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
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
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?