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Position Analysis: Wide receiver

Posted Mar 4, 2014

We continue our look at the roster with the wide receivers.


Wide receiver (11)
Julian Edelman (6th season)
Danny Amendola (6th season)
Aaron Dobson (2nd season)
Austin Collie (6th season)
Kenbrell Thompkins (2nd season)
Josh Boyce (2nd season)
Matthew Slater (7th season)
Reggie Dunn (1st season)
Mark Harrison (1st season)
T.J. Moe (1st season)
Greg Orton (1st season)

Bill Belichick stepped to the podium shortly after the draft had ended and explained how his team was in the midst of a “re-do” at the wide receiver position. Less than a year later, the changes at the position appear to be far from complete.

Belichick still has three youngsters in the fold with draft picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce as well as undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins all back and looking to build on their rookie seasons. But elsewhere there are some questions.

They start with Julian Edelman, who was far and away the team's most productive receiver in 2013 with 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged just 10.1 yards per catch, though, and now he's a week away from hitting the free agent market for the second straight year.

Unlike a year ago when he garnered little to no interest following four injury-plagued seasons in New England, Edelman should be in line to make some money this time around. He could be looking for something in the neighborhood of $5 million annually on a long-term deal, and the Patriots may not be willing to give it to him.

The biggest reason for that would be the presence of Danny Amendola, who signed a five-year, $28 million deal just a year ago but was limited to 54 catches for 633 yards and two touchdowns thanks to a painful groin problem that hampered him all season. Now Amendola's name has been floated by at least one national columnist as potential trade bait, and some have even wondered if the Patriots might cut ties with him altogether despite a sizable cap hit.

These financial matters will be of significance when dealing with the two predominantly slot receivers. Tying up too much money for two players with virtually the same skill set may not be the wisest choice. If Edelman does go it's reasonable to expect more from Amendola in 2014, provided he's healthy, which hasn't always been the case for the sixth-year veteran.

Of the three kids, Dobson appears to have the most upside. He has size and strength at 6-3, 200 pounds and showed glimpses of being a productive player. He finished with 37 catches for 519 yards (14-yard average) with four touchdowns. He got off to a slow start and then was hampered by a foot problem down the stretch so there's reason to believe his production could take a significant leap in Year 2.

Boyce is dynamic with the ball in his hands but didn't get many opportunities as a rookie. He made just nine catches for 121 yards and also was hampered by injuries. He appears to possess the skills to turn in some big plays but also showed concentration lapses during training camp when he failed to consistently catch some shorter passes.

Thompkins caught 32 balls for 466 yards (14.6-yard average) with four touchdowns – solid numbers for an unknown coming into camp. His production tailed off as the season progressed, though, and he appeared to be behind Dobson at season's end.

Veteran Austin Collie was on and off the roster throughout the season but was a reliable option in his limited chances. In the playoffs he emerged as the No. 2 option behind Edelman, but he is a free agent and his long-term future with the team is by no means a certainty. Depending on any offseason moves made at the position, Collie could get a chance to return.

Veteran Matthew Slater makes his money on special teams and is not really a receiving option. The rest of the current group includes unproven players who were with the team in some capacity a year ago but not on the active roster. Mark Harrison, T.J. Moe, Reggie Dunn and Greg Orton are all on the current roster and need strong offseasons to prove their worth.

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