During the 2012 offseason, the depth at this position was perhaps the deepest in the entire NFL. Oh what can change in a year! With the expiring contracts of Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, and Donte’ Stallworth the Patriots are now left with Brandon Lloyd, Matthew Slater, and Kamar Aiken as the only receivers locked up for 2013. This, along with the signing of Northwestern alum Jeremy Ebert and second year Andre Holmes to reserve/futures contracts, has left Pats nation to speculate.
The big question mark that everybody knows is Welker. After turning in another stellar year (118 catches, 1354 yards, 6 touchdowns) it would appear he’d be set for a fat contract. However, if we can learn anything from the past, this will play out differently. Welker is Brady’s favorite target; that much is given. But how important is that given that the Patriots haven’t won a super bowl with Welker on their roster? BB will not be willing to resign Welker to a superstar contract, look for a contract in the neighborhood of 3 years/15 million. Backload that to ’14/’15 and the Patriots still have money to spend while keeping Welker in TB’s arsenal. That seems quite a bit lower than Welker’s assumed asking price, but given that he has been franchised tagged in the last two years, money shouldn’t be a huge issue.
Another possibility is for New England to completely cut ties with Welker and allow Julian Edelman to attempt to fill the void. Edelman is a restricted free agent, and resigning him would not be as an expensive expenditure for the Patriots. The question remains with Edelman…can he stay healthy? My guess is that he is resigned, given of his low cap cost and the amount of work/time the Patriots have invested in him. If he can stay healthy, he would fit in admirably for Welker at an extremely lower cost. His explosive traits and unique skill set make him a valuable asset, and expect him to stick around on a team friendly, multiyear deal.
Deion Branch was one of my favorite receivers as a kid. Great route runner, very agile, he could play outside, slot, reliable hands, he was definitely Brady’s favorite target before Welker. The things that I loved about him when I was young are fading fast though. Still a reliable route runner, his knowledge of the system/playbook is his most important asset, and while I believe that the Patriots have nothing to lose to have him back for another training camp, his days in New England are quickly coming to a close. If injuries impact the Patriots, look for the Pats to come calling, but he is simply too worn down at this point to be counted on a weekly basis. Pour one out for Deion, one of the classiest guys to play in a New England uniform.
Like Deion, his days in New England are likely over. While his long touchdown against the Texans this year was one of the greatest plays of season, he quickly got injured and was placed on IR. That play speaks volumes to the lack of deep threat that the Patriots had, and clues to how potent this offense would become with a speedster able to stretch the field. Thank you Donte’, that play had me watching highlights from years past.
Living in Evanston, Il you learn to love Northwestern athletics, mainly football and basketball. Jeremy Ebert, a 5’11 200 pound wide receiver out of THE Northwestern university comes back to the Patriots after being released during the final cuts last year, and latching onto the Eagles practice squad for most of the year. In his shortened time with the team last season, he received practice squad player of the week honors and seemed to mesh with Ryan Mallet well. With his graceful route running, and soft hands look for Ebert to make a push for the final position spot.
An undrafted product of the 2011 class, Kamar Aiken shined as UCF and has bounced around from the Bills, Bears, and now here. One thing that we know is how much BB loves versatility, and Aiken certainly fits the build. In high school, he received all-state honors as a defensive back, and upon his arrival to Central Florida made the transition to wideout. Standing at a big, 6’2 219, his size has helped the Patriots prepare for bigger receivers during the week, and look for the Pats to bring him back as he is still practice squad eligible.
6’4 is a big receiver for NFL standards. How about one that is 6’4 and runs a 4.5 40? Look no further, as Andre Holmes has seemingly turned heads of the coaches everywhere he has been. Reportedly, it is his lack of football IQ that has presented his biggest obstacle. Expect him to continue to develop on the practice squad this year, and hopefully be able to make an impact in the coming years.