Patriots Warned to ‘Avoid’ Top Free Agent WR

Getty Mike Williams

Who wouldn’t want a big-bodied, athletic, and productive wide receiver who has proven he can be everything the New England Patriots hoped N’Keal Harry would evolve into?

Well, at least one NFL analyst believes free-agent WR Mike Williams is a player the Patriots should avoid. Williams is one of the top free-agent WRs, but Bleacher Report’s Joe Tansey would prefer a guy who has already been his team’s top option.

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“Mike Williams earned himself money on the free-agent market with an 1,146-yard, nine-touchdown season with the Los Angeles Chargers,” Tansey wrote. “Williams comes into free agency with two 1,000-yard seasons in the last three years. However, those numbers came as the No. 2 target in a pass-friendly offense. New England needs a bonafide No. 1 player at the position, and that may be a fine detail that keeps it away from Williams.”

A strong argument could be made that Williams is a No. 1 receiver who just hasn’t had the chance to perform in that role because of the presence of Keenan Allen. The Chargers’ 29-year-old star has averaged 149.6 targets per season over the past five years. Allen’s five-year run runs parallel with Williams’ entire career, which has been spent entirely in L.A.

Williams has averaged just 78.6 targets in his career. He had 129 in 2021 which is a career-high and the only time Williams has eclipsed 100 targets in a season.

“Williams could be a strong No. 1 wide receiver anywhere in the league, but the Patriots might be more comfortable with adding a player that already filled the role,” Tansey contends. “The New England brass could be scarred by the failed draft pick of N’Keal Harry, and it may not be patient with a new signing getting accustomed to the top spot on the depth chart. New England might be more inclined to go after Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, or Odell Beckham Jr. to land a defined top receiver to help Mac Jones in his second season.”

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Adams should be every team’s No. 1 option when it comes to free-agent WR, but his price tag will likely push him out of the Patriots’ comfort zone. Robinson is a solid thought and Beckham will now be coming off yet another torn ACL.

Williams seems like one of the safer options for the Patriots if they are seeking a No. 1 threat especially when it comes to establishing a downfield threat.

Why Mike Williams Might Be Ready to Be a No. 1

In the history of the NFL, players who have been relegated to No. 2 WR roles have found a way to flourish once given the opportunity to be the No. 1 option.

Indianapolis Colts great Reggie Wayne was the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Marvin Harrison each of the first five years of his career. Injuries and aging began to take a toll on Harrison in 2007 and Wayne took over as the team’s top option. Wayne remained the man with the Colts for most of the rest of his career which ended in 2014. Some might have believed he couldn’t handle being the No. 1 guy, but Wayne registered the only first-team All-Pro season of his career in 2007.

Perhaps Williams could have a similar journey only he might find his best years in a uniform outside of L.A.

Other Free-Agent WR Options For the Patriots

Tansey mentioned Robinson and Adams, but the Patriots seem more apt to go after a player who would qualify as a low-risk, high-reward player.

Keep an eye on guys like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ DJ Chark. Injuries have been a major factor for Chark, but when healthy, he has been productive. Chark had 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and 8 TDs in 2019. That was his best season. Over the last two seasons, he has missed 17 games. Because of his lack of durability, he might have to settle for a prove-it deal.

That’s usually right up the Patriots’ alley.

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