New England Patriots

New England Patriots

If the New England Patriots want to improve their pass-catchers via trade, they have a logical partner in the Las Vegas Raiders.

And it’s not totally outrageous to suggest the Pats could swing a deal for one of Vegas’ top pass-catchers, because a new report suggests that two of them could be readily available. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported last week that Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler are expected to “continue aggressively tweaking the roster” in the 2023 off-season.

That likely doesn’t involve First Team All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, who himself came to Vegas in an “aggressive tweak” of a trade with the Packers last year. But there are other pieces that could fit what the Patriots want.


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  • According to Fowler, “teams will be keeping an eye on” slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller as the Raiders look to make more aggressive tweaks. However, it’s worth noting that Fowler also reported McDaniels “is big on ‘culture fits’ and will want his own guys,” which doesn’t exactly sound good for whoever he and Ziegler will be shopping.

    Would Renfrow or Waller be a “culture fit” for the Patriots if they are not for the Raiders? For now, let’s assume they would. Either one is a worthy addition to the Pats roster and an upgrade over who would be projected in their spots in 2023.

    Assuming Jakobi Meyers ends up leaving via free agency, the Patriots will have an opening for a primary slot receiver. They lined up 11 different players in the slot in 2022 (via Rotowire). Among all WR snaps in the slot, Meyers took up 40.7 percent of them. So, while the Pats will certainly mix up their receiver alignments regardless, they will lack a traditional slot guy if they lose Meyers.

    Enter Renfrow. Widely projected as a Patriots draft pick in 2019, Renfrow ended up going to the Raiders at 149th overall in the fifth round. After catching 103 passes in 2021, Renfrow’s production dropped off sharply in 2022, as he was surprisingly underutilized in McDaniels’ offense. He played only 10 games as he battled injuries, and his rate stats regressed from 2021, as well.

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Las Vegas Raiders returns a punt against linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. #99 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter of their game at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Las Vegas Raiders returns a punt against linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. #99 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter of their game at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • As for Waller, he’s established himself as one of the most dynamic pass-catching tight ends in football. Over the past four seasons, he posted a 17-game average of 92 catches, 1,110 yards, and six touchdowns.

    Waller would most definitely represent an upgrade over Jonnu Smith, who has disappointed immensely in his first two seasons as a Patriot. Smith should be a candidate to be cut after June 1, which would save the team $4.5 million against the cap in 2023 and $12 million in 2024, and leave them on the hook for just about $4.5 million more in real money that was guaranteed at signing.

    Despite the prospects of Waller or Renfrow coming to New England, they both have contracts of their own to manage and they’re both coming off down years. For those reasons, they may not cost a high amount of draft capital in a trade. Renfrow, for example, has two years left on his contract, plus two void years, and is due north of $13 million in salary and bonuses in both 2023 and 2024. Meanwhile, he’s coming off a season in which he averaged just 3.6 catches and 33 yards per game.

    Waller managed only 3.1 catches and 43 yards per game in his own right, and has now caught just five touchdowns over the past two seasons. And his contract is more unwieldy than Renfrow’s, as Waller is signed through 2026 at annual cash figures ranging from $11-15 million.

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Darren Waller #83 of the Las Vegas Raiders scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Darren Waller #83 of the Las Vegas Raiders scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • If only because of the contracts, it may be hard for the Raiders to move Waller or Renfrow. But by the same token, the acquiring team may only have to part with low draft picks to make the deal happen. Of the two, Waller seems more likely to be shopped around, because the Raiders would be off the hook for almost his entire contract in a pre-June 1 trade (via Over The Cap).

    The Patriots and Raiders have already shown a willingness to trade with each other, as evidenced by the trade of tackle Justin Herron and a seventh-round pick for a sixth from the Raiders. Based on the contracts and on-field regression from Waller and Renfrow, Las Vegas may be forced to make a similar draft pick swap in order to jettison them off the books.

    It wouldn’t be shocking if the Patriots at least kicked the tires on one of these players, and if they do make the move, it’ll signal something of a sea change on the receiver or tight end depth charts.

  • Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    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 @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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