Yes, yes, we’ve heard it all season, haven’t we? We’ve heard it for years, actually: The New England Patriots’ dynasty is over, and years of obscurity are to follow. We never learn, do we?
Here they are again in the postseason, heading in to the Super Bowl after a thrilling overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. Let’s also not forget that were it not for the miraculous Miami touchdown at the end of the game at Hard Rock Stadium, the road to the Super Bowl would once again run through Foxborough.
Still, the Patriots have had their problems, particularly at the receiver positions. Julian Edelman came back to full fitness with a bang against the Chargers putting up nine receptions on 13 targets for 151 yards, and was equally as effective against the Chiefs except for one tipped ball that went for an interception, but other than that, Brady doesn’t seem to have much faith in his receiver corps, and who can blame him? Losing perennial play-off catch-machine Danny Amendola and top wide receiver Brandin Cooks is no small thing, and the team has struggled to replace the productivity of previous years which has been evidenced in Brady’s play. Even Rob Gronkowski, who we all expect to retire this year, hasn’t seemed himself throughout the season, and the situation with Josh Gordon didn’t pan out. With Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan hitting free agency there are more than enough spaces to go around. They have no-one to catch outside the numbers.
So, who do the Patriots turn to in the offseason? Let’s take a look.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking; I know this is a long shot and I know that this is the Patriots fans’ dream acquisition but hear me out.
The Patriots are in dire need of a deep threat, AB84 is available, Bill Belichick has a number of draft picks available to him, and if we know anything about Bill, it’s that he would rather trade away picks for proven players than actually draft them himself.
Belichick is also not against bringing in wayward players and attempting to rein them in. We’ve seen him do it with Randy Moss, Josh Gordon, and Chad Johnson. Not all of those worked out, but Brown is much more comparable to Moss than anyone else on this list, and I think we can all agree that Moss panned out pretty well.
Belichick will also be in a “win now” scenario whilst Tom Brady is active and Tom Brady to Antonio Brown is a win now strategy. The fact is, it’ll be tough for the Patriots to bring him in considering that they’ll likely face stiff opposition from the 49ers who will have a decidedly higher first round pick than the Patriots, and let’s face it, Brown can still be a bit of a diva there. Still, Antonio Brown to the Patriots is a possibility, and if anyone can figure a way to get it done, it’s Bill Belichick.
This all comes down to how Sanders recovers from his torn Achilles. The Patriots apparently showed interest in trading for Sanders before the deadline, but that trade died when Demaryius Thomas left for Houston.
The arrival of Courtland Sutton had already dented that partnership, allowing Thomas to depart and leaving Sanders and Sutton to run the wide positions, but when Sanders went down we saw the emergence of DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick, many considering that to signal the end of Sanders’ career in Denver. Denver could also be a viable landing spot for Antonio Brown.
The Eagles have seventeen impending free agents and one of those is recently acquired Tate. His totals in Philadelphia read 30 receptions for 278 yards and one touchdown across eight regular season games, which, lets face it, isn’t spectacular.
We know what happens to players when they head to the cold climes of New England; they somehow find a new lease of life and a secret hidden reserve of playing potential that only Belichick and his coaches seem to be able to tap in to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Golden Tate lining up and catching passes from TB12 next year.
Jackson turned 32 this past December but you wouldn’t think it based on his performances during the Ryan Fitzpatrick era of Tampa’s season, hauling in some absolute beauties early on.
His deep threat ability would fit perfectly with the Patriots’ needs and he’s affordable. He currently has one year left on his deal and is owed $10m in base salary next season, but the Bucs can cut him and incur no salary cap hit, so with the Bucs sticking with Winston, expect Jackson’s agent to be pretty busy this spring.
Cobb has always been one of the most underrated and under-appreciated receivers in football.
There were mutterings that Cobb was done in Green Bay before this season even began but the Packers let Nelson go instead. Still, Cobb is set to hit free agency, which he has done previously before ultimately returning to Green Bay.
An offensive coordinator would certainly have fun scheming up offensive plays that include both Cobb and Edelman, especially if Gronkowski retires.
Cobb is capable of being a deep threat too, it’s just that Green Bay haven’t always utilised it, needing him more in short yardage plays to retain possession, but just because he isn’t used that way, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it.
He has taken a pay cut to remain in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers before, and they do have a rapport, but we saw all of these things with Danny Amendola and the Patriots before he was shipped off to Miami at the drop of a hat. With Green Bay bringing in a new head coach, it may happen to Cobb.
One of my favourite targets for the Patriots on this list. The 28-year-old is lightning quick and has great hands, which he showed time and time again early in the year with Flacco under centre.
With the dawning of the Lamar Jackson era and his incredible rushing ability, Brown fell by the wayside in the second half, and he’s due to hit free agency.
Brown does come with some health concerns as he was diagnosed with Sickle Cell some years back, but make no mistake, he is an explosive and dynamic playmaker, and one that won’t cost the world to acquire.
Robby Anderson is a fantastic wide receiver, and if you were lucky enough to snag him off of the waiver wire during your fantasy football playoff run, you know exactly why.
This is an extremely long shot considering the Jets have nearly $100m in cap space this year and they’ll want to keep some targets around to make sure Sam Darnold feels comfortable.
Still, Anderson is only 25 years of age, and his ability is unquestioned, so he’s worth the outlay providing that he can refrain from any off the field drama.
And finally, Devin Funchess, a man who just seems to have fallen out of favour in Carolina.
After struggling with a back injury, Funchess never got back to form. He started the season with average numbers but slowly he disappeared and his catch percentage dropped to an alarming 21 percent. With the emergence of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, I don’t think there’s a spot for him next year, especially considering the Panthers tend to enjoy running nearly every play through Christian McCaffrey due to Cam Newton‘s inconsistent throwing ability.
The Patriots are a good place to go when you’re struggling, and Funchess has shown that he can be a great receiver when he wants to be.