How DeVante Parker Trade Could Reshape Patriots’ Receiving Corps

Parker has No. 1 receiver potential -- if he can stay healthy

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April 2, 2022

The New England Patriots made a starting-caliber addition to their wide receiver room Saturday.

In a rare trade with the AFC East rival Dolphins, the Patriots acquired veteran wideout DeVante Parker. New England also received a 2022 fifth-round draft pick in the deal, sending a 2023 third-rounder to Miami in return.

What are the Patriots getting in the 29-year-old Parker? An experienced, good-sized (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) perimeter possession receiver with a checkered injury history but a proven track record of solid production. If healthy, he could become the new No. 1 wideout for second-year quarterback Mac Jones.

Parker played a full season just once in his seven with Miami, but he posted strong numbers that year, catching 72 passes for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns for an actively tanking 2019 Dolphins team. He capped that campaign by torching NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, going off for eight catches and 137 yards in Miami’s shocking Week 17 upset at Gillette Stadium.

Though he has experience playing in the slot, Parker primarily is an outside receiver, lining up there on 86.3% of his snaps during his injury-shortened 2021 season. (He appeared in 10 games and posted a 40-515-2 receiving line while catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa.)

A first-round pick by the Dolphins in 2015, Parker joins a Patriots receiving corps that was led in 2021 by Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. His arrival could lead to a reduced role for Nelson Agholor, who underwhelmed in his first season with New England, and could help push disappointing 2019 first-rounder N’Keal Harry off the roster.

Harry already had been on shaky ground after managing just 12 receptions in 12 games this past season, catching a mere 54.5% of his targets and sitting out one late-season contest as a healthy scratch. His name has been bandied about in trade rumors since last spring, with no takers to date.

Meyers, who led all Patriots wideouts in snaps, targets, catches and receiving yards in 2021, has yet to sign his second-round restricted free agent tender but has said he “definitely” wants to stay with New England. The 2019 undrafted free agent still projects as New England’s top slot receiver, barring any additional offseason acquisitions.

The Patriots also signed hybrid receiver/running back Ty Montgomery last month, but he hasn’t been a productive offensive player in several years and is expected to contribute mostly on special teams.

Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon and Malcolm Perry round out the Patriots’ current receiver depth chart. All three will enter spring practice on the roster bubble. Wilkerson showed promise in three practice squad call-ups. Neither Nixon nor Perry saw game action in 2021.

Saturday’s trade also could shift the Patriots’ priorities in the 2022 NFL Draft. Wide receiver has ranked near the top of their perceived list of draft needs, with many mock drafts — including ones published here at NESN.com — projecting a wideout pick within the first three rounds. Adding young talent with upside to this position group still would be a wise move for New England, but Parker now aboard, it could opt to wait until Day 3 to do so. This is considered an especially deep receiver class, with talented pass-catchers expected to be available in the middle-to-late rounds.

Continuing the Patriots’ offseason theme of favoring affordable players over big-money free agents, Parker will carry salary cap hits of $6 million this season and $6.3 million in 2023, per Spotrac.

Thumbnail photo via Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post via USA TODAY Sports Images
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