Gaffney's Return Makes For Crowd At WR

Jabar Gaffney

Is the signing of Jabar Gaffney bad news for a veteran or a rookie on the roster now? A closer look at the team's recent addition could spell trouble for a former free agent pickup who has yet to have an impact.

   The expected addition of wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who spent three seasons with the Patriots from 2006 to 2008, has left New England with enough wide receivers to eventually find the right fits for this upcoming season.

   With Gaffney  back on board, the Patriots will have 12 wide receivers on the roster, and it could be 13 once camp begins if they finalize a deal with undrafted free agent Mark Roark.

   Obviously, the Patriots won't break camp with 12 receivers, so some people will have to go, and the reacquisition of Gaffney might lead to the end of Chad Ochocinco's career in New England.

   Ochocinco joined the Patriots last season with relatively low expectations, yet he actually performed worse than expected, catching only 15 passes with one touchdown. In the end, Ochocinco was the league's most prolific decoy, a once high-profile receiver playing a minor role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

   Bringing Gaffney back into the fold is a sign the Patriots expect more from their wideouts, especially since their offense in 2011 depended heavily on the production of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. As productive as they were offensively, the Patriots were relatively one-dimensional since they lacked a big-play, outside threat.

   Deion Branch played well, but Gaffney has the ability to be even better. Last year in Washington, he caught 68 passes for 947 yards with five touchdowns -- one of the Redskins' most productive offensive players. He's also a big-play threat, averaging more than 13 yards per catch in each of his last three seasons.

   As a Patriot, Gaffney worked well with Tom Brady, catching eight touchdowns in three years and averaging just a shade under 13 yards per catch during that span. Moving back to New England and reuniting with Brady figures to be a seamless transition for Gaffney, who, although he's not a No. 1 receiver by any means, is capable of producing far more than what Ochocinco brought to the table in 2011.

   All signs point to changes this summer, and they'll more than likely start at the wide receiver position. With Brandon Lloyd already on the roster, the Patriots suddenly have a reliable receiving corps that could take some pressure off their tight ends.

   The Patriots also brought back Donte' Stallworth, a reliable third option during their 2008 run at perfection, and have Julian Edelman back for one more season under his original rookie contract. If all goes well, Stallworth, Gaffney, Branch, Edelman and Lloyd will be the proverbial starting five once the team breaks camp.

   The roles will sort themselves out in camp, but with Gaffney back, it appears to be a fairly safe bet that Ochocinco's days are numbered in New England.

HOT TOPIC: Who stays, who goes at wideout?

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