The New England Patriots didn’t have a star-studded wide receiver group in 2020, but Damiere Byrd was one of the top performers. The 28-year-old speedster’s exit from New England is official after signing a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears on May 5.
The Bears announced the signing on their official Twitter account:
During the 2020 season, Byrd caught a career-high 47 passes for 604 yards, which was also the most he’d ever had in a single NFL season. Byrd also caught one TD, a marvelously thrown ball from Cam Newton, and an even better over-the-shoulder catch.
Take a look:
According to Over the Cap, Byrd’s deal with the Bears is a one-year pact for just under $1 million. That’s $700,000 less than what the Patriots gave him for one season in 2020.
The Patriots didn’t appear to be interested in bringing him back.
The Patriots May Miss His Speed
As Patriots coaches and Byrd’s teammates would attest, the veteran wide receiver’s route running and play recognition are strong. However, his speed is still his biggest asset.
The Patriots may have a tough time finding someone on their roster capable of stretching the field like Byrd.
Byrd’s former teammate with the Carolina Panthers and Patriots Cam Newton had great things to say about him during the 2020 season, via Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.
“I just wanted to appreciate his professionalism and his evolving of a player, a football player that is, and he’s just been great,” Newton said. “A guy who understands this offense, a guy who has been learning so much, a guy who has just taken an opportunity and tried to make the most of it. Like I said, I saw when Damiere first stepped in the locker room as a wide-eyed rookie not knowing who to kind of cling on to. But for him, the moment is never too big and every year he’s gotten better, and I think he has his best football still set ahead of him.”
It will sting a bit if Byrd builds on what he did with the Patriots in 2020 and rides the vibe into an even better season with the Bears.
Do the Patriots Have Enough at WR?
The Patriots did a ton of work in the offseason to add weapons for Newton to throw to in 2021. In addition to signing two top tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, New England also inked wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.
Musket Fire’s Thomas Carannante sees the additions of Bourne and Agholor as an overall upgrade over Byrd and most of the rest of the Patriots’ receivers.
Though Byrd only signed a one-year deal — again, the Patriots could have done that, but their ample cap space allowed them to do more — it’s at least nice to see his success in Foxborough opened another team’s eyes. They helped one another out. The Patriots realized giving Newton two more skilled and mature versions of Byrd could help elevate the offense in an upcoming campaign that will have playoff-or-bust aspirations.
Size seemingly matters to the Patriots as that is one of the most significant differences between Byrd and the players New England is going with in the passing game. New England is looking to find big targets for Newton, which is the kind of player he’s had success with in the past when you look at players like Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, and Kelvin Benjamin.
Byrd doesn’t fit into that physical archetype, but he could be primed for a good season in Chicago.
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