The Patriots should use their expanded cap space to acquire a No. 1 wideout, but Mike Evans’ price and demands might be out of New England’s reach.

After cutting J.C. Jackson on Friday, New England will have over $100 million to use — not “burn” — on free agents.

The Indianapolis Colts likely will retain Michael Pittman Jr. despite not using the franchise tag on a player since Pat McAfee in 2013. Mike Evans easily would be the top wide receiver if he enters the market. He’ll drive a high price and multiple teams will compete for his services.

As for what the 30-year-old wants in free agency, his agent Deryk Gilmore gave a specific checklist.

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“Mike wants to play with an elite quarterback in an offense that will showcase him — and be paid like a top wide receiver,” Gilmore told Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz. “He doesn’t want to play with a rookie QB. Winning a Super Bowl is a key priority.”

Tyreek Hill reset the wide receiver market when he signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the Miami Dolphins that includes $72.2 million guaranteed, per Over the Cap. Evans recorded consecutive 1,000-yard seasons throughout his NFL career, so it’s no surprise he views himself as one of the best wide receivers in the league.

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However, his preference for quarterback could eliminate teams who are interested. The Patriots are “zeroing in” on a three-step plan at QB, according to MassLive. This includes drafting a signal-caller at No. 3 in the 2024 NFL Draft and signing a veteran who potentially could start for the rookie. Plans always can change, but Evans’ demands beg the question: Is Baker Mayfield an elite quarterback?

New England could target Mayfield, who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to retain after a successful first season. If Evans has a high opinion of his teammate, they could be a package deal. It would cost a lot of money, so it’s possible the Patriots might not be in the Evans market.

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They reportedly are prioritizing a wide receiver, and they have plans to target an “elite defender,” according to the Boston Herald. If New England does want to add talent to the offense, it might have to look at someone who isn’t Evans.

Featured image via Denny Simmons / The Tennessean via USA TODAY Sports Images