The New England Patriots have more than 20 players set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 15. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one. Next up: wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
2022 SEASON REVIEW
Meyers stuck around on a restricted free agent tender last offseason and, for the third consecutive season, carried the Patriots’ receiving corps.
No other New England pass-catcher came within 250 yards of Meyers’ team-leading total of 804, and he scored nearly as many receiving touchdowns (a career-high six) as the rest of the Patriots’ wideouts combined (eight). Meyers’ 67 catches also were two behind running back Rhamondre Stevenson for the team lead. Tight end Hunter Henry finished a distant third with 41 receptions. Meyers averaged a career-best 57.4 receiving yards per game; DeVante Parker was second at 41.5.
Meyers provided this pass-game production despite suffering a knee injury in Week 3, a concussion in Week 13 and a shoulder injury in Week 17 that sidelined him for a total of three games. The 26-year-old acknowledged after the season that he was “kind of hurt all year.”
“He’s a tough kid, mentally, physically,” head coach Bill Belichick said before the Patriots’ season finale in Buffalo. “He’s shown a lot of leadership and competitiveness, like he always does. I’m glad we have him. Glad he’s out there. I know he’s had to fight through some things, so have a lot of other guys. But he’s done a good job of that.”
In a cruel twist, Meyers also was at the center of the most embarrassing moment of the Patriots’ season, with Chandler Jones picking off his ill-advised last-second lateral and returning it for a game-winning Las Vegas Raiders touchdown at Allegiant Stadium. Meyers tearfully took responsibility for his mistake after the game, and his teammates strongly backed him. Quarterback Mac Jones called him “one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” and veteran safety Devin McCourty said Meyers is “as close as someone can be to being a team captain.”
Meyers is just the second Belichick-era Patriot to lead the team in receiving yards in three consecutive seasons, joining Wes Welker. Since emerging as New England’s top option in 2020, he’s tied for 24th in the NFL in receptions and 29th in receiving yards.
Re-signing would be the “dream” outcome for Meyers, who said he “definitely” wants to remain in New England. But the undrafted success story also acknowledged the inherent uncertainty of free agency as he prepares to hit the open market for the first time.
CASE FOR RE-SIGNING
Is Meyers a bona fine, Pro Bowl-caliber, No. 1 receiver? No. The Patriots should work hard to acquire one of those this offseason if at all possible.
But he’s a very good No. 2, and his strong connection with Jones and proven success in New England’s system would make him a difficult player to replace. The Patriots tried in back-to-back offseasons to add veteran wideouts who were expected to bump Meyers down the depth chart (first Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, then DeVante Parker), and he’s outperformed all of them.
New England likely will have competition for Meyers’ services, however, which brings us to …
CASE AGAINST RE-SIGNING
In a typical offseason, Meyers probably wouldn’t break the bank. But he’s hitting the market at a fortuitous time.
With all of the big-name wideouts from the loaded 2019 draft class (A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, Hunter Renfrow) already signing contract extensions, Meyers will be arguably the best free agent wideout available this offseason.
The co-headliner is JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had a solid bounce-back season for Kansas City. Other impending free agents of note include Allen Lazard, Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Mack Hollins, Richie James, Demarcus Robinson, Marvin Jones and Agholor.
With that lack of available high-end talent, it’s easy to envision Meyers commanding a more lucrative deal than he otherwise would. And though he’s said he’d prefer to stay, there’s a real chance he receives an offer that New England would be unwilling to match.
More Patriots free agent profiles: Damien Harris