It always feels like a scene straight out of Groundhog Day every season with us talking about potential free agent receivers that could be future targets for the New England Patriots.
On one hand, there’s some excitement that comes with thinking up future possibilities that could potentially help the team, but on the other hand, it’s sad that we’re always doing this.
Will there ever come a time when we’ll be able to look at the Patriots’ receiving corps and scratch it off the list as an urgent need?
That time obviously won’t arrive in 2023, when New England will once again be on the prowl for a talented playmaker to improve the struggling unit. Here are six players to keep an eye on in the offseason.
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If the Patriots lose Jakobi Meyers in free agency, they’re going to need someone else to step in and take his place in the slot. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Scotty Miller could be an interesting fit for that role.
The best thing about Miller is the fact that he wouldn’t be handcuffed to playing in the slot. So it’s probably wrong to even refer to him as a “slot receiver” considering he has the sort of game-breaking speed to hurt defenses over the top as well.
There’s legitimate versatility there that could be a huge help for the struggling Patriots offense. A year with the Patriots could potentially bring Miller out into the sun after spending his entire NFL career living in the shadows of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin up to this point.
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The Patriots could make life easier on themselves by locking up Jakobi Meyers to a multi-year contract. He’s obviously the best receiver on the team and Mac Jones’ most reliable target.
Why not pay him to stay in New England?
That’s probably in the plans for coach Bill Belichick, but of course, it takes two sides to make a deal. Meyers, a former undrafted free agent, has every right to test the market, and he’ll likely take the opportunity to do so.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, they’ll be entering an offseason where there aren’t a lot of high-end receivers currently on pending contracts. Less options could drive up the market for Meyers and possibly put the Patriots out of contention for his services.
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There has never been any questioning Sterling Shepard’s talent. The 29-year-old veteran wideout is a smooth operator in the slot with great hands and tremendous route-running abilities.
He’d be a solid replacement for Meyers, assuming the price is right. The biggest concern that comes with getting into any type of contract situation with Shepard is health, considering he has only played in two full seasons out of a possible seven.
There’s no better ability than availability, and Shepard hasn’t been a player that has consistently been available on the field.
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Former Pittsburgh Steeler Juju Smith-Schuster is experiencing a career resurgence when catching passes from Patrick Mahomes in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform. He went from being the next great hope for replacing Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh to receiving a one-year, prove-it deal with the Chiefs.
Things have worked out well between the two sides, but he will likely have other suitors, along with the Chiefs, for his services in 2023. At the very least, the Patriots should be interested in adding another talented and versatile playmaker to their receiving core.
Smith-Schuster shines better when he doesn’t have the weight of being the No. 1 option on his shoulders. So it’s still going to take an overall improvement from the entire unit to get the best out of the former Pro Bowler.
Odell Beckham Jr.
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Odell Beckham Jr. has been tied to the Patriots before in the past, and it would only make sense for that noise to crank up once again in the offseason.
We aren’t likely to see the former All-Pro wideout in action this season after he blew his ACL at Super Bowl LVI, but there will surely be a market for him in the offseason. The Patriots obviously shouldn’t break the bank for a 30-year-old veteran coming off a serious knee injury, but they should clearly do their due diligence on a player that could be a potential game-changer for the franchise.
There haven’t been many of those at receiver for the Patriots. Beckham looked like a completely different player up until the injury, when catching passes from Matthew Stafford in a Los Angeles Rams uniform. Perhaps he can find similar success as a legitimate No. 1 option for Mac Jones and the Patriots.
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If we ever get to a point where the Patriots trust Mac Jones to actually throw the football again, then Green Bay Packers receiver Allen Lazard could be a potential fit for the Patriots.
He would be another big-bodied deep threat to line up opposite of DeVante Parker. This is more of a longer shot option completely dependent on the faith the team has in rookie wideout Tyquan Thornton, who has yet to really break out this season.
A player like Lazard would have Jones feeling like he’s back at Alabama airing out dimes to DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Well, maybe not exactly that good but something like it.
The best part is Lazard is an ascending talent in the middle of a career-season with four games still left on the schedule.