had officially become a fre agent.

    Thus, the NFL introduced the three-day “legal tampering” period in 2013, allowing players and teams to “begin” negotiating before the start of free agency. But most recently, in 2021, signings were announced at the outset of that.

    This is all to say: mark your calendar for legal tampering, because that is when most of the big free agency news will drop.

  • March 16: Free agency and league year begins

    All pending unrestricted free agents become official at 4 p.m. ET on March 16. Most of the major free-agent signings across the league will have already been reported by then, but this is when teams can officially announce their moves.

    That doesn’t mean free agency will be over so soon. The open market will remain deep. It’ll just be mostly mid-level free agents and below after this point.

  • March 27-30: NFL League Meeting

    President and Chief opperating officer Jonathan Kraft answers questions from the media at the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt HotelÊ on March 21, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect since March 12 the league is conducting it's annual owners meeting in New Orleans(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

    President and Chief operating officer Jonathan Kraft answers questions from the media at the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 21, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect since March 12 the league is conducting it’s annual owners meeting in New Orleans(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

    The league meeting is the annual summit of owners, execs, and coaches, particularly those involved with the competition committee. The most newsworthy items from the league meeting are usually league-wide rule changes, which are discussed and sometimes agreed upon for implementation.

    In light of controversies emanating from the 2021 season, one can expect overtime rules to be heavily debated during the league meeting, and perhaps changed.

  • April 4: Offseason workouts may begin

    This is only for first-year head coaches. They will be allowed, but not required, to begin off-season workouts with their new teams on this date. Teams with returning head coaches can begin their off-season programs as early as April 18.

  • April 20: Draft deadlines begin

    This marks the last day that teams can bring draft-eligible prospects to their facilities for a physical. Most draft prep is likely done by this point. The football world will already be filled with speculation and rumors on teams’ interest in particular players, and where the top prospects in the first round will land.

    The day before the draft, April 27, is the deadline for teams to “time, test, and interview” prospects.

  • April 22: Restricted free agent deadlines begin

    Restricted free agents have until April 22 to sign an offer sheet with a new team, and their respective teams would have until the 27th to match or decline it. Offer sheets are relatively rare, mainly because of the compensation required and the types of players available in restricted free agency.

    If it’s a good-enough player, his team will extend a qualifying offer for a first-round tender, and thus would receive a first-round pick in return if they decline to match. At the same time, players are only eligible for restricted free agency in the first place if they have accrued three seasons at the time of their expired contract, so they are never players who went high in the draft.

    So, offer sheets are typically saved for players who have significantly outperformed their draft status and become worth acquiring for a high pick. There are some notable RFAs in 2022 who could be tendered at a lower round and become candidates for more affordable draft pick compensation, including a trio of wide receivers: Green Bay’s Allen Lazard, Miami’s Preston Williams, and New Orleans’ Deonte Harris.

  • April 28-30: 2022 NFL Draft

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 29: Mac Jones poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage after being selected 15th by the New England Patriots during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – APRIL 29: Mac Jones poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage after being selected 15th by the New England Patriots during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Just about every NFL fan would say the Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year, and many would put the draft at No. 2. It’s the culmination of months of player workouts, team scouting, and media/fan speculation and discussion. Several of the top picks are likely already known by this point, but that doesn’t take away from the excitement and odd pageantry that comes with the event.

  • And then … ?

    After the draft is concluded with rounds 4-7 on April 30, the news cycle moves on to undrafted free agent signings in the ensuing days. But off-season workouts have already begun by this point, leaving football commentators with no shortage of things to talk about well into springtime.

    May will likely mark the start of mandatory minicamp for all 32 teams. Those dates, as well as training camp, have yet to be announced. But those in the football world will have plenty to chew on from February through April.

    If you still haven’t found the information you need on the 2022 off-season, there’s plenty more to know at the official NFL website.

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7 free-agent slot receivers to bolster the Patriots offense in 2022

  • A free-agent slot receiver may not necessarily be the game-breaking kind of talent that Ja’Marr Chase or the top free-agent receivers are, but it should definitely improve the roster at a specific area of need and make life easier for Mac Jones in his second year. Here are seven free-agent slot receivers who could boost the Patriots’ offense in the 2022 season.

    JuJu Smith-Schuster

    Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of the game at Heinz Field on September 19, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of the game at Heinz Field on September 19, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Smith-Schuster is closer to the same size as Meyers and Bourne than that of Gunner Olszewski. But he is certainly at his best playing inside. He lined up in the slot on 78.8 percent of his offensive snaps in 2021.

    Smith-Schuster played only five games before a shoulder injury and the resulting surgery cut his regular season short. But he did return for the Steelers in the wild card round and made five catches for 26 yards, so in theory, he’s healthy as he heads toward unrestricted free agency. The fact that it was a shoulder injury should mean that his quickness is intact.

    We’ll see if his clean bill of health can help him get more than a one-year deal, but Smith-Schuster is likely to see less on the open market than his more productive counterparts at the top of the heap. Still, he’s two years removed from a 97-catch season and would give Jones a fearless, dynamic target over the middle of the field.

