New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 04: Calvin Ridley #0 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at EverBank Stadium on December 04, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots have a need at wide receiver and money to spend. What they likely don’t have? A player worth spending it on.

Coming into the offseason this class looked like a great one. Multiple true coverage-dictating wide receivers were on expiring contracts – a group highlighted by Tee HigginsMichael Pittman Jr., and Mike Evans.


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Fast forward a few weeks, and none of those players are hitting the open market. Higgins was franchise tagged by the Bengals a few weeks ago. This week began with Evans getting a two-year contract extension from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Then ahead of Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline the Indianapolis Colts placed the non-exclusive tag on Pittman, with the expectation being the two sides will continue to discuss and ultimately reach a long-term deal. While that still allows Pittman to negotiate with other teams, the Colts would have the chance to match any deal he takes elsewhere, and if they don’t the signing team would have to give up significant draft capital.


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So, where does that leave the receiver-needy Patriots? Looking at second-tier options, likely as stop-gaps until they have another chance to sign or trade or a premium wide receiver. It will likely also have them putting much more consideration into using one of their top-50 picks on a wide receiver in what is a very strong draft class at the position.

Still the draft is – as always – hardly a guarantee. With Kendrick Bourne expected to hit the open market and DeVante Parker reportedly a trade candidate, the team is going to need to be in the market for veteran wide receivers.

Who’s left? Here’s a look at the top options…

  • Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 08: Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 08: Marquise Brown #2 of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

    The Patriots have talked about ‘weaponizing’ their offense, and Brown definitely brings a ‘weaponized’ skill set with his speed and big play ability. However those skills haven’t always translated to elite production, with just one 1,000-yard season in five years (that came with the Ravens in 2021). Last year in 14 games he caught 51 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns. With Brown size is also a concern, at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Brown will turn 27 in June.

  • Calvin Ridley

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 07: Calvin Ridley #0 of the Jacksonville Jaguars catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on January 07, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 07: Calvin Ridley #0 of the Jacksonville Jaguars catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on January 07, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

    Ridley’s situation is a unique one. The list of players to sit out a full year for reason other than injury, then come back and produce is truly limited. Yet after missing 2022 due to a gambling suspension, Ridley returned in 2023 and despite some inconsistent play was Jacksonville’s leading receiver catching 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns.

    The Patriots would certainly take that kind of production at the wide receiver position. However, Ridley is entering his age 29 season, with the 30-year-old mark often being a line of demarcation at the wide receiver position. Even if Ridley does provide a boost in 2024, he can’t be assumed to be a long-term answer at the position, and more of a stop-gap.

  • Gabe Davis

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Gabe Davis #13 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the game at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 26: Gabe Davis #13 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the game at Highmark Stadium on October 26, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

    On the topic of inconsistencies, Davis is hard to pin down. For every monster game he has – and he’s had some big ones – there are two or three where he’s a relative no-show. Overall last season he caught 45 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns, but 57.2 percent of his receiving yards came in just four games. Meanwhile, he was held without a catch in four games in which he played over 70 percent of his snaps, and had two or fewer catches in 10 of 17 games.

    Plus, at his next stop Davis won’t have Stephon Diggs across the formation from him drawing coverage. There’s certainly upside in a 6-foot-2, 225-pound receiver that can go up and get the football, but it’s also hardly a guarantee Davis provides high-level production in a new environment.

  • Darnell Mooney

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 17: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – DECEMBER 17: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    Mooney shined in 2021, catching 81 passes for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns. He hasn’t been able to surpass 500 yards since, although that’s likely do in part to inconsistent quarterback play in Chicago. The 26-year-old is a good deep threat with legitimate speed, but he’ll need to do more than that to carry an offense. Mooney is another player that would be a strong signing as a secondary option, but not as a top receiver.

  • Odell Beckham Jr.

    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Baltimore Ravens lines up against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 10: Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Baltimore Ravens lines up against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    The Patriots were reportedly interested in acquiring Beckham at the trade deadline in 2021. Will that interest continue a few years later. Even if it does, there’s not much incentive for Beckham to come to New England outside of money, and even with all of their cap space overpaying a 31-year-old wideout doesn’t feel like the Patriots’ best course of action.

  • Tyler Boyd

    CINCINNATI, OHIO - NOVEMBER 12: Tyler Boyd #83 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass against Denzel Perryman #6 of the Houston Texans during the fourth quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    CINCINNATI, OHIO – NOVEMBER 12: Tyler Boyd #83 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass against Denzel Perryman #6 of the Houston Texans during the fourth quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    Boyd is a big, physical receiver who is more of a chain-mover than a big play threat. Again, a player that would represent a good complementary signing but isn’t going to bring the juice needed at the top of the depth chart.

  • Michael Thomas

    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 24: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints runs a pass route during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 24: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints runs a pass route during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter listed Thomas as one of the “top free agent wide receivers” in this class despite the fact that the 31-year-old has played a total of 20 games over the last four years. Injuries cost him his prime and now he’s on the wrong side of 30 – his WR1 days are almost certainly behind him.

  • Josh Reynolds

    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 08: Josh Reynolds #8 of the Detroit Lions makes a catch for a touchdown past CJ Henderson #23 of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter at Ford Field on October 08, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

    DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 08: Josh Reynolds #8 of the Detroit Lions makes a catch for a touchdown past CJ Henderson #23 of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter at Ford Field on October 08, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

    Reynolds had the best season of his career last year for the Lions at the age of 28, catching 40 passes for 608 yards with five touchdowns. At 6-foot-3, 194 pounds with good speed he can be a threat, but he hasn’t proven he can do it consistently. His performance last year certainly helped his value, but how much should any team be willing to bet he turns the corner now at age 29?

  • Donovan Peoples-Jones

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 19: Donovan Peoples-Jones #11 of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 19, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – NOVEMBER 19: Donovan Peoples-Jones #11 of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 19, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    Peoples-Jones looked poised for a breakout after catching 61 passes for 839 yards and three touchdowns in 2022. However, he was slow out of the gate last season and ended up getting traded away mid-season. Still, the 25-year-old had success with Alex Van Pelt in the past. He’s not a No. 1 option, but it would make sense to find out he’s on the Patriots’ radar.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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