Entering this offseason, wide receiver didn’t look like an area of need for the New England Patriots, at least not a glaring one. But that apparently hasn’t stopped them from seeking an upgrade at the position through both trades and free agency.
The Patriots have been linked to three high-profile wideouts in the days leading up to kickoff of the new league year. One was released by his previous team (Brandon Marshall), another is set to hit unrestricted free agency Thursday afternoon (DeSean Jackson) and the third has two years remaining on his rookie contract but reportedly is on the trading block (Brandin Cooks).
According to multiple reports, New England offered the No. 32 draft pick to the New Orleans Saints in a deal for Cooks, a 2014 first-round pick who’s racked up 2,311 receiving yards over the past two seasons. The Saints declined to move the 23-year-old, but negotiations reportedly were ongoing as of Tuesday night.
The Washington Post reported Thursday the Patriots have inquired about Jackson, who is seven years older than Cooks but possesses a similar skill set as a diminutive speedster with big-play potential.
As for Marshall — who turns 33 later this month and, at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, much larger and more physical than Cooks or Jackson — Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reported the journeyman wideout and the Patriots had “some mutual interest” after the New York Jets let him go.
Marshall and Jackson are two of the more accomplished NFL receivers of the last decade, with nine Pro Bowl selections and 13 1,000-yard seasons between them.
So what does this all mean? For starters, it doesn’t mean any of these players are coming to the Patriots. The Saints sound like they want a higher pick for Cooks, and Jackson might command more than the Patriots are willing to pay. But it does mean New England isn’t as satisfied with its current receiver situation as some might think.
Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell all are under contract for this coming season. As is Danny Amendola, but he’s owed $6 million in salary and reportedly would have to take a pay cut if he wants to stick around. Michael Floyd is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported New England only would bring him back on a “budget deal.”
Devin Lucien also is in the mix after spending his entire rookie season on the Patriots’ practice squad, as is special teams captain Matthew Slater.
That looks like a pretty solid unit, even if they do end up losing Amendola and/or Floyd this offseason. But Bill Belichick & Co. apparently believe it could be even stronger, hence the reported interest in Cooks, Jackson and Marshall.
Don’t be surprised if the rumor mill links the Patriots to other wideouts in the coming days, too. This year’s crop of free-agent receivers is notably deep, with names like Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Stills, Robert Woods and Pierre Garcon all expected to hit the open market.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images