Recent Patriots 1st Rounder Wants Out; Joe Judge Reunion on the Table?

Should Cardinals target N'Keal Harry?

Getty N'Keal Harry #15 of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Could a reunion be brewing in East Rutherford between coach and former player?

N’Keal Harry’s time with the New England Patriots appears to be coming to an end — or at least he’d prefer it to be that way. The wideout’s agent, Jamal Tooson, formally requested a trade on behalf of his client on Tuesday, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. As ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported prior to the request, Harry had an uphill battle to make the Pats roster this summer following the team’s additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency — moves made, at least in part, to help counteract Harry’s lack of development.

The obvious question now is what team will take a flyer on an underperforming, yet intriguing talent, still just 23 years of age? And could rekindling the relationship between Harry and his former position coach be what the two-time First-team All-Pac-12 selection needs to finally jumpstart his professional career?

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Joe Judge Was Harry’s Position Coach in New England

Giants head coach Joe Judge served on the Patriots’ coaching staff for eight seasons under Bill Belichick. Yet, only one of those seasons did he cross over to the offensive side of the football. In 2019, Judge doubled his coaching duties, with the then-special teams coordinator adding wide receiver coach to his resume — the same season that the Patriots happened to pull the trigger on Harry with their first-round selection. 

While Harry’s rookie season was mostly marred by injuries, Judge appeared to be fairly fond of the wideout’s work habits in their short time working together.

“He’s been doing everything in the classroom and progressing every day,“ Judge said of Harry prior to the 2019 season, via Patriots Wire. “As far as my exposure with him, he’s coming to work with a clear head. He’s very motivated and he’s engaged mentally in everything we’re doing.”


Is Harry a Fit in New York?

Interestingly enough, this wouldn’t be the first time Big Blue was floated as a destination for Harry. Garafolo reported back in March that teams were calling the Patriots regarding their willingness to part with the former first-round pick. Of course, this led to numerous outlets speculating whether the Giants could add the intriguing prospect to a then-lackluster receiving corps.

While at the time, fishing around the Harry market would have been a logical endeavor for New York, the past few months have greatly altered the outlook of a potential marriage. The Giants have since completely overhauled their receiving corps, so much so that players like Darius Slayton — fresh off back-to-back 700-yard campaigns — have somewhat undefined roles entering 2021. The addition of big-ticket free agent Kenny Golladay has mitigated the need for a big-bodied receiver like Harry. Plus, speedster John Ross already holds the “failed first-round pick, potential redemption arc” role amongst the Giants’ receiving corps.

Then again, Ross only received $1 million guaranteed on his one-year deal this offseason. Theoretically, the team could take a similar flyer on Harry, who carries a base salary of $1.4 million in 2021 and $1.9 million in 2022, and let the two youngsters battle it out for one of the final receiver spots. 

Also, Sterling Shepard, who the team has an out from under his contract following this year, continues to be floated as a trade candidate. Furthermore, tight end Evan Engram is expected to walk in free agency next offseason barring a breakout season. In other words, the receiving arsenal in New York could once again look vastly different come this time next year.

Engram moving on could leave a vacancy for another big-bodied target such as Harry in the passing game while losing Shepard and his heavy target share would free up extra looks for other options.

Since being drafted No. 32 overall out of Arizona State in 2019, Harry has accumulated just 45 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games (14 starts). Despite possessing a tantalizing skillset within a quintessential No. 1 wide receiver frame (6-foot-4-inch, 225 pound), Harry’s inability to stay healthy (11 games missed) and separate from defenders with consistency has extremely limited his production in the pros thus far.

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