The Patriots reportedly entered their pivotal offseason with a priority to land a “difference-making wide receiver” in free agency.

New England is flush with more than enough cash to make such an addition, but the presumed best option ultimately was never made available to Jerod Mayo and company.

Mike Evans, who racked up north of 1,000 receiving in all 10 of his Tampa Bay seasons to date, is set to stick with the Buccaneers on a two-year deal, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Patriots reportedly were “hoping to land” Evans, but they now will have to look elsewhere in a receiver market that isn’t terribly strong.

In a column published Tuesday morning, The Athletic’s Chad Graff shed light on how New England is expected to change gears with Evans no longer an option.

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“Receiver Calvin Ridley (Jaguars) will be a free agent and could match the productivity of Evans over the next three years,” Graff wrote. “The Patriots will probably pivot to making him their top priority now.”

Ridley impressed in 2023 after a very brief 2021 season and a 2022 campaign that was completely wiped away due to suspension. The 26th overall pick in the 2018 draft started all 17 games for Jacksonville and collected 76 catches for 1,016 with eight touchdowns. Mileage also isn’t much of a concern for Ridley, who doesn’t turn 30 until late December.

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Is Ridley a guaranteed stat sheet-stuffer like Evans? No. But if the Patriots brought in the Alabama product, he would immediately become the franchise’s most talented wideout in years.

Featured image via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images