New England Patriots' free agents offer opportunity to revamp wide receivers


Instead of signing Edelman, the Patriots could move for big-play threats Devery Henderson, Louis Murphy, Jerome Simpson or Donnie Avery. Each of those receivers would be on the same pay-grade as Edelman, but have very different styles. Each bring inconsistencies to the table, but also much more speed and deep ball ability. That would be the beauty of having Brandon Lloyd and Dwayne Bowe together, both receivers are capable of doing anything you would ask from them. Neither is pigeon holed as a deep threat or a possession receiver. Both are all around football players who blur the lines between the positions-within-positions.

Signing Bowe is no certainty, but it is very unlikely that Lloyd won't be on the roster.

Lloyd's flexibility to fill different roles is what allows the Patriots to move in different directions this off-season. His ability to run every route at an incredible speed may not have led to many deep balls in 2012, but he does still carry that threat and can stretch the field when need be. If the Patriots sign Bowe, then he can continue in the role he played last season. However, if the Patriots look to bring in another big name receiver, Mike Wallace, then Lloyd would likely focus his play on moving the chains and filling the Welker-Edelman role on offense.

Wallace is an unlikely signing, because he wants an astronomically large contract and is coming off a season when he failed to live up to his self proclaimed status as an elite receiver. Even considering his struggles this past year, Wallace offers the Patriots something they haven't had since Randy Moss. Speed that not only beats defensive backs, but flat out scares defensive coordinators. His addition would make the offense almost impossible to match up to from a personnel point of view, because it's already incredibly difficult to stick with the team's tight ends and slower receivers. The combination of Lloyd and Wallace would force single coverage to either receiver or one of the tight ends. Each would handily beat that on 90 percent of plays, while you can't play zone effectively against a Tom Brady-led team.

Signing Wallace would limit what other receivers the team could sign, so they could look that way in the draft. It's always possible to find a complementary piece in latter rounds of the draft, but if they felt aggressive enough to add to an already stacked offense in the early rounds, taking DeAndre Hopkins or Tavon Austin would really push this offense's aerial attack over the top. Austin and Hopkins are both players who would excel in space. Playing with a Patriots' offense that has the weapons it already does and the scheme it already runs, space would be a given on every single snap.

Of course, that is all presuming that the Patriots will make a big splash at a position they have so often not made big splashes in the past. The more likely possibilities may be less exciting, but could also be just as effective. The possession receiver role that was last filled by Wes Welker will be key. Welker could be re-signed, but the team could also re-sign Edelman and shift him into his position. The possibility also exists that the Patriots make a move for Danny Amendola, making that two ex-St. Louis Rams receivers on their roster. Amendola is very much in the same mold as Welker, but may be even better than him at this point in his career. He has played exclusively on bad offenses for the past four years in St. Louis.

Re-signing Welker and adding a bigger receivers in the draft is the less enticing option, because it would cost the team money without adding the excitement that comes with a big-name free agent addition. However, it would allow the continuity within what has been a very successful offense over the last few years to continue. Signing Amendola would be similarly expensive, but would at the very least give the team a much younger player with room to develop further. Expecting Edelman to fill the role and adding bit-part players behind him wouldn't improve the offense, but it would allow the team to spend the majority of it's cap space on improving a defense that needs plenty of new additions. Over $15 million in cap space and plenty of draft picks is an awful lot to help a defense lacking in quality such as the Patriots'.

It's always difficult to know what Bill Belichick and his franchise are going to do during the off-season. The only thing that is certain is that they do need to sign wide receivers, unless of course the lesser known names on the roster have some special talents we are yet to see...with this team, you can't even rule that out.