Leandre: 5 Receivers That Should be on Bill Belichick’s Radarby Jordan Leandre September 16, 2020 1 comment
A common theme for the New England Patriots has been the need to bolster their wide receiver room.
That theme was on full display during their Week 1 win against the Miami Dolphins. While the team certainly looked to establish their rushing attack, there seemed to be a reluctance to throw at times. As a result, they ran the ball 42 times to just 22 designed pass plays.
While Cam Newton had a very efficient debut (15-of-19), he totaled just 155 yards (10.3 yards-per-reception) and had just one play exceed 20 yards. The rushing attack was stellar, but they’re going to need more out of their receivers moving forward––especially against higher-powered offenses.
With that in mind, it looks like Bill Belichick will be looking to the trade market once again for a receiver. But who should be on his radar?
1. Jarvis Landry – Cleveland Browns
Many Patriots fans have been clamoring for and Odell Beckham-to-New England trade for years. While he’s been made available, he’s not the Cleveland Browns receiver for this offense.
What makes Jarvis Landry so attractive as a trade piece is, for starters, his ongoing streak of 80-reception seasons. In his first six seasons, the former LSU Tiger has averaged 94 receptions, 1,031 yards, and five scores. He has never caught fewer than 81 passes, only has one season below 976 yards (rookie year), and would only have a dead-cap hit of $4.5 million between 2021 and 2022 if they’re unhappy with his performance.
Yes, his total cap-hit for the next two seasons is a bit daunting (31.4 million), but they wouldn’t keep him unless he’s performing. Plus he’s only 27 years old and has a 4.9 percent edge on Beckham’s catch-rate.
2. Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears
This one seems more likely, as the 27-year-old wideout has already asked the team to trade him, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 15, 2020
Robinson, 27, has already removed everything “Chicago Bears” off of his social media feed and is set to be a free agent at the end of the season. As a result, it seems all but inevitable that the 6-foot-2 receiver will be donning a new uniform in the coming weeks.
For someone of his caliber––98 receptions and 1,147 yards last year––it could cost the Patriots multiple draft picks for this rental. However, unlike Emmanuel Sanders and Mohamed Sanu last year, the desire to keep Robinson retain the future should be higher. Especially one that can put up numbers despite playing with notoriously inaccurate quarterbacks like Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky.
New England needs to act fast, however, as Robinson should be a hot commodity for contenders.
3. Dede Westbrook – Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes, the Jaguars upset the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 to start the year with a victory. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are looking to continue their rebuild, and obtain as much draft capital for 2021 and beyond as possible.
This likely means that Dede Westbrook, who was out on Sunday with a shoulder injury, could be made available.
Westbrook, 27 in November, is coming off consecutive 66-reception seasons despite a plethora of quarterbacks throwing to him. In just the past two seasons, Jacksonville has trotted out Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Nick Foles, and Gardner Minshew at quarterback. Consequently establishing almost zero continuity between play-caller and skill positions. While Minshew could be the guy, it’s no mystery that the Jaguars want to take a crack at drafting Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson. Consequently, it could be their fifth quarterback in four years. Why would a pending free agent like Westbrook want to go through another rebuild?
He’s going to be an attractive chip at the deadline, and for good reason. He’s young, quick, and as a knack for catching the football (65.3 percent catch-rate the past two seasons). Though he would be a rental, like Robinson, Westbrook could be guy Belichick and co. want to retain moving forward.
4. Odell Beckham Jr. – Cleveland Browns
Though not exactly a Belichick guy in terms of style, the Patriots would be foolish to not kick the tires on Beckham.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old has a massive cap-hit for three more seasons but would cost the Patriots nothing to release him after the season. That being said, if he’s playing well, there wouldn’t be a reason to let go of him.
What makes Beckham so appealing is his flair for the dramatic. He is the epitome of a home run hitter in the NFL, as he compiles highlight-reel catches, but does have a slight tendency to disappear. Week 1 against the Ravens was no exception, as he had just three receptions (10 targets) and 22 yards. That being said, he is a five-time 1,000-yard receiver and has chemistry with Cam Newton.
Acquiring Beckham could also have a trickle-down effect on the room. As guys like Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry would slot into your second and third wideouts respectively.
5. Rashard Higgins – Cleveland Browns
Higgins appeared to be a late-round steal for the Browns just two years ago. However, he seemed to become an afterthought when the Browns acquired the aforementioned Beckham before last season.
But in 2018, Higgins was quite impressive. In 13 games (one start), the former Colorado State wideout had 39 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns. Though he’s not exactly a burner, he averaged 14.7 yards-per-reception with a 73.6 percent catch-rate in his one season of extended opportunity. However, his 12 targets in 11 games since should be alarming.
A (financially) cheap rental, Higgins could fall under the category of an under-the-radar, yet incredibly productive Belichick acquisition. Kind of like Chris Hogan was ahead of the 2016 season.
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