Free-agent fit: Wide receiver

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
5:00
AM ET
Jason Avant, Julian Edelman, and Emmanuel SandersGetty ImagesJason Avant, Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders are all possible fits for the Patriots.
Fourth installment in a multipart series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 11.

Position: Wide receiver

Players under contract for 2014: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Mark Harrison, Greg Orton, T.J. Moe, Reggie Dunn

Level of need: Moderate

Projected top targets: Jason Avant (Eagles), Julian Edelman (Patriots), Emmanuel Sanders (Steelers)

Why Avant fits: Released by the Eagles on Tuesday, he is a respected veteran who was considered a lockerroom leader, and also a strong special teams player. Based on the youth the Patriots have at the position, adding a veteran such as Avant could be a nice complement on the back end of the depth chart.

Why Edelman fits: He is coming off a 105-catch season, knows the Patriots’ system, and is a top-notch punt returner. The issue is whether or not the Patriots would feel comfortable having him and Amendola on similar contracts, given their somewhat similar skill sets.

Why Sanders fits: The Patriots signed him to a restricted free agent offer sheet last year which was matched by the Steelers. He’s an inside-outside threat with good run-after-the-catch ability.

Other names of note: Kenny Britt (Titans), Nate Burleson (Lions), Austin Collie (Patriots), Jerricho Cotchery (Steelers), Eric Decker (Bears), Devin Hester (Bears), Jacoby Jones (Ravens), James Jones (Packers), Dexter McCluster (Chiefs), Hakeem Nicks (Giants), Andre Roberts (Cardinals), Ted Ginn (Panthers), Brandon LaFell (Panthers), Mario Manningham (49ers), Sidney Rice (Seahawks), Golden Tate (Seahawks), Tiquan Underwood (Buccaneers)

Franchise tag: none

Market conditions: With such a strong draft class, some are projecting that the free-agent market might be a bit soft. Still, there is no shortage of options.

Questions to answer at the position: Will Danny Amendola have a fully healthy 2014 season? Are the Patriots seriously considering trading Amendola? Can Aaron Dobson make the jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and become a top outside threat? Will Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce make a similar jump? Could T.J. Moe, a coveted undrafted free agent who spent 2013 on injured reserve, work his way into the mix?

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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