Patriots Officially Decline Option for Disappointing WR

Getty N'Keal Harry

Throughout his three-year career, N’Keal Harry has been criticized for his inability to create separation from opposing defenders. It appears the New England Patriots are trying to separate from the disappointing young receiver.

The Patriots officially moved one step closer to cutting ties with Harry.

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Pro Football Focus’ Ari Meirov listed Harry among 11 players drafted in 2019’s first round whose teams declined their fifth-year option heading into 2022.

Does this mean Harry definitely won’t be with the Patriots in 2022? No, but it does mean he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agency after the season, making it much easier for the Patriots to release or trade him, as they did Sony Michel just before the start of the 2021 campaign.

N’Keal Harry Hasn’t Lived Up to His Potential

To say Harry, 24, has been a disappointment since being selected 32nd overall in the 2019 is an understatement. He has not become the downfield threat he was projected to be coming out of Arizona State, and his production has been dwarfed by others in his draft class – including his teammate Jakobi Meyers, who was signed as an undrafted free agent.

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The accomplishments of 2019 draftees A.J. Brown (second round), Deebo Samuel (second round) and D.K. Metcalf (second round) have made Harry an easy mark for critics because of his lack of production.

Among eligible players drafted in 2019, Harry ranks 22nd in receptions. Every player ranked above him in that category was drafted after Harry, and that includes two fifth-rounders (Hunter Renfrow and Darius Slayton), a sixth-round running back (Ty Johnson) and a seventh-round back (Myles Gaskin).

Harry’s Agent: Positive Signs in Trade Talks

Ahead of the 2021 season, Harry and his agent, Jamal Tooson, requested a trade, but the Patriots didn’t move him. Instead, Harry spent another mostly non-productive season lower on the Patriots’ depth chart, totaling 184 yards on 12 receptions. He was targeted only 22 times, which ranked sixth on the Patriots.

Still, according to Tooson, there is some reason for optimism. Tooson said he has had “positive dialogue” with the Patriots about the team pursuing a trade to get his client a fresh start elsewhere.

Several teams could consider giving Harry, who is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, a second chance. However, it remains to be seen whether a team would be willing to part ways with even a late-round pick for a player who hasn’t proved he can make an impact in the NFL.

It seems more likely Harry would be released to sign with a team that would give him a chance to make an impact. Don’t rule out Harry possibly landing with the Chicago Bears, where quarterback Justin Fields does not have proven wide receivers to throw to.

“While Darnell Mooney is a good receiver coming off two productive seasons, the depth behind him is suspect,” wrote Bernd Buchmasser in an April 5 story for SB Nation’s Pats Pulpit about Harry’s potential trade destinations. “At the moment, free agency additions Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown projects as the next best options. It goes without saying that additional upgrades are needed.”

With the Bears, Harry could be a low-risk, high-reward signing for a team at the genesis of a rebuild.

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