INDIANAPOLIS – With just one experienced option under contract, the Patriots have an apparent need at wide receiver. Julian Edelman is the lone returner at the position, and he will soon be 33 years old.
While the team has three pending free agents in Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson to ponder, there is also a pair of big names who have been rumored to be available this offseason.
Pittsburgh's ongoing soap opera with dynamic All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown has been one of the biggest storylines nationally since the Super Bowl. Brown has done everything he can to make sure the Steelers have to deal him, even meeting recently with owner Art Rooney and agreeing that a deal would likely be in the best interests of both parties.
The Scouting Combine could serve as a critical step in that process as more than a few high-profile deals got there starts in Indy over the years. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert addressed the topic on Wednesday, and interestingly didn't dismiss the possibility of a reconciliation between Brown and the team.
However, he also indicated that no team would be out of the mix and that he would opt for the best option if a trade were consummated.
"Ideally, you want to trade him to somebody you'll never play which you can't do that because if you're good enough to get to a Super Bowl, you'll have to play him anyway," Colbert said. "The less you would play him, the better, but if a team comes through with the best compensation, we have to balance that out.
"OK, we're going to play him twice a year, but we're going to get the best compensation, so it's our job to do the better job with the compensation. And you have to weigh that all into the discussion, so we haven't eliminated anybody."
Colbert was asked if the Patriots had expressed any interest in acquiring Brown, and the GM wouldn't reveal any teams that had called.
"If there's something done to benefit both sides, great," Colbert said. "If not, then we'll deal with that when we get to it.
"The last time I spoke, I think I said three teams," Colbert said. "What I would say is that interest has grown. And it'll continue to go one way or the other because as we're here at the Combine we're learning about alternatives to your current team."
The other big-ticket wideout possibly available is Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants mercurial receiver signed a five-year, $95 million contract last summer but some believe he could be a trade candidate this offseason. More importantly for New England, many believe the Patriots would be a likely option.
But once again the guy making the decisions, in this case Giants GM Dave Gettleman, sang a different tune at the Combine.
"We didn't sign Odell to trade him," Gettleman said, reiterating a statement he made during his post-season press conference almost a month ago. "That's all I need to say about that."
So, while the Patriots would appear to have a significant need at receiver, the idea of picking up Brown or Beckham would appear to be longshots.