BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have signed their first free agent of the offseason, adding some competition at the wide receiver position. Unfortunately at the moment, we aren’t quite sure who will be throwing to those wide receivers in 2020.
On the day they lost Tom Brady to the Buccaneers, the Patriots reportedly agreed to a deal for former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Damiere Byrd. The deal is for one-year, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reported Tuesday evening.
Byrd is expected to compete for a job this summer.
The #Patriots are signing WR Damiere Byrd to a one-year deal source says. Coming off a 32-catch season with the #Cardinals. This is where I usually say, "And his next pass will be from Tom Brady" but, ya know…
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 18, 2020
Byrd, 27, is coming off a career-year in Arizona where he caught 32 passes for 359 yards and one touchdown over 11 games. He really came on strong at the end of the season, catching 14 of the 15 passes that went his way over the final three games for 171 yards and a touchdown.
Before his breakout year with the Cardinals, Byrd spent his first three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2016 out of South Carolina. Injuries hampered his days in Carolina, with Byrd playing just 17 games over those three seasons. He caught just 12 passes as a member of the Panthers.
But what likely drew the Patriots to Byrd was his track record as a return man. He was solid at kickoff returns for the Panthers, especially in 2017 when he returned seven kicks for 229 yards over eight games. That included a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which set a Panthers franchise record. He’s only returned six kicks over the last two years, but that could be his ticket onto the Patriots roster.
Byrd’s speed shouldn’t be a surprise, as he was a two-sport star at South Carolina, running track during the offseason.
We’ll see how Byrd fits with New England’s new-look offense, which won’t be led by Tom Brady for the first time in 20 years.