Outside of the punter position, there's no spot on the Patriots roster right now that is strictly a two-man race. After all, with 90 available slots, the team has been able to build depth across the board to make for some interesting positional battles when training camp begins.
But in evaluating Lavelle Hawkins, the subject of this morning's Bubble Watch entry, it's hard not to also think of Julian Edelman, each of whom was signed to an incentive-laden, free-agent contract this offseason.
In the case of Edelman, injury issues and depth at receiver have prevented him from carving out a consistent offensive role in four years in New England, but based on the current personnel on the roster, he may have a chance to play a bigger part in 2013.
Hawkins doesn't have any known injury issues right now, but the Patriots built in reception-based incentives into his two-year deal, which included $150,000 in guaranteed money (Edelman did not receive any).
As colleague Mike Rodak mentioned, Hawkins, like Edelman, also has previous experience as a returner, and we'll likely see him work there during the preseason.
He's also been a productive slot player for the Titans in previous seasons (he caught 47 passes in 2011), another area that Edelman is capable of working.
So, though the two are part of a much bigger receiver competition, this is one of the intriguing next-level positional battles to monitor when training camp opens up.
The Patriots need at least one of these two players to step up, as the receiver position faces an uncertain time right now. If the team turns to more three-receiver sets with Aaron Hernandez no longer on the roster, Hawkins, Edelman, rookie Josh Boyce and Donald Jones are all players who may see significant reps come camp.