From afar, it certainly looks like the Patriots need to make a major investment at the wide receiver position this offseason.
While Jakobi Meyers may be graded as the 25th best receiver in football according to Pro Football Focus and soon-to-be-35-year-old Julian Edelman may return to action, New England has a significant lack of overall talent at the position. The cupboard is borderline bare and the future is borderline bleak.
Many wonder, though, if Bill Belichick is willing to make that investment.
If history is any clue, then the answer is a resounding Yes!
Belichick is, after all, the guy who drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round just two years ago.
He’s the man who sent a second-round pick to the Falcons for Mohamed Sanu prior to the 2019 NFL trade deadline less than two months after signing Antonio Brown to a contract that included more than $9 million in guaranteed money after he’d been deservedly sent packing by the Raiders.
But maybe the most notable investment at wide receiver was Brandin Cooks. Belichick shipped a first-round pick to the Saints for the 1,000-yard pass catcher with hopes that he’d become the dynamic centerpiece of the Patriots passing game. Had things worked out as hoped, it’s believed that Belichick was very much willing to invest in Cooks for the long term with a contract in line with exploding market value, a deal that may have topped $15 million a year.
Now, things obviously didn’t work out as hoped with Cooks. He was fine for the Patriots in 2017, hauling in 65 passes from Tom Brady for 1,082 yards with seven touchdowns.
It was a good but not great season, the kind the receiver has become known for as he’s bounced around the league. So Belichick flipped Cooks to the Rams for a first-round pick, L.A. then giving the receiver five-year, $81 million contract that maybe the Patriots would have been on the hook for had Cooks proven more worthy during his single season in Foxborough.
As he’s shown over the years at just about every position, Belichick is more than willing to invest elite money in players worthy of the cash. Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins proved that in the past. Stephon Gilmore is a more recent example.
Cooks could have joined that list as a receiver if he’d been a more productive, dominant force in New England.
He wasn’t. So Belichick moved on and is still searching for the centerpiece of the Patriots passing attack. Time will tell if he attacks that ongoing need with Cooks-like aggression again this offseason.