Eight Under-The-Radar Receivers Patriots Could Target In Free Agency

The Patriots might be out on the big-name wideouts

by

March 8

If reports coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine prove accurate, don’t expect the New England Patriots to take any big swings on wide receivers this offseason.

That likely means no Davante Adams, no Chris Godwin, no Allen Robinson, no Odell Beckham Jr., no Amari Cooper (assuming he is released).

The Patriots could look to the 2022 NFL Draft or the trade market to bolster their receiving corps. But if they pursue the free agency route, here are eight options outside of the top tier they could target:

(Ages are as of Week 1 of the 2022 season)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Age: 25
2021 stats: 15 catches, 129 yards, no touchdowns
It’s hard to believe Smith-Schuster still is just 25 years old. He did not have a good 2021 season after re-signing with Pittsburgh on a one-year deal, playing in just five games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. But he showed superstar potential early in his career, was productive as recently as 2020 (97-831-9 in 16 games) and should be affordable this offseason.

Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Age:
25
2021 stats: 77 catches, 982 yards, five touchdown
Kirk has been consistently productive over his four seasons in Arizona, and 2021 was his best yet. While his raw totals were solid, his most impressive stat was his 74.8% catch rate, good for seventh-best among wideouts with at least 40 targets. Kirk is likely to command the largest contract of any player on this list, so he could wind up being out of the Patriots’ price range.

Cedrick Wilson, Dallas Cowboys
Age: 26
2021 stats: 45 catches, 602 yards, six touchdowns
Overshadowed by Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup in Dallas, Wilson is coming off a career year in his fourth pro season. He caught 73.8% of his passes, averaged 13.4 yards per catch and topped 100 yards in two of the Cowboys’ final seven games. He has good size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), good quickness (6.89-second three-cone drill) and even some gadget-play potential (5-for-5 on pass attempts in his career). The Cowboys love Wilson and could make a strong push to keep him after letting Cooper go.

Braxton Berrios, New York Jets
Age: 26
2021 stats: 46 catches, 431 yards, two touchdowns
Could Berrios reunite with the team that drafted him? Bill Belichick was a fan of the 2018 sixth-rounder during his brief stint in Foxboro, calling Jets coach Adam Gase after Berrios’ 2019 release to say New York “got a good one.” The shifty slot had his most productive year as a pass-catcher in 2021 and also earned first-team All-Pro honors as a kick returner.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
Age: 29
2021 stats: 51 catches, 447 yards, two touchdowns
Another Jets slot receiver, Crowder is a savvy veteran who’s coming off a down season amid injuries and subpar quarterback play. He’s been mentioned as a potential Patriots target during previous free agency forays and has averaged a respectable 48.0 receiving yards per game over the course of his seven-year career.

Isaiah McKenzie, Buffalo Bills
Age:
27
2021 stats: 20 catches, 178 yards, one touchdown
Most of McKenzie’s career contributions have come as a kick/punt returner, but he tormented the Patriots as a slot receiver this season, going off for 11 catches on 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ Week 16 win and adding 74 yards on six touches (three catches, three carries) in their lopsided playoff matchup. New England could use his speed.

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons
Age: 26
2021 stats: 66 catches, 770 yards, four touchdowns
With some of Atlanta’s more well-known wideouts sidelined for long stretches, Gage has seen a heavy workload these past two seasons, totaling 203 targets between 2020 and 2021. The entire Falcons receiving corps is either hitting free agency or now suspended, so they could look to keep Gage for continuity’s sake.

Byron Pringle, Kansas City Chiefs
Age: 28
2021 stats: 42 catches, 568 yards, five touchdowns
After totaling 25 catches for 330 yards over his first three seasons, Pringle smashed those marks in 2021 alone. He’s been a core special teamer throughout his career and has kick return experience.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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