Patriots positional review: Wide receivers

Patriots positional review: Wide receivers
February 13, 2014, 6:30 pm
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(AP Photo)

Tom E. Curran continues his position-by-position analysis of the Patriots as we head into the offseason. Today: Wide receivers. Tomorrow: Quarterbacks

JULIAN EDELMAN
AGE: 27 (5/22/86)
STATS: 151 targets, 105 catches, 1,056 yards, 6 TDs, 35 punt returns, 10.7 YPR
CONTRACT: Expired
2014 CAP HIT: none
Since being drafted in 2009 and converted from quarterback to wideout, Edelman flashed promise. But injuries sustained and opportunities missed kept him a bit player with unrealized potential. But Wes Welker’s search for better dough, Danny Amendola’s injured groin and the assorted maladies of Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski left Edelman as the only receiver on which Tom Brady could rely. And Edelman had a Pro Bowl-worthy season. Now that he’s a free agent, the Patriots have to weigh what the correct offer to make will be. They have to account for recent production, special teams value, Brady’s reliance on him, the lowballing they did to him last offseason and Edelman’s desire to make a big score while his value is highest. And the Patriots have to do that while being sure they don’t sink too much into players whose skills are too similar – Edelman and Danny Amendola. The two can play together. Amendola should be the slot; Edelman will be the outside guy. In that scenario, the Patriots will be able to pay more for Edelman since he spends time as an outside receiver. But the team also has to measure his penchant for getting injured. The last thing they need is to sink significant money into Edelman with his injury history and have him get hurt, especially given the recent track record with Gronkowski and Amendola. Edelman’s situation is one of the most fascinating free agent situations in the league this offseason.

DANNY AMENDOLA
AGE: 28 (11/2/1985)
STATS: 83 targets, 54 catches, 633 yards, 2 TDs.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2017
2014 CAP HIT: $4.7M ($3M salary, $1.2 prorated bonus, $500K roster bonus)
Came in with a target on his back as the player who replaced Wes Welker. Patriots Truthers insist the team chose Amendola over Welker even though the catalyst for Welker being replaced was Welker’s agents promising him the moon and delivering...not the moon. At any rate, Amendola missed four games with groin issues and a concussion. Time with Tom Brady lost and the fact Amendola was never really healthy after the groin injuries sustained in the opener worked against Amendola. By the end of the season, Brady’s preference was going elsewhere. Amendola saw just 12 passes in the final four games of the season including playoffs. It wasn’t a horrible year for Amendola but it was a disappointing start. It’s too early to consider releasing him and the cap hit is too fat anyway if the Patriots were to do that (over $8M).


AARON DOBSON
AGE: 22 (7/23/91)
STATS: 72 targets, 37 catches, 519 yards, 4 TDs
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $779,175 ($560,835 salary, $218,340 prorated bonus)
While the final numbers ended up modest, Dobson grew tremendously from the beginning of training camp through the 10th game of the season when he got hurt and made just four more catches the rest of the way. In the preseason, Dobson was squirrelly in traffic, didn’t adequately fight for the ball and was well behind Kenbrell Thompkins in early development. By Week 10, he’d outpaced Thompkins and had turned himself quickly into a much more physical player. The arrow points up for Dobson. Bill Belichick always maintains the biggest leap is made between the first and second season. Dobson deserves high expectations.

KENBRELL THOMPKINS
AGE: 24 (7/29/88)
STATS: 69 targets, 32 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs
CONTRACT: Expires after 2015
2014 CAP HIT: $495,833 ($495K salary, $833 prorated bonus)
Kenbrell Thompkins – undrafted and the recipient of a $2,500 signing bonus – had 466 receiving yards in 11 games in which he was a factor. The Patriots take their fair share of hits for their personnel swings and misses but Thompkins was a hit. The hip injury he sustained against Houston screwed him up down the stretch and it didn’t help that – at the same time – Dobson was getting smacked by injuries as well. But the quick-footed Thompkins showed he’s absolutely got the physical skills and guts to play at a high level. Maintaining his focus as a professional and continuing to develop are the most important jobs he has. He’s come an exceedingly long way but needs to not rest on his laurels because it’s all right in front of him now.

JOSH BOYCE
AGE: 24 (1/22/90)
STATS: 19 targets, 9 catches, 121 yards,
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $614,250 ($495K, $119,250 signing bonus)
Developed more slowly than anticipated in his rookie season. Boyce had a foot injury that bothered him through last summer and he never seemed to gain the full trust of Brady. He was inactive for seven games and 12 of his 19 targets came in a two-game span before he got injured late in the season.

AUSTIN COLLIE
AGE: 28 (11/11/85)
STATS: 11 targets, 6 catches, 63 yards
CONTRACT: Expired
2014 CAP HIT: none
Collie showed some glimpses in limited action. He hurt his knee, missed a chunk of time after being released and then caught five passes for 72 yards in the two playoff games. Quick and smart but not a field-stretcher, he probably did enough to earn another go-round with New England.