Nineteen New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 18. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one.
Up next: wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
2019 STATS: 29 catches on 54 targets for 397 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games
LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: Low
ANALYSIS: From an overall statistical perspective, the 2019 season was Dorsett’s most productive as a Patriot. He scored more touchdowns than he did in his first two New England campaigns combined (three) and upped his receiving total by more than 100 yards despite missing two games and most of a third with injuries.
In reality, though, this season was a significant disappointment for a player who had been one of Tom Brady’s most reliable (albeit seldom-used) targets.
Dorsett, who led all Patriots wideouts with a 76.2 percent catch rate in 2018, was exactly that in September, catching 13 passes on 14 targets for 187 yards and three touchdowns over New England’s first three games. Then, his production plummeted.
A nine-target, two-catch effort in a narrow Week 4 win over the Buffalo Bills was an unfortunate harbinger for the 27-year-old. Over the Patriots’ final 14 games — including the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans — he totaled just 17 catches on 44 targets for 216 yards and two scores, with 50 of those yards coming on one Week 17 bomb.
Dorsett’s 38.6 percent catch rate during that span ranked dead last among the 137 players who received at least 40 targets — a full 8 percentage points lower than 136th-ranked Chris Conley (46.7 percent). He also hardly played during the final three weeks of the regular season, logging nine, five and 13 offensive snaps as Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry pushed him toward to bottom of the depth chart.
Now, Dorsett is set to hit free agency for the second consecutive offseason. Last year, he tested the market before ultimately re-signing with the Patriots on a one-year, $2.6 million deal. While a repeat of that process remains possible, it’s far more likely Dorsett will be catching passes elsewhere in 2020.
Dorsett’s camp had meetings scheduled with multiple potential suitors at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to a source, and a split would be wise for both parties as the Patriots look to bolster their underperforming receiving corps and entice the soon-to-be free agent Brady to stick around.
The rest of New England’s wideout group — save for special teams captain Matthew Slater — is under contract for 2020, though there’s a chance Sanu could be released for salary cap reasons. Julian Edelman has two years remaining on his contract, Harry is a roster lock as a 2019 first-round pick, and Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski showed promise as a receiver and a punt returner, respectively, as undrafted rookies.