By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s tampering time in the NFL, though the New England Patriots are sitting out the fun.
While teams are dishing out boatloads of cash to free agents, the defending Super Bowl champs have taken a spectator approach to the offseason festivities. At least for now, since they will have to sign someone at some point.
That someone will likely play wide receiver, as the Patriots offense has a few holes to fill in Tom Brady’s arsenal. Josh Gordon has been given an original-round tender, so if he’s allowed to play football in 2019, it will be for the Patriots. But at the moment, it’s unclear if Roger Goodell will let Josh Gordon play football in 2019. That means the only receiver under contract with an NFL catch to his name is Julian Edelman. As good as a play-maker he is, the Pats will need a lot more than just Edelman running routes if they want to put up points next season.
The problem is most of the free agent receivers have found new homes already. The Patriots were reportedly in on slot receiver Adam Humphries, but he signed a big deal with the Tennessee Titans on Monday. Devin Funchess (Indianapolis Colts) and Jamison Crowder (New York Jets) did the same. And on Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills signed two wideouts that could have caught passes from Brady next season: John Brown and Cole Beasley. Instead, that duo will be catching passes from second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
So who the heck is still out there for the Patriots? Their own free agents, Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are still available, but it’s unclear if any of trio will return. Patterson will likely cash in after his only season in the New England offense, showing off some versatility as a pass-catcher, rusher and kick returner. Hogan struggled to get on the same wavelength as Brady throughout the 2018 campaign, and would likely benefit from a fresh start elsewhere. And while the Patriots and Dorsett are talking (according to the Boston Herald) about a possible pact, the 26-year-old would probably like to join a team that can offer him a bigger role in the offense with more consistent targets. That is no guarantee in New England.
On the open market, Golden Tate is the biggest name still available, and he’s already expressed interest in joining the Patriots. The 30-year-old would love to snag passes from “old Tommy boy” and try to win another ring as his career winds down. It seems like a perfect match for both sides.
If the money is right, Tate should be wearing a Patriots uniform next season. But with the Patriots, it’s never that easy. If another team blows Tate away with a big-money offer, Bill Belichick will move on without batting an eye (especially if he’s still vacationing in Barbados).
Jermaine Kearse and Tyrell Williams are good options for the slot, while Randall Cobb, Dontrelle Inman, Demaryius Thomas, Donte Moncrief and Pierre Garcon would all help fill out the depth chart.
And though he sat out his entire rookie season, six-round pick Braxton Berrios could be in line for a big first season in the NFL if he’s healthy.
The Patriots will, at some point, address their need at wide receiver. As good as the three-headed monster of Brady, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski can be, the Patriots are required by the rules to send a few other receivers out there on every play. They will add someone, and likely a few someones, via free agency and the NFL draft next month. With 12 picks in Nashville, chances are they’ll snag a couple of receivers when picks start flying off the board.
While everyone else is throwing around some funny money, the Patriots are waiting patiently to strike. It’ll happen, eventually.