Examining the Patriots’ options to address their need for a No. 1 receiver

A look at the Patriots' options for adding a go-to receiver via trade, draft, or free agency.

Bengals receiver Tee Higgins goes up for a pass against New England's Jonathan Jones during a game in 2022. Nick Grace/Getty Images

The Patriots addressed a major offseason need last month by bringing in Bill O’Brien to take over as offensive coordinator.

Another task that could be high up on Bill Belichick’s to-do list is to upgrade the wide receiver position.

The Patriots do have some pieces there already.

DeVante Parker has shown a knack for winning 50-50 battles on deep passes downfield. Tyquan Thornton certainly has the speed to succeed, but it remains to be seen how the rest of his game will come along. Kendrick Bourne struggled last year in a dysfunctional offense but had 800 yards receiving from Mac Jones in 2021.


Last season, Jakobi Meyers was the only Patriot with more than 600 yards receiving, and with Meyers as one of the top free agents this offseason, New England could use quite a bit more production from the position.

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t just rush for more yards than any patriots receiver gained through the air, Stevenson led the team in catches too.

The Patriots are missing a No. 1 option at receiver, a go-to player who Jones can rely on with the physical gifts to create scoring opportunities on his own.

Here’s a look at some of the possibilities that have been floated by experts recently.

Via a trade

The Patriots could attempt to upgrade the WR 1 spot with a trade, and there are a range of possibilities rumored to be reasonable.

Brandin Cooks

Pros: Cooks has topped 1,000 yards receiving in six of the last eight seasons, including 2017 during his first stint in New England. He’s also familiar with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who was his head coach for a few games in Houston before O’Brien was fired. Cooks seems like he would fit in easily and wouldn’t cost too much in terms of picks to acquire.

Cons: Cooks has two years left on his deal and would carry a $26.4 million cap hit in 2023, and a $24.6 million cap hit in 2024 according to Spotrac. Taking that on would be an expensive move for a smaller receiver who turns 30 in September.


Rumored asking price: Third-round pick, according to Pro Football Focus.

DeAndre Hopkins

Pros: When healthy, Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league. An electric athlete with elite ball skills, Hopkins is the kind of player who can snag double-digit touchdown catches and more than 1,300 yards. As Bill Belichick once said, “he catches everything.”

Cons: Hopkins has missed 18 games over the past two seasons and hasn’t performed at an All-Pro level since 2020. His cap hit is north of $30 million, so paying that kind of cash along with the injury risk means that whoever acquires him must be confident that he can stay healthy.

Rumored asking price: A Day 2 pick, according to Albert Breer of the MMQB.

Tee Higgins

Pros: A big, young, talented receiver who can continue to grow with Mac Jones and this young Patriots team. He’s on a cap-friendly deal that expires after this season. He’s averaging just over 1,000 yards a season and six touchdowns despite Jamarr Chase being the No. 1 option in Cincinnati.

Cons: It’s probably going to cost a first-round pick and then some to acquire a talent like Higgins. Who knows if Cincinnati is even interested in dealing him? It’s also going to cost a lot of cash to keep him after this year.


Rumored asking price: First-round pick, and a fourth-round pick, according to Pro Football Focus.

Keenan Allen

Pros: Allen is a five-time Pro Bowler who puts up consistent numbers. He’s a big, physical receiver who can make tough catches. He made 97 or more catches in five of the last six seasons.

Cons: He takes up a lot of targets. Last year was the first time he’s had less than 136 passes thrown to him. A somewhat pricey option with two years left on a 4-year, $80 million deal.

Rumored asking price: Probably a package centered around draft picks, but teams may wait to see if Los Angeles cuts him due to his salary cap situation, according to The Athletic.

Jerry Jeudy

Pros: The third-year Alabama product is coming off the best season of his young career, catching 67 passes for 972 yards and six touchdowns. He bounced back nicely last year when he only made five starts and didn’t score a touchdown.

Cons: There isn’t much evidence of a consistent body of work. Two of his three years in Denver have been solid. A former first-round pick on a relatively affordable contact that has shown some flashes of what he could become might require an expensive asking price.

Rumored asking price: Unclear.

Through the NFL Draft

The Patriots have the No. 14 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which could theoretically be used to try to find a playmaker at the position. Ten of the Patriots’ 20 first-round picks since 2001 have either been offensive or defensive linemen, but they’ve occasionally taken swings at skill players such as N’Keal Harry in 2019.


Some receivers who have routinely popped up on Patriots mock drafts at No. 14 are:

Quentin Johnston, TCU: Johnston is a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound receiver who helped bring TCU to it’s first College Football Playoff appearance this season. Think size, speed [a reported 4.3 4- yard dash], and upside here.

Jordan Addison, USC: Addison won the Bilitnikoff award, which honors college football’s top wide receiver, in 2021. One of the more polished pass catchers in this year’s class, Addison’s route running, ball skills, and overall athleticism make him stand out.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Penn State: The 2022 Rose Bowl MVP missed all but three games this season due to a hamstring injury. The former five-star and top-50 recruit is Ohio State’s all-time leader in single-season receiving yards and receptions.

Zay Flowers, Boston College: A speedy slot receiver who is elusive in the open field. A former three-star recruit who found his footing at Boston College, Flowers has been steadily climbing up draft boards as of late.

Spend through free agency

According to ESPN, New England’s Meyers is the top wide receiver in this year’s free-agent class.

That means if the Patriots want to add a No. 1 guy beyond what they already have, they’ll probably have to draft the player or make a trade.

Meyers said at the end of the season that he wants to come back. The Patriots will have to make a decision on how far they’re willing to go to keep him here.

Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus projected that Meyers could command a deal for around four years and $64 million.


Other than Meyers, notable free-agent receivers include DJ Chark and JuJu Smith-Schuster.


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