  • Christian Kirk

    Christian Kirk #13 of the Arizona Cardinals catches the ball over Jourdan Lewis #26 of the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

    Christian Kirk #13 of the Arizona Cardinals catches the ball over Jourdan Lewis #26 of the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

    Kirk is younger and faster than Smith-Schuster, and would bring a big-play element to the slot receiver spot. He scored touchdowns of 80 and 56 yards in his third season in 2020, and added five more scores in 2021, three of which came from more than 20 yards out.

    In an impressive leap forward, Kirk led the Cardinals in catches (77) and targets (103) while lining up in the slot 80.2 percent of the time. He’s also efficient; his 74.8 percent catch rate was seventh among all receivers.

    At 25 years old coming off a career year, Kirk will probably command a long-term deal for at least mid-market value. But he seems like the exact type of player the Patriots could install in the slot full-time.

  • Isaiah McKenzie

    Isaiah McKenzie #19 of the Buffalo Bills runs out of bounds after catching a pass against Joejuan Williams #33 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    Isaiah McKenzie #19 of the Buffalo Bills runs out of bounds after catching a pass against Joejuan Williams #33 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    Also known as The Patriot Killer! In reality, it was just one big game for McKenzie against the Pats. But in a Week 16 game with first place in the AFC East on the line and the Patriots focusing on slowing down Stefon Diggs, McKenzie exploded for 11 catches, 125 yards, and a touchdown. That stung.

    McKenzie is relatively small, but he’s also young, fast, and inexpensive. He should be able to get a multi-year deal somewhere, but won’t break the bank. Most importantly, he’d be a good fit for the Patriots and diminish the depth chart of their chief rival in the division.

    Belichick hasn’t been shy about bringing in players who played well against the Patriots in the past. McKenzie would make sense, and come relatively cheaply as a guy with a low volume of production so far in his career.

  • Braxton Berrios

    Braxton Berrios #10 of the New York Jets runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    Braxton Berrios #10 of the New York Jets runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    Sound familiar? Berrios began his career with the Patriots as a sixth-round pick out of Miami. But he spent his rookie season on injured reserve before being waived in 2019.

    Berrios ended up with the Jets, and surprisingly enough, has developed into a decent slot receiver. His catches have gone up in each of the last three seasons, with a career-best 46 in 2021. He was also a First Team All-Pro kick returner, leading the league with 30.4 yards per return and delivering the longest kick return touchdown of the season at 102 yards.

    One would think there are no hard feelings between Berrios and the Patriots. He’d make for a promising addition to the slot receiver depth chart, and the relative familiarity with New England is a plus.

  • Odell Beckham Jr.

    Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    OBJ will definitely come cheaply, because he may not even be able to practice until around September. The former Giants, Browns, and Rams wideout tore his ACL as he made a catch in Super Bowl LVI, which was unfortunate for obvious reasons, but doubly so because it felt like he was on his way to a big game.

    Beckham turns 30 years old in November and will now be on (likely) his fourth team in nine seasons. Off-field drama has tended to follow him around. But Beckham also acknowledged that there was once mutual interest between him and the Patriots during his brief time as a free agent during the 2021 season.

    Well, his price tag will never be lower than it is now. If Beckham can prove he’s close to the same player he’s been in his career – which is a legitimate question mark after a second ACL injury – he’ll be good bang for the buck, and give Jones a potential game-breaker over the middle.

  • Cedrick Wilson

    Cedrick Wilson #1 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball after a reception against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

    Cedrick Wilson #1 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball after a reception against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

    Wilson lined up in the slot 82.7 percent of the time, the highest rate on the Cowboys. That’s notable, because Dallas lined up three other pass-catchers inside for at least 359 plays.

    The 26-year-old Wilson came up with 45 catches, 602 yards, and six touchdowns for the league’s most productive offense. That’s impressive, considering he had the sixth-most targets on the team.

    Belichick may view the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Wilson as more of a hybrid receiver, which might make him a redundancy with Meyers and Bourne. But he’s a proven producer in the slot and would inject the depth chart with youth and perhaps some untapped potential.

  • Jamison Crowder

    Jamison Crowder #82 of the New York Jets avoids the tackle of Kevin Johnson #28 of the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Jamison Crowder #82 of the New York Jets avoids the tackle of Kevin Johnson #28 of the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Crowder is a familiar name to Patriots fans at this point, as a three-year veteran of the Jets. The 28-year-old wouldn’t transform the offense overnight, but he’s proven to be a steady and dependable slot receiver for most of his career.

    Despite the presence of Berrios and dynamic rookie Elijah Moore, Crowder lined up in the slot more often than any Jets receiver in 2021. He also managed to lead the team in catches with 51, despite working with a rookie quarterback and a defensive head coach.

    Crowder could step right in and start in the slot in three-receiver sets, but signing him may only be worth it if a spot opens up on the roster. The Patriots would be better suited aiming a little higher, but Crowder would be a solid fallback plan.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.