Patriots Mailbag: Could Calvin Ridley Fill New England’s Receiver Need?

Plus: Scoping out a few potential draft targets


Feb 25, 2022

Mailbag time! Let’s take some of your New England Patriots questions as we head into the second weekend of the NFL offseason:

Who do you see as WR1 for the Patriots week 1 ? Your 1st guess and runner up
Top guess: Calvin Ridley. There have been a lot of rumblings about Atlanta potentially trying to move him this offseason — team owner Arthur Blank acknowledging Ridley may want a “fresh start” was notable to me — and he’d be an ideal addition for the Patriots, who love Alabama products and took a close look at Ridley before the 2018 NFL Draft.

Of course, Ridley would need to feel ready to return to football after sitting out most of this season to focus on his mental health. But if he is, and the Falcons are willing to part with him for, say, a second-round pick, I’d make that deal. Ridley was a top-10 receiver in 2020 (90 catches, 1,374 yards, nine touchdowns) and is just 27.

Odds released this week by Bovada had Atlanta as the most likely 2022 home for Ridley (-175) but New England as the favored potential suitor (+325).

Runner-up, I’ll go with Jakobi Meyers/Kendrick Bourne, with first-round draft pick Chris Olave working his way up to the No. 1 spot over the course of the season. The Patriots mostly have shied away from early-round receivers — N’Keal Harry is the only one they’ve drafted in the first round under Bill Belichick, and they haven’t taken one on Day 2 since Aaron Dobson in 2013 — but Olave’s speed, hands, top-tier route-running and special teams contributions make him a very intriguing target.

What does a new deal for Devin McCourty look like? Years? Money?
I can’t predict the exact terms of McCourty’s next contract, but if he stays in New England, it’ll likely be cheaper than his last one. His current deal was for $23 million over two years. The $11.1 million salary cap hit he carried in 2021 was the second-highest on the team, trailing only Dont’a Hightower. With the cap hits of several 2021 signees set to spike and the Patriots currently low on cap space, McCourty almost certainly would need to accept less if he wants to return for a 13th season.

The Patriots should try to keep McCourty, though, as long as the price is right. The 34-year-old continued to play well as the quarterback of New England’s secondary and brings valuable leadership, both on and off the field.

should the pats steal Isaiah Mckenzie from the Bills?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Patriots made a run at McKenzie this offseason. In fact, he was the first player I spotlighted when I examined potential New England targets on this year’s final eight remaining playoff teams.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Patriots brought in a player who gave them trouble as an opponent — as the speedy return man/slot receiver did this season — or swiped a player away from the Buffalo Bills, as they previously did with RFAs Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee.

McKenzie, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, mostly was a non-factor in Buffalo’s loaded offense, but he was awesome in the Bills’ Week 16 win in Foxboro (12 targets, 11 catches, 125 yards, one touchdown) and productive in the teams’ playoff matchup, too (three targets, three catches, 45 yards; three carries, 29 yards). He wouldn’t fill the Patriots’ need for a No. 1 wideout but could bring value as a complementary piece.

Is it possible Nakobe Dean falls to us in the first round ? I like the idea of taking him then Metchie and a potential trade for Ridley or Cooper. It’s my fantasy. A guy can dreams.
I was just talking with some people about Dean the other day. The Georgia linebacker is an extremely talented player, no doubt, and he boasts the type of speed, athleticism and explosiveness that New England noticeably lacked at that spot this season. But the Patriots would have to break their usual mold to select him.

The Bulldogs listed Dean at 6 feet, 225 pounds. Since listed heights/weights often are inflated, he could measure in a bit smaller than that next week at the NFL Scouting Combine. Those are well-built strong safety measurables — Kyle Dugger, for example, checked in at 6-1, 217 as his combine — and the Patriots traditionally have favored bigger ‘backers. Every linebacker — inside and outside — who played a snap for New England this season was at least 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, and only Josh Uche and Jahlani Tavai were south of 250.

The Patriots did take a flier on a smaller, more athletic linebacker in the fifth round of last year’s draft (6-1, 234-pound Cameron McGrone, who will be a player to watch this summer after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL) and often play Dugger and Adrian Phillips (5-11, 210) as linebackers in sub packages, so perhaps their strategy is shifting. They have a clear need for more youth and speed at the position, as Jerod Mayo acknowledged during Super Bowl week. But Dean’s stature might be too slight for Belichick and Co. to overlook.

As for the second part of your question, I think John Metchie would be a great target on Day 2. He’s an excellent route-runner who had great chemistry with Mac Jones at Alabama, and his torn ACL (suffered in the SEC Championship) should cause him to slide a bit. There’s the potential for good value there.

Thumbnail photo via Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty
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