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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Examining Patriots' WR options

By James Walker

If the season started today, the New England Patriots' starting receivers would be Donald Jones and Danny Amendola. It’s fair to say that is not good enough for the Patriots to try to make another Super Bowl run next season.

New England has to upgrade its thin group of receivers. It can come via the draft or with what’s left in free agency.

Let’s take a look at who is available:

Emmanuel Sanders

2012 stats: 44 receptions, 626 yards, one TD

Thoughts: The Patriots hosted a visit with Sanders and are considering an offer sheet for the restricted free agent of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders would be a nice find for New England. The Steelers have a tight salary cap and would be hard-pressed to match a good offer. If Pittsburgh cannot match, it would cost New England a third-round pick. The Patriots are keeping this option in mind.

Julian Edelman

2012 stats: 21 receptions, 235 yards, three TDs

Thoughts: Edelman was showing solid growth in New England last season. He’s a terror on special teams and was making strides as a slot receiver. But both roles have been filled by New England in free agency. The Patriots signed return specialist Leon Washington to take over the kick return duties, and Amendola to fill the slot. There might not be a role left for Edelman in New England except to add depth.

Brandon Lloyd

2012 stats: 74 receptions, 911, four TDs

Thoughts: Yes, the Patriots just released Lloyd. But the reasons were financial, not schematic. New England wanted Lloyd on the roster, but simply did not want to pay him a $3 million roster bonus. The sides could not reach a resolution in time and parted ways. Lloyd’s priority is to see if he can get a sizable contract elsewhere. But if nothing attractive comes to fruition, it’s not impossible for Lloyd and the Patriots to talk about a reunion at a team-friendly rate.

NFL draft

Thoughts: It's not a top-heavy draft for receivers this year. But there is depth available for New England, which has the No. 29 overall pick. Receivers such as Cal’s Keenan Allen and Baylor's Terrance Williams are possibilities. The issue with the draft is New England is in “win-now” mode. The Patriots don’t have a year or two to wait for a rookie to get up to speed. They need to draft one of the most NFL-ready prospects at receiver.