Patriots Could Turn to 7-Time Pro Bowl WR After DeAndre Hopkins’ Decision

Robert Kraft

Getty Patriots owner Robert Kraft could find another quality option at wide receiver in lieu of DeAndre Hopkins.

While the New England Patriots missed out on star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the team can still find a proven receiver in free agency.

Hopkins will sign a two-year, $26 million deal with Tennessee Titans, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Instead of Hopkins, Bleacher Report’s Doric Sam floated recent Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Julio Jones as a possibility for New England.

“While the 34-year-old is not the bonafide No. 1 option he once was, he can still be productive in the right situation,” Sam wrote.

“Jones appeared in 10 games for the Bucs and recorded 24 catches for 299 yards and two touchdowns while playing behind the vaunted receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin last year,” Sam added. “The seven-time Pro Bowler would be a reliable possession receiver and red-zone threat thanks to his 6’4″ frame.”

Jones still averages 14.2 yards per reception over the past three seasons. That’s amid injury-shortened seasons where he played 10 or fewer games per year.

The Bucs signed Jones last season as part of a final Super Bowl chase with former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that didn’t pan out in the end. Jones only made $6 million with the Bucs in 2022, and the Patriots still have $17.74 million in salary cap space.

Julio Jones Could Finish Career in Ironic Fashion With Patriots

If Jones came to New England, he would play for head coach Bill Belichick more than a decade after the coach attempted to talk the Atlanta Falcons out of the star receiver. Belichick advised former colleague and then-Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff not to make a trade for Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Again, I really don’t see any point in going back over that conversation. It was a long time ago,” Belichick said via NFL Network in 2017 as transcribed by NESN  before the Patriots Super Bowl comeback  win over the Falcons.

“But I have great respect for Julio Jones, and I had a lot of conversations with [Alabama] coach [Nick] Saban about Julio. Nothing but positive things about the player, and from what I have observed, the way that he plays and competes, he is one of the top players in the league.”

Jones had four receptions for 87 yards in that game when the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 hole to beat the Falcons in overtime. The Patriots ironically trolled the Falcons in their Threads debut recently, and the NFL posted and deleted that full Super Bowl game on Twitter recently, too.

Not All Is Lost for Patriots

The Patriots’ missing out on Hopkins doesn’t dash the team’s hopes of striving for lofty goals this season as NESN’s Jason Ounpraseuth sees it.

“New England still is in solid shape, but Hopkins could have been a vital asset to the passing game and could have been a big help to Mac Jones in his third season,” Ounpraseuth wrote.

The Patriots will look to JuJu Smith-Schuster as the top pass catcher despite his knee injury from last season. DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and Kendrick Bourne likewise will need to step up after lackluster performances in 2022.