The Patriots wasted little time after the NFL Combine in trimming the roster, the traditional time to do so, first informing Brian Tyms that he won’t be offered a Restricted Free Agent offer, then cutting WR Brandon LaFell and TE Scott Chandler on Wednesday.
LaFell was in the third and final year of a deal that was to pay him $2.8 million. The Patriots will take a $1 million-dollar cap hit with his release. LaFell had a very successful 2014 season where he had over 1000 yards receiving combined in the regular season and playoffs. He had the game winning catch against the Ravens in the Divisional Playoff Game, and then had the opening score in Super Bowl XLIX.
He suffered a foot injury that required surgery in the off-season and missed all of spring and summer workouts, and the loss of training camp time was crucial. His first game back against the Jets in Foxboro was a disaster, dropping six balls. It was a slow start that he never seemed to recover from. He finished with 37 catches for 515 yards and most importantly zero touchdowns on the season.
He struggled all season and his frustration level in the playoffs rose after the win over Kansas City where he spoke very little after the win. The next week in Denver, he wasn’t targeted at all in the Patriots loss and the writing was on the wall.
His release was somewhat of a surprise as his struggles seemed injury related, but the team must have felt that it time to move on.
Chandler was released after reportedly failing his physical according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. He too was a major disappointment in 2015, after his signing last spring as a free agent. His release saves the Patriots $2.05 million and they will also carry a $1million-dollar cap hit on his contract.
There was hopes that the Patriots would use the two-tight end offense with the big targets of Chandler and Rob Gronkowski this past season, giving QB Tom Brady two huge targets, especially in the red zone.
After spending a lot of time working with the two in spring and summer workouts, the dual tight end threat never materialized. Chandler caught just 23 passes on 42 targets this season. He battled knee injuries down the stretch and it no doubt limited his effectiveness, but more production was expected.
Tyms was the underdog everyone rooted for and seemed to have a roster spot nailed down in training camp before an injury derailed his season.
Now the receiver position as we mentioned a month ago is even in a deeper state of need of an overhaul. With the contract situation of Danny Amendola still needing to be looked at, and his own roster position not a given yet, the need for youth, speed and size just got even more important.
As it stands now the Patriots Wide Receiver position has:
Aaron Dobson (IR)
Josh Boyce (IR)
Matthew Slater (ST)
In our earlier piece we mentioned some free agents that could be of interest to the Patriots. Those may include Mohamed Sanu and/or Marvin Jones from Cincinnati, Rueben Randle from the Giants, Rishard Matthews from the Dolphins and Chris Hogan from the Bills. Brandon Gibson who was with the team in training camp before going on IR is a free agent and a candidate to return as well. A longshot case could be made for the Seahawks Jermaine Kearse who is only 25 but his price tag will probably be out of the Patriots price range.
The team will most definitely need a secondary target behind Gronkowski at tight end now. The currently have him, blocker Michael Williams and converted QB A.J. Derby who was placed on IR last summer.
There are a number of intriguing WR options for the Patriots that will be available in the NFL Draft that seem like they’d be good fits. Both Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas from Ohio State, Josh Doctson from TCU although he’ll probably be long gone before the Patriots pick at #60.
One player who looks like he would be a great fit is Stanford’s Devon Cajuste. The 6’4, 234-pound wide receiver had little production in the Cardinal’s run-heavy offense but has great hands, is a willing, able blocker and ran a very impressive 6.49 in the 3-Cone Drill.
We’ll have more on these prospects as we get closer to the draft but with these moves on Wednesday, the need for better depth at the receiver position for Brady and the Patriots offense just got a little more pressing. They undoubtedly will address the position in both free agency and the draft. They can use an influx of youth, size and speed for Brady’s targets to go along with their smaller quicker ones now.
And so it begins…
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 free agents 2016 NFL Combine 2016 NFL off-season 2016 Patriots Draft 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Aaron Dobson Brandon Gibson Brandon LaFell Braxton Miller Brian Tyms Danny Amendola Devon Cajuste Josh Boyce Josh Doctson Julian Edelman Keshawn Martin Michael Thomas New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots wide receivers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady