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10 wide receivers the Patriots could target in free agency

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By: Matt St. Jean

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mike Evans and Calvin Ridley are among the veteran options the Patriots could try to add this offseason.

In the spirit of one of my favorite Vines, this article will feature five wide receivers… and five MORE wide receivers.

The New England Patriots clearly need an infusion of talent at the position, so I’m dividing this into two different categories: top options and useful role players. Let’s start with the cream of the crop.

Patriots free agency targets: Quarterback

Top wide receiver options

Mike Evans

Mike Evans has been in the NFL for 10 seasons now. In that time, he’s never played less than three-quarters of his team’s snaps, never had fewer than 100 targets, never caught less than half of his targets, and never finished with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards. Evans is far from a long-term option at 31 years old by week one, but he’s a reliable option who can win on the outside and in the red area.

As a veteran and Super Bowl champion, Evans would provide leadership to the offense as well. If the Patriots are looking to develop a rookie quarterback in 2024 or 2025, Evans should be a top candidate to provide leadership and consistency on and off the field.

While Evans is not expected to be franchise tagged, Tampa Bay may re-sign him before he hits the market. If he does reach free agency, though, the Patriots should make a strong push to bring him to New England. How about we consider him a player-to-be-named-later for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Tampa?

Calvin Ridley

The Jaguars traded for Calvin Ridley 14 months ago to help bolster the receiving corps around Trevor Lawrence. If they re-sign him before he hits the market, the trade compensation to Atlanta jumps from pick No. 79 to pick No. 48 in this year’s draft.

Ridley has been productive when he’s been on the field, surpassing 1,000 yards receiving this past season and recording a career-high 1,374 in 2020. However, he played just five games in 2021 before stepping away from the team to “focus on his mental wellbeing,” and he missed all of 2022 after being suspended for gambling on the Falcons while away from the team in 2021.

Ridley would provide an instant upgrade to New England’s receiving corps, and his ability to play outside or in the slot could make him a versatile chess piece for Alex Van Pelt.

Michael Pittman Jr.

Pittman Jr. is a big body who can win on the outside or over the middle. He has averaged 142 targets per season over the past three years, catching just under 70 percent of those opportunities. Pittman has had to shoulder the load of Indianapolis’s offense, and he’s handled it efficiently.

The USC-product has great hands and created as much separation as Brandon Aiyuk and Puka Nacua this past season. In the unlikely scenario where the Colts let him get away, Pittman should be at the top of New England’s wish list.

Marquise Brown

While Mike Evans, Tee Higgins, and Michael Pittman win on the outside with size, Hollywood Brown does it with speed. The 2019 first round pick recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2021 in Baltimore before asking for a trade and heading out west to Arizona. In two seasons since with the Cardinals, Brown has 1,283 yards in 26 games.

Brown would immediately add a deep threat to the New England offense that the Patriots have badly needed.

Useful role players

If none of the top receivers hit the market, or, if the Patriots sign one but are still looking to build out some depth, here are some other interesting names.

Curtis Samuel

A second-round pick in 2017, Samuel has been a productive slot receiver for both the Panthers and Commanders. While not the best route runner, he is explosive with the ball in his hands. Samuel caught more than 60 passes for over 600 yards in each of the last two seasons while also adding over 200 yards on the ground. If you can get him the ball in space, he can make plays happen.

Rashid Shaheed

Shaheed, as two-year receiver for the Saints, is an ERFA this offseason because he was an undrafted free agent coming out of college. That allows New Orleans to retain him for cheap, but, with the team still almost $17 million over the cap per, well, Over the Cap, that could still be too much.

Shaheed is a deep threat receiver who also adds value as a returner, where he received Pro Bowl and All Pro honors this season. He had over 700 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns in 2023, with four of the scores being over 30 yards. As a rookie in 2022, he had a rushing touchdown of 44 yards and receiving scores of 53 and 68 yards.

Gabe Davis

Davis has been a solid complementary option to Stefon Diggs in Buffalo’s receiving corps in four years with the Buffalo Bills. He has 93 receptions for 1,582 yards over the past two seasons, cashing in for 14 scores. Davis is a big play threat, averaging a depth of target over 15 yards in each of his four seasons. He has struggled with inconsistency, but the flashes have been there.

DJ Chark

A second-round pick in 2018, DJ Chark spent four seasons with the Jaguars before spending the last two in Detroit and Carolina. Chark made the Pro Bowl in 2019 after amassing 1,008 receiving yards on 73 receptions with eight touchdowns. He had 30 catches for 502 yards with the Lions in 2022 and improved to 35 catches and 525 yards with Carolina last season.

With his 6-foot-4 frame, Chark profiles as a solid option as a veteran option outside the numbers.

Tyler Boyd

While Tee Higgins has been the No. 2 in Cincinnati, Tyler Boyd was the No. 1 before he and Chase got there. As the oldest of the trio, Boyd is likely to find greener pastures this offseason. The growth of the two young stars in that receiving corps has resulted in diminished production for the 2016 second round pick. Still, he has graded out as a good slot option, receiving a PFF grade of 70 or higher from 2018 to 2022. He’s a dependable option there with good hands and a big frame for a slot receiver.

Jauan Jennings

The last time the Patriots signed San Franciso’s third best receiver from a Super Bowl run, it worked out. Why not try again? Jauan Jennings has less than 1,000 career receiving yards, but he put on a show in Super Bowl LVIII. He had 4 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a receiver, and he also had 21-yard touchdown pass on a throwback screen to Christian McCaffery.

While Jennings doesn’t have breakaway speed, he does have a big body with the suddenness to get open. As a restricted free agent, Jennings is a compelling option for New England.

Originally posted on Pats Pulpit