NFL Rumors: New England Patriots Emerging as Favorite to Land Star Wide Receiver

The New England Patriots appear poised to make a rare splash at wide receiver. According to the Athletic's Jeff Howe, "there's optimism" the Patriots and free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will reach an agreement on a contract that will bring the five-time Pro Bowler to New England. The Patriots have an existing relationship in place with Hopkins: their offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was head coach of the Houston Texans from 2014 to 2020, an era that included four Pro Bowl seasons from Hopkins. 

O'Brien was actually in charge when the Texans dramatically traded Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Still, any worries that there are hard feelings about the split can be put to rest: ESPN's Diana Russini recently reported that there is "no animosity" between the two.

The Patriots have typically been hesitant to commit major resources to the wide receiver position, but they could certainly use some star power. After earning a Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie, quarterback Mac Jones regressed in 2023, averaging 214.1 passing yards per game with 5.81 net yards per passing attempt. The Patriots also lost leading pass catcher Jakobi Meyers in free agency, traded away tight end Jonnu Smith, and released wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

Still, parting ways with pieces of a broken offense may not be a bad thing. The Patriots ranked 26th in yards gained last season, and they've also already added Juju Smith-Schuster, who led all Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers in catches (78) and receiving yards (933) last season. Adding Hopkins as well could give the Patriots their most star-studded set of wide receivers since the days of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

That's assuming Hopkins still has the skills that made him a perennial Pro Bowler. Set to turn 31 years old before the beginning of the season, the three-time All-Pro has fallen off a bit from the peak of his powers, but he remains valuable when available: he averaged 67.8 receiving yards per game and 8.1 yards per target over 19 appearances from 2021 to 2022. However, availability has been an issue: he has missed 15 games over that same span due to injuries and a PED suspension.

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