Hannable: Free agent wide receiver class isn’t great, so surprise deal by Patriots isn’t out of question


There’s no doubt wide receiver is a top priority for the Patriots this offseason.

And it will go beyond just free agency, as it likely needs to be addressed through the draft. There are just two receivers from last year under contract for 2019 — Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios, who spent the year on injured reserve.

Clearly, some veteran, as well as young talent is needed.

Looking at the free agent receivers who will become available in mid-March when free agency opens, it isn’t that great of a group. Only one player had more than five touchdowns (Robby Anderson with six), there were no 1,000-yard seasons (Adam Humphries had 816 yards), and only three players had more than 60 catches (Humphries, Golden Tate and Cole Beasley).

It’s likely Humphries, Tate and Beasley, along with Demaryius Thomas, will be the most sought after players, particularly Humphries since he’s the youngest at age 26. This means they all have a good chance of being overpaid, which obviously is a turn off for the Patriots.

Second-tier wide outs who should be available include Devin Funchess, John Brown, Tyrell Williams and Pierre Garcon. 

Intrigued? Didn’t think so.

What about next year’s class? Sometimes teams like to trade players away a year ahead of time that they know they won’t be able to re-sign, just like the Patriots did last offseason with Brandin Cooks.

Not many options there, either. 

A.J. Green, Michael Thomas, Tyler Boyd, DeSean Jackson, Amari Cooper and Emmanuel Sanders are the top names and it appears they either aren’t great options, or their respective teams won’t let them get away. The Bengals will be unlikely to keep both Green and Boyd, so maybe there’s something there, but the overall point is there don’t appear to be many options for the Patriots.

The receiving draft class is said to be strong, and the Patriots will have six picks in the first three rounds, so the opportunity to grab an impact wide receiver will be had. But again, the team also needs to have some veteran additions as well. It’s hard to count on rookies, especially in the Patriots offense when it is likely their offseason time with Tom Brady will be limited.

This brings us to the potential of a surprise deal, potentially in the big category.

The Patriots need to make sure they have a successful offseason bringing talent to Brady, and there’s no easier way to do that than by trading for one of the best receivers in the game in Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. Certainly, both players should be viewed as long shots to become Patriots, but it certainly isn’t out of the question. Both players have high salaries, but if Rob Gronkowski retires it could be viewed as basically a swap with either one getting a little more money since they're a receiver.

Both players’ contracts aren’t all that ridiculous considering their talents. Beckham is signed through 2023 with this coming year being the most expensive as his base salary is $16.7 million and has a cap hit of $21 million. It does down to $19 million the next three years before only $15 million in 2023. As for Brown, he is signed through 2021 and has base salaries in the $12 million range, but a cap hit of $22 million this year, $18 million in 2020 and $19.5 million in 2021. As everyone knows, cap numbers can be worked around, but both those players have huge hits, and deservingly so.

If the Giants didn’t trade Beckham to the Patriots last offseason, like was reported by Chris Simms on PMT Live earlier this week, it’s hard to imagine them doing it this offseason. Brown seems unlikely as well, but it would be such a Patriots-like move if it actually happened. Let’s say no one offers the Steelers a first-round pick for him and then the Patriots come in and offer pick No. 32. It would be pretty hard for the Steelers to say no to that, right?

Stranger things have happened, and sometimes things always go the Patriots' way. 

And who knows, the Patriots could surprise everyone and target a player no one thought was even available. That’s sometimes how it goes with them.

Let’s be clear, we’re not saying the Patriots will be trying hard for Beckham or Brown, we’re just saying don’t completely dismiss it. It would go against what the Patriots have gone for in the past when it comes to who they go after, but they rarely are in a position like they are now at receiver.

Things could get interesting. Stay tuned.