N’Keal Harry formally requesting trade was a bad idea

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Everyone in the NFL is aware of N’Keal Harry, the player the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft who hasn’t lived up to expectations.

In 21 career games, he has just 45 receptions for 414 yards and is constantly compared to players selected after him in the draft such as D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin and more.

Clearly, things haven’t worked out in New England with two different quarterbacks for that matter — Tom Brady and Cam Newton. Looking at the Patriots depth chart going into training camp, Harry faces an uphill climb when it comes to just making the roster.

So, on Tuesday when his agent Jamal Tooson released a statement to the NFL Network saying he’s formally requested a trade for his client, it was not a good look for the wide receiver.

For starters, requesting a trade a couple of weeks before training camp when there’s a chance of being cut doesn’t give off a good vibe. Some could argue he’s giving up and not embracing the competition, which is what the summer will be. The Patriots have a deep group of receivers, but no clear-cut No. 1 and the roster spots will go to the players who perform best.

But the look gets worse when actually reading the statement and why he’s requesting a trade.

"For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to allow N'Keal to thrive in New England,” Tooson’s statement reads.

Working behind the scenes to put a plan in place to allow Harry to thrive in New England? So, basically telling Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels how to do their jobs? Bold thing to include, especially considering the Patriots have given him plenty of opportunities to thrive.

“Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn't met the expectations the Patriots and N'Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college,” the statement continues.

86 targets, huh? That’s the only stat that’s included? What about some more telling ones?

According to Pro Football Focus, Harry has been open on just 25.5% of his targets against single coverage, which is 99th out of 100 qualifiers. Of the 93 receivers who have seen at least 80 targets over the last two seasons, Harry's yards/target average (5.11) ranks 92nd. And then Julian Edelman recorded six more receiving yards than Harry in 2020 despite playing 319 fewer snaps.

The statement reads like Harry wasn’t targeted as much as he should have been when those numbers tell the real story. And then saying Harry was a “dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college” — why not include his high school stats?

And “virtually unstoppable?” Barely eclipsing 1,000 yards in his final season at Arizona State doesn’t exactly give off that impression.

"N'Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity,” the statement closes. “He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it."

Once again, this implies he feels he hasn’t been given the proper opportunity in New England. And then “aggressively pursue it?” How exactly will Harry’s camp do that? They aren’t the ones negotiating with other teams, that’s for Belichick and Co. with the Patriots.

Typically requesting trades is reserved for accomplished players in various sports, not for first-round picks who have failed to live up to expectations. And not only that, the statements that go along with them usually have some merit. They don’t cite college stats and include phrases like “virtually unstoppable.”

While Belichick and the Patriots likely agree that a change in scenery is probably best for Harry, they probably did not like the statement and how it portrayed the organization as the reason for his struggles.

If Harry’s camp had to do it all over again, they probably should have kept the talks between them and the organization and not made them public. What exactly was the gain? It’s not like it wasn’t known before that he's available via trade considering the reports prior to the NFL Draft.

Getting released at the end of training camp was probably best-case scenario for Harry as then he could decide on which team he plays for next. Being traded means the Patriots have a say in the team he goes to and after the statement Tuesday, they may not consider Harry’s best interest.

And if they really were bothered, they could simply hold on to Harry and not trade him. It’s not like he’s costing a ton of money and they could keep him as a fifth receiver and be inactive on gamedays.

Harry and his agent seem to be playing hardball with the Patriots and given what he’s done in the league so far, it may not have been the greatest idea.

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