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NFL New England Patriots

NFL Free Agency Rumors: New England Patriots Interested in Josh Cribbs?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

With the departure of star wide receiver Wes Welker seeming more imminent than possible, the New England Patriots are reportedly turning their attention toward multi-faceted Cleveland Browns wideout Josh Cribbs as a handcuff at a minimum, but at a maximum as Welker’s replacement in the slot position.

Cribbs entered the league as a kick return specialist for the Browns in 2005, but has slowly morphed into a receiving target for Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden over the course of the past few seasons in Cleveland. Although Cribbs’ receiving numbers are rather modest given his tenure in the NFL (107 catches, 1,161 yards and seven touchdowns) he has the type of big-play ability which the Patriots covet.

Cribbs exploded for his best season as a pro in 2011, but experienced some struggles in 2012, most of which were largely out of his control as the Browns offensive line struggled to give Weeden any substantial protection in the pocket or time to locate Cribbs in space and allow him to make plays with his feet to pick up extra yards after catch.

It’s so often the case with guys of Josh Cribbs’ skill-set that a change of scenery and scheme is all they need to put aside modest production, breakout, and put up the type of numbers their athletic ability and ball skills suggest they can.

Adding Josh Cribbs to the roster sooner than later is advisable regardless of what Wes Welker may decide — and from all that is apparent, he’s in no rush to make a decision. Should Welker decide to stay put in New England, which certainly doesn’t look likely, the Patriots can lock down another intermediate-to-deep passing threat which can compliment him, and the uber-productive Patriots tight ends, when necessary.

Should Welker depart, they have a handcuff in place that shouldn’t have much trouble learning a new scheme and becoming a part of the Patriots system in time to be a productive member of the offense in 2013.

There always seem to be an abundance of shiny new toys for Tom Brady to play with in Foxboro from one year to the next, and should the Patriots acquire Josh Cribbs, he would be one of the shiniest in recent memory.

Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. You can follow Kris on TwitterGoogle and Facebook.