You can call me cynical or the anti-Mike Reiss for believing the New England Patriots still need help at WR, but I would call it logical. In some circles it is considered blasphemous to question the leadership of Bill Belichick, but I do not belong to that circle and the way he has decided to waste the final years of Tom Brady’s career is a travesty.
Brady is 36, going on retirement, and needs receivers he can depend on now, not receivers he needs to build or wait for to develop. This is one aspect where the Denver Broncos got it right because they understand that the opportunity door closes and the weapons they signed will still be productive even after Peyton Manning has retired. Unlike the Patriots, who will be leaving the cupboard empty or on welfare when Brady decides to exit stage left.
Some would argue patience is required and we should let young receivers such as Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce develop and mature. I would argue that you can’t be sure they will do either. It is no secret that Belichick makes Matt Millen look like Nostradamus when it comes to drafting wide receivers. The only successful WR Belichick ever drafted was Deion Branch, who was at best an average receiver who floundered away from the Patriots system. Otherwise, it is a history of perpetual letdowns.
Currently, the Patriots have Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Matthew Slater, T.J. Moe, among no-name others and the aforementioned receivers under contract. The list is certainly good enough to win 10-12 games a season, given the weakness of the AFC East and the talent of Brady, but come playoff time, when the cream puff defenses disappear, they are too easily covered and detained by opposing defenses. Players like Edelman are good, but not good enough to be the No. 1 guy and anyone who sees him as such is plain delusional.
The rest are cast-offs and draft picks no one else wanted and for good reason. Knowing this, the Patriots failed in free agency for a second year to acquire Emmanuel Sanders and didn’t even make an effort to sign Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker or DeSean Jackson. Last year’s rumors of a trade for Larry Fitzgerald turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of Patriots fans who realize Brady is aging in the wrong direction.
Now, I’ve already advocated trading Rob Gronkowski to acquire more picks in the draft or a veteran WR Brady can depend on immediately and doesn’t need to housebreak and comes without training wheels. But, beyond trading for a WR, the Patriots could turn to the draft and actually select a receiver who would make an immediate impact instead of going cheap, which is how you end up with undrafted free agents as your deep threat.
They need a Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Julio Jones, A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson. They need someone who can open the offense up so it isn’t so dependent on undersized slot-receivers and the dink and dunk screen game. An offense that is capable of scoring points at will. I am aware that defenses win championships, but scoring points helps and the offense would become less predictable if it had a legitimate deep threat.
The Patriots have options in the draft. There’s Sammy Watkins from Clemson, who has explosive speed and agility to quickly shift direction coming off a 1,200 yard receiving and 10 touchdown season. Or Mike Evans out of Texas A&M, who has the height, the physicality to challenge the league’s best defenders and the speed to stretch the field, something the Patriots desperately need. Even Marqise Lee from USC, who is an athletic, savvy receiver and potential rookie of the year candidate, could provide an immediate spark.
Rumors have indicated the Patriots are interested in Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt, which would be classic Belichick to add another humdrum receiver who is projected at best as a No. 2 or No. 3 option. The Patriots do not need any more of those because they have a team loaded with them.
The Patriots need to be aggressive. Anything less and they’re simply wasting Brady’s final years. If Patriots fans are honest, they would rather be the Broncos losing in the Super Bowl than not playing in it at all.