Could Keenan Allen Be Solution To Patriots’ Wide Receiver Need?

Allen could be a Chargers cap casualty


February 7

There’s a 30-year-old five-time Pro Bowler who would address one of the Patriots’ biggest needs and could become available this offseason.

And we’re not talking about DeAndre Hopkins.

As Bill Belichick and his staff explore ways of adding the high-end talent New England’s receiving corps has lacked in recent years, Keenan Allen is another name that should be on their radar.

Why? Because Allen’s team, the Los Angeles Chargers, currently is in salary cap hell, and his contract is one LA might need to begrudgingly shed. The Athletic’s Dan Popper wrote last week that the star wideout is one of the Chargers’ “most likely” cap casualties.

In a follow-up story published Monday, Popper explained how the “financial structure of Allen’s contract makes him a candidate to be cut.” The Chargers need to clear more than $20 million in salary cap space to become cap compliant for 2023, and releasing Allen would free up either $14.8 million or $17.5 million, depending on whether he’s designated as a pre- or post-June 1 cut.

An Allen trade also is possible, as moving him would create north of $16 million in cap space.

“If the Chargers want to keep Allen for 2023, the cap math starts to get difficult,” Popper wrote. “Not impossible. But difficult. … It is not an ideal scenario. But if you follow the money, (cutting or trading him) is the likeliest one.”

The question from a Patriots perspective, then, is whether Allen would be a player worth pursuing. The answer: absolutely.

Though he could be on the outs in LA, Allen remains one of the NFL’s most productive wideouts as he enters his age-31 season. He’s one of just two pass-catchers, along with Miami’s Tyreek Hill, to average 70-plus receiving yards per game every season since 2017. His 575 catches over that span rank third, as do his 365 receiving first downs, both trailing only Davante Adams and Travis Kelce.

Allen boasts good size (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) and superb route-running ability that’s made him a tremendous asset for Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ young standout quarterback. A proven chains-mover who can play in the slot or out wide, he’d instantly become the No. 1 target in a Patriots receiving corps that could see substantial turnover this offseason.

A hamstring injury wiped out most of the first half of Allen’s 2022 campaign, so health concerns must be considered. But he was instantly effective upon his return, finishing the season ranked ninth among qualified receivers in catches per game, 12th in yards per game and eighth in Pro Football Focus grade across 10 appearances.

“Keenan’s as good a receiver as there is in the National Football League,” Belichick said back in 2019. “Big, quick, tough after the catch, hard guy to tackle, very good route-runner, exceptional route-runner. Great hands, concentration.”

If Allen is released, the Patriots would be free to sign him to a fresh contract, though they’d likely have competition from other receiver-needy suitors. A trade would be a larger commitment, as New England would need to both give up whatever draft picks and/or players LA demands and then take on Allen’s $15.5 million salary and $3.5 million roster bonus for the upcoming season. Allen’s current contract runs through 2024, but an acquiring team would be able to cut him next offseason with no financial penalty.

Given their current cap situation, the Chargers wouldn’t have much leverage in potential trade talks, which likely would drive Allen’s price down. How far that price falls would determine whether trading for Allen rather than banking on him being released would be worthwhile.

The Patriots are set to enter the new league year (which opens March 15) with roughly $32 million in available salary cap space and additional needs at offensive tackle, cornerback and possibly safety, depending on whether Devin McCourty decides to retire.

Top wideout Jakobi Meyers headlines their crop of impending free agents, and none of the New England receivers currently under contract for 2023 (DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton and practice squadders Tre Nixon and Lynn Bowden) caught more than 35 passes this season.

Giving quarterback Mac Jones a Pro Bowl-caliber weapon like Allen — even one who’s likely past his physical prime — would go a long way toward reinvigorating the Patriots’ often-stagnant passing attack.

NESN 360 in-article asset
Thumbnail photo via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images
NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
Previous Article

Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie on Jalen Hurts Extension: 'Nothing Left to Prove'

Jayson Tatum's son Deuce Tatum
Next Article

How Jayson Tatum’s Son Helped Lift Celtics Spirits After Loss To Suns

Picked For You