Welcome to a Super Bowl week edition of the NESN.com New England Patriots mailbag. Let’s dive right in.
Top 5 WR trade options?
Here are the most notable ones on my radar:
Bill Belichick loves him. Was suspended for the first six games of this season but was one of the NFL’s most productive wideouts upon returning. Played under Bill O’Brien in Houston, and their rocky relationship could derail a potential reunion, though his former Texans receivers coach believes a Hopkins-O’Brien team-up would work. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer pooh-poohed this trade possibility, reporting after speaking with league sources that Hopkins landing in New England would be “a pretty major surprise.”
Could be a salary cap casualty for a Chargers team that needs to shed salary. Like Hopkins, he’s a 30-year-old five-time Pro Bowler who’s one of the premier wideouts of his era. Known as an elite route-runner, Allen ranks second in receiving yards per game and third in catches and receiving first downs since 2017. He comes with durability concerns, however, after he missed seven games with a hamstring injury. Signing him after a potential release might be more likely than trading for him.
A 1,000-yard receiver in all nine of his NFL seasons, Evans could be available if Tampa Bay enters rebuild mode after Tom Brady’s retirement. Such a deal likely wouldn’t happen for several months, as the Buccaneers would save just $2.3 million against the salary cap by trading him now but $14.5 million by doing so after June 1. Evans turns 30 this summer and is entering the final year of his contract.
Unlike the three receivers listed above, Higgins should be just entering his prime. He’s only 24 and, after amassing 3,028 yards and 19 touchdowns over his first three seasons, is in line for a massive raise next offseason. His size and contested catch ability gave the Patriots real problems this season. If the Bengals, who already have one elite wideout in Ja’Marr Chase, don’t believe they can pay both, they could listen to offers for Higgins this spring. Given his age, upside and current affordability, it likely would take a hefty compensation package to pry him away from Cincinnati.
Jeudy somehow enjoyed a career year while catching passes from Russell Wilson in a terrible Broncos offense, finishing with 67 catches for 972 yards and six touchdowns. An Alabama product who also is entering the final year of his rookie deal, he doesn’t have the other players’ track records of proven production and might not be the instant, unquestioned No. 1 receiver many Patriots fans are clamoring for.
If I had to rank those five in terms of desirability, I’d probably go:
Do you want jokobi back or another reciver?
I think Jakobi Meyers is a very good player that New England should attempt to re-sign. He’s fended off big-name additions to lead the team in receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, has a strong connection with Mac Jones and is well-liked in the locker room as an under-the-radar team leader.
All that said, there’s a good chance the Patriots won’t be able to afford him.
Meyers is arguably the best wide receiver available in a weak free agent class and, as such, could command a big-money contract elsewhere. JuJu Smith-Schuster signing an extension with Kansas City, which he indicated Thursday he might, would further boost Meyers’ value.
And remember, this is a player who’s earned less than $6 million total over his four NFL seasons. He deserves to cash in if given the opportunity, even if that takes him outside of New England.
On a scale of Matt Patricia to Dante Scarnecchia, where do you think Klemm falls?
Hard to say, but I think it’s fair to expect Adrian Klemm to be a substantial upgrade over Patricia, if only because he actually has real experience coaching offensive linemen.
Klemm has only coached three seasons at the NFL level, including just one as a lead position coach, so he is somewhat of an unproven commodity. But he has an extensive college resume, spending nine seasons as an O-line coach at SMU, UCLA and Oregon. He also was his team’s run game coordinator in six of those seasons and an associate head coach in four.
Last season, Klemm held all three of those titles at Oregon, and his line was one of the best in the nation, with the Ducks allowing the fewest sacks in all of Division I (five in 13 games) while fielding the FBS’s 12th-best rushing attack.
Having an O-line coach who can actually focus on the O-line should help, too, as play-calling consumed much of Patricia’s fractured attention this season.
One other Klemm-related nugget: One of the players he coached at UCLA was Conor McDermott, who started the Patriots’ final six games at right tackle and is an impending free agent. That connection could increase McDermott’s odds of re-signing and competing for a roster spot this summer.
Who they drafting at 14?
That’ll depend on how they approach free agency and how the board breaks above them, but I’d go best offensive tackle available. It’s not sexy, but it’s their No. 1 need.
Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. look like the top tackle prospects at the moment. If all three are gone by No. 14? Then I could see a defensive back (corner or safety) or potentially a wide receiver, though their long-standing issues with drafting and developing wideouts would give me pause.
No chance Trent Brown is back at that $11m cap number, right? Esp since they can save $8m if he is let go?
I wouldn’t say “no chance.” The Patriots already have four offensive tackles headed for free agency, and they might not want to enter next season with new starters at both spots. Brown also wasn’t a trainwreck this season, though he was far less consistent than he was in his previous New England campaigns.
But I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Patriots chose to cut Brown and allocate that money elsewhere, whether to a free agent tackle or to an upgrade at another position. They’re on the hook for $4.25 million of the remaining money on his contract but can free up $8 million in cap space by releasing him.
As I mentioned above, shoring up their offensive tackle group needs to be the Patriots’ top offseason priority from a personnel standpoint.