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NFL New England Patriots

5 Free Agent Receivers the New England Patriots Should Target

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5 Free Agent Receivers the New England Patriots Should Target

5 Free Agent Receivers the New England Patriots Should Target
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one aspect the New England Patriots have lacked in the last few years, it’s a true, outside receiver who can stretch the defense and make plays outside the numbers. As good as Julian Edelman was last season, most of his production was in between the numbers. Danny Amendola, who was a disappointment, also occupies his space in the middle of the field. Even Rob Gronkowski does best up the middle on seam routes. A true outside receiver should be a top priority in the offseason because it will solidify the Patriots’ passing game.

Tom Brady was deficient of the weapons he really needed in order to take the Patriots to the next step. In the AFC Championship Game, the Denver Broncos were able to slow down the Patriots’ offense by clogging up the middle of the field and taking away the space that Edelman and Amendola needed to operate.

The Patriots drafted Aaron Dobson in the second round in the 2013 draft, and though he seemed like a bust, he’s 6-foot-3 with an endless amount of potential. Dobson has shown flashes and possesses all the tools to develop into a solid receiver. However, with Brady’s short window, New England would be foolish to rely on a second-year player to be a game changer for them.

First, the Patriots need to make sure they can retain Julian Edelman. Then, they need to sign a physical, outside receiver to complement Edelman. I’m not suggesting to make a huge move like they did when they acquired Randy Moss. They don’t need to go after a big name like Andre Johnson or Eric Decker because a cheap, decent outside receiver will provide what is needed for this offense. An outside receiver would stretch the defense and soften up the defense in the middle of the field where Edelman, Amendola, and Gronkowski could operate freely.

Here are 5 free agent receivers the Patriots should consider taking a look at.

Michael LeDuc is a Boston Celtics writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @mike_leduc, and add him on Google.

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5. Brandon LaFell

LaFell
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

LaFell isn't going to blow anyone away with his athletic ability, but he has proven to be a productive receiver nonetheless. The 6-foot-2 wideout caught 49 passes for 627 yards and scored five touchdowns with Cam Newton attempting under 500 passes while getting fewer looks than Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. LaFell is a big physical target and could help the Patriots in red zone. Plus, he may come cheap.

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4. Jeremy Maclin

Maclin
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Because Maclin was out all year with a torn ACL, he might only command a friendly one-year deal to show off his skill. Maclin is a speedy receiver with a huge catch radius and an act for the spectacular catch. He can get behind defense and is no slouch in the red zone either. If he can come cheap, this may be a perfect fit for the Patriots. However, having two players in the receiving corps who are each recovering from an ACL injury (Rob Gronkowski) may be too risky.

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3. Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Sanders signed an offer sheet with the Patriots last offseason, so there is clearly mutual interest. However, after a career year for Sanders, it will all depend on what he demands on the open market. The Jets, who have much more cap space than the Patriots, are interested. With that aside, Sanders would be a perfect fit for the Patriots. He has outstanding athletic ability, stretches the defense and can catch the long ball.

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2. Andre Roberts

Roberts
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Since a trade for Larry Fitzgerald is out of the equation, why not go after one of his counterparts? Andre Roberts is a nice sideline target who doesn't drop the football. He has an intriguing second gear in the open field and he's physical with corners. He's not much of a red zone threat, but he could be a valuable target for Tom Brady. Since he's vastly underrated in the shadow of Fitzgerald, Roberts' contract could be reasonable for the Patriots.

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1. James Jones

Jones
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

He may not be a true outside receiver, but Jones is as physical as they come. At 6-foot-1, he possesses a big, athletic frame and he goes and gets the ball by any means necessary. His yards per catch is solid, and he's an absolute beast in the red zone. He scored 14 touchdowns in 2012. He's also used to playing with an elite QB and probably won't demand too much money.