FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are particularly thin at wide receiver, which sparks an obvious question: What are some possibilities to fortify the position?
To answer the question, it helps to put oneself in the position of Dave Ziegler, the Patriots’ director of pro scouting. Ziegler’s job is to keep tabs on all NFL rosters, identifying potential trade targets in a similar way as Bob Quinn once did when the club landed impact acquisitions such as defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in 2015, and linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers the year before.
A quick scan around the NFL reveals that there isn't a lot of quality wide-receiver depth, although all it takes is one team to make an impact player available. There is also the free-agent market -- I don’t view Dez Bryant as a likely possibility in New England -- and that isn't plentiful, either. Surely, the club will also be monitoring the waiver wire.
Combining all those avenues, here are some possibilities that caught the eye:
Familiar faces: The Saints might not have room for veteran Michael Floyd, who was with the Patriots briefly at the end of the 2016 season, and so his learning curve presumably wouldn’t be as steep as others. Also, Brandon LaFell is one of the top available free agents (along with Jeremy Maclin), and he had a solid 2014 season in New England before things tailed off in 2015. In Tampa Bay, slot receiver/punt returner Bernard Reedy is also on the roster bubble, and he knows the Patriots well from having spent time with them late in the 2017 season and into the playoffs. Any of the three wouldn’t provide a decisive answer, but their background in the system puts them on the radar.
Special teams adds to decision-making process: Slot receiver/punt returner Tommylee Lewis -- a former teammate of Jacoby Brissett in high school -- appears to be fighting for a roster spot in New Orleans, and he has some of the quickness that could fill a void in the Patriots’ interior passing game. He had a 16-yard catch-and-run against the Patriots last season, and in 2016 had been recommended to the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois by Bill Parcells. In addition to Lewis, recently waived Seahawks receiver Tanner McEvoy would fit a similar bill, as he has played a lot of special-teams snaps the past two seasons and could add depth as a vertical target in the passing game.
Players with top traits on the roster bubble: If 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman doesn’t make the cut in Buffalo, where he isn’t currently in the top four on the depth chart, his traits might be worthy of a closer look. The same goes for a player like 2016 third-round pick Leonte Carroo in Miami, as he also appears to be on the roster bubble. The Patriots have had an affinity for players from Rutgers in the past, and Carroo -- who has recently been managing a minor groin injury -- seemed to fit their profile coming out of the draft.