Speed is something the New England Patriots lacked on offense in 2020. If that aspect of the team is going to improve in 2021, Bill Belichick will have to add players who bring those gifts to the table.
One such player is free-agent wide receiver Will Fuller. The now-former Houston Texans speed merchant has long been a dangerous threat that stretches defenses vertically. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Patriots are the best fit for Fuller in free agency this offseason.
No team needs a playmaking upgrade more, and Fuller has some New England traits — fast but isn’t limited to deep balls, has run-after-catch ability, will have a robust but not outrageous market. The Dolphins also need a true vertical threat who can get it done at all levels of the field. Maybe he simply follows Deshaun Watson wherever he goes. Fuller is oft-injured but showed No. 1 qualities last season.
While there is no question Fuller represents an instant upgrade for the Patriots’ receiving corps, it’s also important to note there could be some cons to inking him to a lucrative deal, especially one that extends beyond the 2021 season.
The Pros of Signing Fuller
Fuller is coming off a career year in 2020. He played in 11 games, recorded 53 receptions for 879 yards and 8 TDs. His longest reception was 77 yards. These statistics represent career highs for Fuller, and his production helped set the table for what could be a prosperous offseason.
Fuller won’t turn 27 until April 16, so he should have multiple quality years remaining in the league. Fuller’s speed could ultimately take some pressure off the quarterback’s shoulders–whoever that will be–and the rest of the receivers and tight ends on the roster. When a team has a player like Fuller who can take the top off a defense, their presence–even if it’s just as a decoy–opens up opportunities for everyone else.
The Cons of Signing Fuller
While Fuller would bring elite speed to the Patriots’ passing game, signing the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star also comes with some risks. Unfortunately, Fuller has had a very tough time staying healthy. He’s never played in 16 games in a season. His high is 14, and that was back in 2016 when Fuller was a rookie.
Since he came into the league, Fuller has missed 27 games due to injury or suspension. The NFL suspended Fuller for the final five games of the 2020 season and more than likely the first contest in 2021. Fuller tested positive for a banned substance in November 2020. The suspension is a red flag, but Fuller’s overall injury history is startling even more than that.
In addition to suffering a Grade 3 ACL tear in his knee, Fuller has also missed time for several hamstring issues, knee ailments, a fractured clavicle, chest and rib breaks, and a sports hernia. While there is questioning Fuller’s talent and physical gifts, this is a lot to consider. The Patriots haven’t shied away from players with some potential baggage in the past. Perhaps signing Fuller will be the latest example.
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