While Mac Jones’ regression this year was largely attributed to poor coaching (who would have guessed that former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia would flop in his role as lead play-caller?), with little in the way of receiving help, his sophomore slump may have been inevitable. Jones’ development as a quarterback has undoubtedly been stunted by the Patriots’ dearth of receiving talent, with DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor (the latter two headed for free agency) counting as New England’s best and brightest.
New England has been viewed as a potential landing spot for DeAndre Hopkins, though that avenue is complicated by the arrival of Bill O’Brien, whose relationship with Hopkins throughout their six years together in Houston was nonexistent. Other trade possibilities exist — Bengals standout Tee Higgins is the new name being floated around (contract talks between the two sides have reportedly petered out) — though another, potentially more realistic option would be Chargers veteran Keenan Allen, who many, including beat writer Daniel Popper of The Athletic, anticipate will be a cap casualty this offseason.
With Justin Herbert eligible for an extension that could pay him upwards of $50 million annually, Los Angeles will have to trim the fat somehow, with Allen, coming off an injury-plagued 2022, seen by some as expendable. Cutting Allen before June 1st would free up $14.8 million in cap space while designating him as a post-June-1st transaction would save the Bolts an additional $2.7 million. Even with the salary cap rising to a record $224.8 million (an increase of $16.6 million), the Chargers will have their work cut out for them, needing to slash over $20 million in payroll just to break even.
As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, with Allen, despite what many would consider modest athletic traits (he’s certainly no burner, clocking a tepid 4.71 in the 40-yard dash), representing a mammoth upgrade at a position the Patriots have long neglected. As productive a possession receiver as you’ll find in the NFL, Allen boasts five career 1,000-yard seasons, averaging 102 catches, 1,184 yards and six touchdowns over a five-year span from 2017-21. If the Chargers cut him loose, Allen would be far and away the best receiver available this offseason, headlining a relatively anonymous free-agent class featuring JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Lazard and Darius Slayton, among other known commodities.
Allen isn’t getting any younger (he turns 31 this spring) and has struggled to stay healthy, missing a combined 10 games over his last three seasons. But he’s a hell of a lot better than what the Patriots have right now. As they continue to evaluate his long-term prospects, don’t the Patriots owe it to Jones to surround him with better weapons? Allen would be a game-changer in that regard.
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