Rejoice, New Englanders. The Patriots finally have signed a wide receiver you recognize.
The Patriots added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on Tuesday.
Now, let’s immediately get to the bad news: Thomas tore his Achilles in December. There’s really no telling when he’ll be ready to practice, let alone contribute. NFL Media’s James Palmer had a positive report about Thomas’ health Tuesday, however.
Six months would put Thomas on track to practice during training camp. He has more wear on his tires now than when he first hurt his Achilles early in his career, however. A return to action in July seems overly optimistic. The Patriots have to cross their fingers Thomas will be ready for Week 1 in September.
Signing Thomas certainly is a step in the right direction for the Patriots, who have just three roster locks at the wide receiver position in Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Matthew Slater, who’s primarily a special teamer. Behind those players are Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Damoun Patterson and Josh Gordon, who is indefinitely suspended.
Thomas would be the Patriots’ second-best wide receiver when healthy, though he’s not the same player who put together five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Denver Broncos from 2012 to 2016. He’s 31 years old and coming off of a 59-catch, 677-yard, five-touchdown season split between the Broncos and Houston Texans. The Texans traded for Thomas at midseason. He had 23 catches for 275 yards with two touchdowns in seven games with the Texans last season.
Thomas played under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as a rookie in 2010. McDaniels actually drafted Thomas as head coach of the Broncos. The Texans’ head coach is Bill O’Brien, a former Patriots offensive coordinator. So, Thomas has experience in the Patriots’ offensive system.
If everything goes absolutely perfectly for the Patriots, then they would have Thomas and Gordon as their outside receivers and Edelman in the slot in 2019. But it’s also very unlikely to work out that way for all or part of the season. Thomas is coming off of the injury, and no one knows when or if Gordon will be reinstated by the NFL.
That’s why the Patriots can’t be finished adding wide receivers. They should still draft at least one receiver next week. It wouldn’t hurt to sign another free-agent wideout, as well.
We don’t know the full details of Thomas’ contract, though it’s reportedly worth up to $6 million. This is almost certainly one of those low-risk, high-reward veteran additions in which the Patriots excel at making.
Don’t expect 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns from Thomas next season. But if he can be a solid No. 2 or 3, that should be good enough for the wide receiver-needy Patriots. The Patriots can’t count on that kind of production from an aging player coming off of a major injury, however. And if they learned anything last offseason, when they had terrible luck at receiver, filtering through players at the position at an excessive rate, it’s that you can’t add too many wideouts. The Patriots can’t stop hunting now even after signing Thomas.