The New England Patriots‘ N’Keal Harry is headed into the most important next few months of his NFL career. As the team moves toward what could be a strong 2021 season, Harry has to prove he can make the leap many have expected would have come last year.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe believes this is a make-or-break training camp for the 2019 first-round pick. Howe went as far as to say, Harry’s “scholarship has run out.”
N’Keal Harry’s scholarship has run out. He is going to have to earn his spot on the 53-man roster in the coming months. Consistency in practice will be the first step toward that result.
When you look at what the Patriots already have at wide receiver, it’s easy to see where his primary competition for playing time will come, and if the team isn’t done adding weapons, things could get even more serious.
Harry Will Get Tons of Competition for Playing Time
The Patriots signed Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor during the offseason. The latter could push the incumbent Jakobi Meyers for the No. 1 receiver spot, while Bourne will have an excellent chance to do some damage from the slot.
Also, don’t sleep on rookie Tre Nixon. The seventh-round pick has blazing speed, good hands, and excellent mental makeup. He spent 16 hours a day at Gillette Stadium, learning the playbook and getting himself acclimated to the system, per Howe. With his physical gifts, he has a good shot at making the team and making an impact as a rookie.
As it is, Harry will almost certainly make the 53-man roster, but if the Patriots manage to swing a much-discussed trade with the Atlanta Falcons, Harry’s spot on the roster will become far less secure.
If Julio Jones is Acquired, it Could Seal Harry’s Fate in New England
The Patriots would be out of their minds not to make every effort to trade for Julio Jones. The 32-year-old is still elite, and he wants to win a Super Bowl.
If he lands with the Patriots and New England doesn’t have to trade away star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to get him, it wouldn’t be crazy to consider Bill Belichick’s bunch a legitimate threat to win the AFC East and as a Super Bowl contender.
That said, Jones’ presence might make Harry expendable. While the Patriots can afford to take on Jones’ salary, they may still want to clear a bit more room to allow them to operate through the season. Trading Harry to a team interested in potentially reviving his career in exchange for a late-round pick is something that might be appealing to the Patriots.
A rotation of Jones, Meyers, Agholor, Bourne, and Nixon with Gunner Olszewski, Christian Wilkerson, and Isaiah Zuber as backup and practice squad options would be sufficient.
That set of options would also offer a good distraction from the fact that the Patriots would be giving up on a first-round selection just two years after taking him ahead of the likes of DK Metcalf and AJ. Brown.
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