Kendrick Bourne wants to return to the New England Patriots.

“I want to come back,” Bourne told ESPN’s Mike Reiss for a story published Sunday. “That is a goal of mine. I love being a Patriot — it’s a great environment for a person like me.”

The Patriots should re-sign the veteran wideout, who is set to become a free agent when the league year begins in March. The Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan reported in mid-January the Patriots were “in contact” with Bourne.

Bourne was a breath of fresh air for the Patriots. He brought an energy that teammates enjoyed and an enthusiasm even former head coach Bill Belichick couldn’t help but admire. Now, with first-year coach Jerod Mayo taking over for Belichick and wanting to bring in a new jolt of excitement, Bourne could help.

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But Bourne’s contributions go well beyond energetic dance moves and jokes in media availabilities. The seven-year veteran proved himself to be a legitimate contributor when he was presented the opportunity. Was he a No. 1 wideout? Maybe not. But Bourne’s versatility and skillset could make him a worthy complement to the No. 1 that New England should bring in this offseason. Perhaps that will come via the 2024 NFL Draft with Marvin Harrison Jr. leading the prospect group or in free agency with Tee Higgins, Mike Evans and Calvin Ridley among the available wideouts.

Bourne set career highs in receptions (55), yards (800) and touchdowns (five) during his debut season in New England in 2021. He looked to be on pace to break those personal bests in 2023, despite the offense’s disappointing quarterback situation, but then suffered a season-ending ACL tear. In eight games, Bourne recorded 37 catches for 406 yards and four touchdowns.

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Those numbers far and away out-paced Bourne’s production from 2022 when he landed in then-offensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s doghouse and saw less and less playing time. At the time, Patricia sidelined arguably the offense’s best skill player. The decision proved to be one of the numerous examples of coaching malpractice that season. Bourne was happy with the change to Bill O’Brien entering the 2023 campaign.

“Change is good. It’s something we needed, I feel like,” Bourne said in June.

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Unfortunately, a torn ACL halted Bourne’s season under O’Brien as Mac Jones’ trusted target. Bourne’s ongoing recovery will be one of the main arguments against re-signing him. After all, paying a 28-year-old pass-catcher coming off a torn ACL is not something organizations will make a habit of. And perhaps for good reason as running backs and receivers have shown it takes time to get back to their prior selves after suffering said injury.

I feel like something good is coming in that building and I want to be part of it.

Kendrick Bourne

Bourne has said all the right things about his recovery. He told Reiss he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and has a physical therapist living with him in Portland, Ore. Bourne said he projects to be ready for the 2024 season opener after suffering the injury Oct. 29.

It’ll be interesting to see what Bourne’s market looks like given he is coming off an injury. New England currently has the third-most cap space entering the 2024 campaign ($69.9 million). Bourne was viewed as a team-friendly contract when he signed before the 2021 campaign. That three-year contract also was why Bourne was subject to so many trade rumors.

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Bourne wasn’t dealt then, and now hopes he’ll have another run in New England.

“I feel like something good is coming in that building and I want to be part of it,” Bourne told Reiss.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images