The Patriots have 22 players set to hit unrestricted free agency when the NFL league year opens March 17. As that date approaches, weâre taking a closer look at New England’s free agents.
Up next: wide receiver Damiere Byrd.
2020 stats: 47 catches, 604 yards, TD
Likelihood of return: low
Analysis: Byrd exceeded all expectations in 2020 after signing a one-year, $1.6 million contract as a free agent last offseason. Thought of as a roster-bubble player heading into training camp, Byrd led Patriots wide receivers in snaps, finished third on the team in catches and second in receiving yards.
Byrd set career highs in catches and yards. He proved to be a useful speedy wideout but certainly isn’t best suited for a No. 1 receiver role in an NFL offense.
The Patriots are bringing back Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Marqise Lee, Devin Smith, Kristian Wilkerson and Isaiah Zuber in 2021 and are expected to make some splash additions at wide receiver in free agency, the draft or via trade. That could leave Byrd on the outside looking in, though some team absolutely should take a shot on the 28-year-old receiver. And he should command more than $1.6 million in his second straight offseason on the open market.
While Byrd can’t be a successful offense’s most heavily used wide receiver, he certainly could be a decent option in three-receiver sets to help keep a defense honest. Byrd is undersized and had some issues with drops late last season, but he’s speedy and a threat for a big play.
If Byrd doesn’t draw interest in free agency, the Patriots should be glad to have him back to compete for a role if he’s willing to sign a similar contract to the one he agreed to last offseason. If Byrd signed another one-year, $1.6 million contract, he’d only subtract $820,000 from the Patriots’ salary cap because of the Top 51 rule.