Why the timing is right for Patriots to explore Reggie Wayne option

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL opener in 18 days, and their wide receiver depth chart is filled with question marks from a health perspective. Only Danny Amendola, who at this point last year was considered an injury risk, is a sure thing right now.

This is the mix that has led the club to bring veteran receiver Reggie Wayne to town for a physical, as first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Timing is a big part of the Patriots' exploration with Wayne, as things are moving fast with the opener in mind.

Top receiver Julian Edelman has been out since Aug. 2 with a lower leg injury. The expectation is that he'll be ready for the opener, but it never hurts to consider fallback options if that situation trends in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell remains on the physically unable to perform list. He was spotted with a boot on his left foot this offseason, and while the club fully expects him back, the fact he's yet to practice can't be overlooked. If LaFell isn't back within the next week, it's going to be hard for the coaching staff to make him part of the plans for the opener.

Then there's No. 4 candidate Aaron Dobson, who has been sidelined by a reported hamstring injury the last two weeks. Can the team rely on him? Confidence can't be particularly high based on his recent injury history.

His primary competition for a backup role, Brian Tyms, sustained a foot injury last Wednesday and his season is in jeopardy. Fellow veteran Brandon Gibson, another competitor for a top backup role, limped off with a knee injury in Saturday's preseason game and said all he could do was "pray for the best."

That's why Wayne is now on the team's radar.

There is varied opinion in the scouting community about how much Wayne has left in the tank, but what isn't debated is how smart he is and that he's a professional route-runner with a history of playing in big games.

There's a big one coming up in 18 days, and the Patriots have significant questions at receiver.

Wayne as a Patriot? It would hardly be surprising if that's the way it turns out.