After taking a year off, the Allen Robinson-Patriots chatter is back.
The Rams have granted Robinson permission to seek a trade, according to multiple reports. Los Angeles is reportedly willing to absorb some of the veteran receiver’s salary ($15.25 million in 2023) to help facilitate a deal. The Rams, who signed Robinson to a three-year contract last year, reportedly shopped the 29-year-old ahead of last November’s trade deadline and have resumed those efforts this offseason.
Robinson arrived in Southern California with big expectations but failed to meet them, partly due to the Rams’ injury issues at quarterback. But he also continued to look like a declining receiver who no longer is worthy of a significant investment.
New England was connected to Robinson for years before he landed in Los Angeles. With the Patriots routinely needing help at outside receiver, many identified Robinson as an ideal fit for their offense.
So, with Robinson apparently back on the market, should the Patriots look to make a trade?
There are arguments for and against it. But if you ask us, a Robinson trade would make little sense given the Patriots basically already have him on the roster.
Robinson will be 30 years old by the time next season starts. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 220 pounds. The 2014 second-round pick struggles to get open but makes up for it with toughness and contested-catch ability. He also is slow, has battled injuries throughout his career and only has provided average production over the last two seasons.
If it sounds like the Patriots already have someone like that, it’s because they do: DeVante Parker.
Check out these comparisons:
Weight: 219 pounds
Age: 30 (born Jan. 20)
Missed games last two seasons: 11
Combined stats last two seasons: 71 catches, 1,054 yards, five TDs
2022 stats: 31 catches, 539 yards and three TDs
Weight: 220 pounds
Age: 29 (born Aug. 24)
Missed games last two seasons: 12
Combined stats last two seasons: 71 catches, 749 yards, four TDs
2022 stats: 33 catches, 339 yards and three TDs
Advanced metrics paint a similar picture. Parker and Robinson both rank poorly in average separation and average cushion. The NFL’s NextGen Stats service defines average separation as the distance (in yards) between a pass-catcher and the nearest defender at the time of completion or incompletion, and average cushion as the distance between a pass-catcher and the defender they’re lined up against at the time of the snap.
Average separation is an imperfect metric, as it rewards players who catch screens and wide-open passes, neither of which are part of Parker or Robinson’s games. But it’s useful when used in conjunction with average cushion, which also can be skewed by the type of coverage a defender is in. If a player receives a high cushion, he should gain decent separation; if he receives a low cushion, he’ll need to create his own separation against a defender who probably doesn’t believe he can do it. If a player ranks poorly in both, it basically means he failed in that regard.
Here’s how Parker and Robinson finished in 2022:
Average separation: 1.7 yards (122 out of 122)
Average cushion: 4.2 yards (122 out of 122)
Average separation: 2.1 yards (120 out of 122)
Average cushion: 4.8 yards (120 out of 122)
Parker and Robinson make up for these issues with their contest-catch prowess. And, again, they’re strikingly similar in this area, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics from the 2022 season.
(Note: We filtered this category by players with a minimum of 45 targets, which is the same qualifier used by NextGen Stats.)
Contested targets: 19 (37th)
Contest catches: 10 (30th)
Contest catch rate: 52.6 (30th)
Contested targets: 15 (51st)
Contest catches: eight (41st)
Contest catch rate: 53.3% (29th)
So, yeah, they basically are the same player. But do the Patriots need another version of Parker?
You could make that case, especially if you’re someone who buys into the narrative that Mac Jones is an average quarterback who isn’t great at throwing players open. Put as many tough, sure-handed receivers on the field as possible and Jones should be fine. Plus, he and Parker showed strong chemistry this season when Parker actually was on the field. Jones probably could do the same thing with Robinson.
Instead, New England should find a receiver who’s fast and capable of striking fear into the hearts of opposing defenders, someone who could bring out the best in Jones. Neither Parker nor Robinson is the kind of receiver for whom opponents must gameplan. No defensive coordinator begins a week by saying, “We need to know where DeVante Parker or Allen Robinson is at all times.” The same is true for Jakobi Meyers, even though he arguably is better than both Parker and Robinson.
A good, dynamic offense should give decent playing time to a receiver like Parker or Robinson — but not both. Ideally, the offense would feature someone like Parker on the outside, a steady receiver like Meyers in the slot and an electrifying talent — DeAndre Hopkins, anyone? — doing a bit of everything. Perhaps the Patriots already have that player in Tyquan Thornton, but the jury still is out on the 2022 second-round pick. As for Kendrick Bourne, he’s a good receiver but he was in the doghouse all season and really has the ceiling of a No. 2 wideout.
Given Robinson’s name, track record and reported availability, Patriots fans surely will get their hopes up for a trade. But the reality is that New England already made that kind of deal a year ago, and the player it acquired probably is better.