FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Every roster move made by an NFL team has a domino effect, and with this in mind, Tuesday's news that New England Patriots wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is retiring sparked the following question: Which players could potentially benefit most from the decision?
Undrafted rookie Austin Carr, the Big Ten receiver of the year in 2016, comes to mind as a top candidate.
To begin, Hawkins was viewed to be on the bubble to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, as his situation was called a "wild card" because his chances of sticking might have been tied to the health of other receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. But looking ahead to training camp practices, he projected to be the first receiver in drills after those considered locks to make it: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Hawkins did his best work on the inside part of the field during his career, and that's also where Carr caught the eye at times in spring practices with the Patriots. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Carr had impressive production at Northwestern, where he set the single-season school record as a senior with 1,247 receiving yards and finished tied for second with 90 receptions. He also tied the Northwestern single-season record with 12 receiving touchdowns.
In May, Carr explained his decision to sign with the Patriots after the draft.
"Feeling like I could learn from the veterans here, feeling like I could learn from some amazing wide receivers, and then also knowing that it's a franchise that wins," he said. "I don't want to just go to the NFL; I want to go and I want to contribute to a team winning. I felt like I could especially do that here."
While the Patriots could always bring in another experienced receiver, as it stands now, the path for Carr to contribute became a bit clearer after Hawkins' retirement.