Speedy Rookie WR Threat to Take N’Keal Harry’s Roster Spot

Getty N'Keal Harry

The New England Patriots suddenly have several wide receivers on their roster with intriguing talent.

If they trade for Julio Jones, the depth chart will only get deeper. There is a potential sleeper ready to rise in seventh-round pick Tre Nixon hungry for a spot. N’Keal Harry might be the most vulnerable veteran.

With Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers virtual locks to make the roster, the other two or three available spots at wide receiver could come down to Harry, Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Gunner Olszewski, and Isaiah Zuber. Matthew Slater is a wide receiver, but he never plays outside of his special teams role. Olszewski made the Pro Bowl in 2020, so he would seemingly have a spot on the roster even if he doesn’t get many opportunities as a receiver. 

Still, Slater and Olszewski count for two roster spots at the position, and with Agholor, Bourne, and Meyers locks to be on the roster, that already puts the Patriots at five receivers. When you consider the team has signed two top-notch tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and there is a belief we’ll see New England in a lot of 12-personnel packages, the available spots at receiver seem even slimmer.

Could Nixon Be a Lower-Cost Option?

Harry has been a disappointment since the Patriots drafted him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As a first-round selection, he also has the highest salary ($2.75 million cap hit in 2021) of the fringe guys competing for a spot on the team. Harry could be included in a trade if the Patriots can find a taker, but in any case, his spot isn’t secure. 

If Jones is added, things could get even tighter for Harry and Nixon. 

The latter has an edge in a few ways. The rookie has elite speed, which is something the Patriots don’t have a ton of on their roster, Nixon comes highly recommended by trusted scout Ernie Adams, and his contract as a seventh-round pick is much cheaper. If the Patriots believe they can get more value from Nixon, who signed a four-year $3,578,678 deal with less than $100,000 guaranteed, he could win a spot during training camp or the preseason. 

PatsFan.com’s Ian Logue discussed how Nixon and Harry’s situation might connect.

This is a group that’s different than past seasons.  They’ve got a nice mix of quick and speedy receivers, with Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor as the names most Patriots fans will expect to be on the field in 2021. However, for Nixon to stick, something will probably have to give. The potential question might be what the future might hold for N’Keal Harry.  As it is, the former first-round pick faces some tough competition in camp and it’s going to be interesting to see if he makes the roster, or if the team decides a change of scenery might be the better move for the former Arizona State standout.  We’ve definitely heard countless trade rumors during the offseason, so for one to come into fruition wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s how it plays out.

Harry’s Training Camp and Preseason Could Be Huge

The Patriots may ultimately need to find a throw-in if they hope to complete the deal with the Falcons for Julio Jones. Harry’s name has been mentioned, as has Jarrett Stidham. Perhaps the Falcons could see an opportunity to rebuild a talented receiver they can pair with Calvin Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.

There’s also the chance that Harry shows great strides in training camp and during the preseason. He could push Bourne, Agholor, and Meyers for reps if he plays anywhere near his potential. There are still a ton of questions, but the Patriots have more options at receiver this year.

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