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USA Today Sports Media Group
Jordy McElroy

7 standout wide receivers Patriots could still target in free agency

The wide receiver market is thinning in free agency with Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tee Higgins being franchise tagged and Mike Evans signing a two-year deal to stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Those are two big-ticket options gone for the receiver-needy New England Patriots.

But there’s no need to hit the panic button. There are still plenty of wide receiver options that could give the Patriots a major boost in free agency. Some even have the potential to sit at the top of the depth chart in the coveted No. 1 receiving role.

With Higgins and Evans off the table, here are seven standout receivers the Patriots could still pursue in free agency.

Michael Pittman Jr., Colts

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Michael Pittman Jr. is the best available free agent wide receiver left, and the Patriots should fight tooth-and-nail for his services. He caught 109 passes for 1,152 yards and four touchdowns last season with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew starting under center.

The fact that he’s only 26 years old is a major attribute from the Patriots’ perspective. They need a young, ascending talent that can grow in the offense, which could have a rookie quarterback under center in 2024. Pittman could be the present and future for New England.

Calvin Ridley, Jaguars

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Calvin Ridley obviously didn’t lose a step in his time away from football. After missing most of the 2021 season and all of 2022, the former first-round draft pick linked up with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence in his return for 1,016 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Ridley uses his size well in coverage, and his hands are sticky when fighting for receptions. He likely wouldn’t cost as much on the open market as Michael Pittman Jr., but he could still offer elite play at the receiver position.

Marquise Brown, Cardinals

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Kyler Murray returning didn’t suddenly make everything click for Arizona Cardinals star receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Despite appearing in 14 games, Brown turned in his worst season in the NFL with 51 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns.

No, he didn’t have Murray for the majority of those games, but he also didn’t have DeAndre Hopkins eating up most of the receiving targets.

The good news for Brown is he’s still young and talented enough to turn things around. At 26 years old, he would give the Patriots another speedy option, along with Demario Douglas, to attack opposing defenses.

Odell Beckham Jr., Ravens

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There was a time when Odell Beckham Jr. was considered a dream wide receiver target for the Patriots. Things are obviously different now that he is 31 years old. He’s no longer a viable No. 1 option, but he’d still be a solid contributor in the right offense.

He hauled in 35 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns with the Baltimore Ravens in 2023. If he’s looking to contribute and pass on his great knowledge to a younger team, the Patriots could be a nice fit. But it’s more than likely Beckham would much rather play for a contender than a rookie signal-caller for a rebuilding Patriots team.

Curtis Samuel, Commanders

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The quarterback play has been shaky in Washington, but Curtis Samuel still delivered a strong season as a secondary option behind Terry McLaurin.

Free agency shouldn’t be considered a one-stop shop for an elite No. 1 wide receiver. The Patriots would improve their receiving corps significantly with a player like Samuel and a high-end draft prospect.

They could even pair Samuel with Michael Pittman Jr., while focusing on quarterback, offensive line and tight end in the draft. Keep in mind, Samuel is only 27 years old. So the investment would make sense for the Patriots.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals

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Tyler Boyd’s ability to still find ways to stand out in an offense with two No. 1 receivers is nothing short of amazing. Despite playing behind Cincinnati Bengals’ star wideouts Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Boyd still scrapped his way to 67 receptions for 667 yards and two touchdowns.

Like Curtis Samuel, he would make for a strong complementary option to a No. 1 receiver in the Patriots’ offense. Both options require investment in the receiver position, but then again, if the Patriots really have changed their roster-building philosophy, going after a player like Boyd, along with a No. 1 target, is a good way to prove it.

Gabriel Davis, Bills

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So far, Tyquan Thornton hasn’t lived up to his potential as a true home run threat for the Patriots’ offense. Thankfully, there’s another explosive wide receiver in the AFC East with the speed and dynamic playmaking ability to open up the passing game.

Buffalo Bills wideout Gabriel Davis could be quite the addition to a slow and plodding Patriots offense that lacks explosive players. He caught 45 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns last season. If things don’t work out in Buffalo, he could have two opportunities every season to get even in New England.

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