In 2019 free agency, the wide receiver position is going to see a lot of turnover in New England. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, and technically Josh Gordon are all free agents. It is reasonable to think that the Patriots can bring back two of these players, including Josh Gordon.
However, New England will need to retool the receiver position with new faces regardless of who stays and goes. In years past, it hasn’t been as necessary to bring in dynamic weapons due to Tom Brady being Tom Brady. As TB12 nears age 42 though, the playmakers around him will need to be better than ever before.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing options at wide receiver for New England this offseason:
Adam Humphries, UFA
Perhaps one of the most sought after free agents this year, Adam Humphries is a perfect fit for New England. Setting aside the small, white slot receiver narrative, Humphries would slide right into Josh McDaniels’ offense. He’s mainly worked out of the slot during his time in Tampa Bay, racking up nearly 900 yards and five touchdowns this past season. Although, he’s able to work other receiver positions as well, similar to what Danny Amendola did for five years.
This style of receiver complements Julian Edelman extremely well, but Humphries won’t be an easy get. He has a multitude of suitors due to his playmaking and catching ability, and could be overpaid this offseason. The Browns and Colts are two teams that have been linked to him, and they have double the cap space New England does. Humphries is perhaps the best fit out of all the available receivers, but will have a hefty price tag.
Golden Tate, UFA
Patriots fans have been coveting someone like Golden Tate for years, and the opportunity has arrived to make it happen. Tate had a decent 2018 campaign, going for nearly 800 yards and four TD’s. Although his ability to be a “do-it-all” type receiver is much more attractive than stats.
Tate mainly plays out of the slot, but is quick enough that he can be a solid deep threat. Like Humphries, the former Lions standout complements Julian Edelman perfectly, and is a natural fit for what the Patriots do on offense.
It’s been reported that Tate would like to stay in Philadephia, but the Eagles aren’t expected to pursue him. When the 2019 season starts, Tate will be 31, but has shown that he still has some gas left in the tank. His market won’t be nearly as competitive as Humphries’ will, and the price tag will be significantly less.
Jermaine Kearse, UFA
A former Seahawk, Kearse has been one of the most underappreciated wideouts in football for years. His stats are always competitive, even when he was with the bumbling Jets, and he is a playmaking machine (see the 2014 Super Bowl). Unlike Humphries and Tate, Kearse plays on the outside a majority of the time, and would likely take over Chris Hogan’s position if he’s signed.
There is a definitely a need for someone like Kearse, who would most likely come on a relatively cheap deal. Chris Hogan was unable to get separation a lot of the time on the outside, and Kearse is very well known for his ability to get a step on cornerbacks. His history of dropped passes is a little concerning, but that’s why he would come on a team-friendly deal. It’s worth looking into, but there are certainly better options on the market.
Cole Beasley, UFA
Another receiver linked to the Patriots due to his race and position, Beasley made it very clear he wants out of Dallas. New England is going to sign or draft a slot receiver this offseason, it’s inevitable. There was a clear need for a Danny Amendola type player in 2018 to match up alongside Edelman, and Beasley fits the bill.
He has a very similar play style to Edelman, as he plays hard and racks up a ton of yards after the catch. Even with the dysfunction in Dallas, he garnered 672 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. Between Beasley, Humphries, and Tate, Beasley could be the best overall option. His price tag won’t be significantly high, he’s a tad younger than Tate, and of course is a bona fide fit. It is likely that this is who the Patriots will ultimately sign for the slot unless Tate comes cheaper.
Demaryius Thomas, UFA
Thomas had a rough 2018 season, posting his worst numbers since 2011, and tearing his Achilles late in the year. He won’t be ready to play until the end of summer and is the oldest receiver on this list at age 31. Even with all of this, New England should try to take a flier on Thomas.
It wouldn’t be anything more than a one or two year deal, but we all know the Patriots’ success with veteran wideouts. Bill Belichick has seen plenty of Thomas from his time with Denver, and knows how good of a receiver he is. Even if it is just for preseason depth, there is very little risk to bring Thomas in to see how much he can still contribute. It’s also worth noting that if Josh Gordon can’t get reinstated, the former Bronco would slide nicely into Gordon’s position.
Antonio Brown, Trade
This name is on this list simply because it has to be. Is there any chance the Steelers trade away their perennial All-Pro to the Pats? Of course not. Do the Patriots have the capital to make it happen though? Absolutely.
Brown comes with his own set of challenges, with his recent diva act being quite the cause for concern. However, there was another All-Pro receiver that had similar problems in 2006 and was traded away to the Pats for nothing in 2007. Ring any bells?
However, Oakland trading Randy Moss to New England wasn’t doing Oakland any harm. The two teams rarely play and the Raiders weren’t going anywhere in the playoffs. The Steelers on the other hand, see the Patriots once, sometimes twice a year. Which means if they did deal Brown to New England, they would most likely watch their former star dismantle Pittsburgh’s zone defense at least once every season.
There are very few scenarios in which Brown puts on a Patriot jersey. The 49ers are the most probable destination. Although, the asking price for Brown may be too high for some teams because of his recent quitting act. In this scenario, there is a chance the Patriots package a couple of higher draft picks to land the receiver.
Odell Beckham Jr., Trade
While at first this might seem like another Antonio Brown type pipe dream, it’s not as crazy as the previous trade scenario. Odell Beckham Jr. can be the most dynamic player in football when healthy. He can also be the league’s most dramatic prima donna when things don’t go his way.
Unlike Brown, Beckham is more affordable and a more likely trade target. The Giants wouldn’t necessarily mind trading with the Patriots, and they probably wouldn’t ask for the farm either. A high draft pick, second or third round, packaged with another young player could make the deal work.
The only question is would the Giants be willing to part ways with the wideout. It depends on which way New York is leaning in regards to their rebuild. They have a bright future with Saquon Barkley and the sixth draft pick in 2019, which will be used on a quarterback. The rest of the team though, is abysmal to say the least. The Giants won’t be competitive for a couple of years, and with OBJ’s injury history and hefty five year contract, the timing could be right.