Should the New England Patriots Move on from Brandon Lloyd?

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Should the New England Patriots Move on from Brandon Lloyd?
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Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd wasn't nearly the disappointment that Joey Galloway or Chad Ochocinco was, but he could be the latest one-and-done free agent wide receiver for New England.

Unlike his predecessors, however, his falling-out will not be all about his performances on Sundays; it will, at least in part, be affected by his attitude on Monday through Saturday.

No NFL locker room is squeaky clean, but it's important to maintain a good balance. If Lloyd's actions were part of the reason he wasn't as good as he could have been this season, there's no question he should be gone. The question, though, is how far it all went.

Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe had this to say in his offseason primer. 

Lloyd’s erratic behavior in the locker room and on the practice field proved tiresome, according to a league and team source. If they cut Lloyd, that would save the Patriots $4.9 million against the cap this season, though there will be $2 million in dead money that can be spread out over two years. The team was smart to build in protection with Lloyd.

As a result, he thinks the odds are against the Patriots picking up Brandon Lloyd's $3 million option bonus.

It's fair to wonder what the nature of the erratic behavior is. Was he a nuisance, was he selfish, was he just weird? These are just some of the possibilities, and clearly, it makes a difference.

The Patriots knew about his character going into the signing—thank Josh McDaniels for the tip on that—but constructing a team-friendly contract doesn't fix an unfriendly situation at wide receiver. Without Lloyd, the Patriots have just two wide receiver signed for 2013: Matthew Slater, who has one career reception, and Kamar Aiken, who has none.

Has it come to that point for the Patriots? While we don't know exactly the nature of what happened off the field, we do know what happened on the field wasn't exactly what the Patriots had hoped for.

We did not see any of the explosive playmaking ability that made Lloyd a sought-after free agent for the Patriots in 2012. In fact, his 12.3 yards per reception was the lowest of any season in his career. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he was targeted 34 times on passes 20 yards or more downfield, and came down with just nine of them. He dropped another three passes. 

He, like most other Patriots receivers, did the majority of his work within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. That's startling, considering he did a vast majority of his work deeper than that with the Broncos. He led the league with 18.3 yards per reception in 2010, his first big year. At 31 years old, it's fair to say he's probably not going to get more explosive than he is now.

If the Patriots want a younger receiver who produced similar numbers to Lloyd in 2012 and would (probably) not produce a similar headache, they could look to Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline in free agency.

For comparison:

  • Hartline, 2012: 74 receptions, 1,083 yards, touchdown
  • Lloyd, 2012: 74 receptions, 911 yards, four touchdowns

Also, Hartline caught 11 passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air, yet played in an offense that was one of the league's worst at creating explosive plays in the passing game (Miami's 42 pass plays of 20 yards or more tied for eighth-fewest in the league in 2012).

Should the Patriots keep Brandon Lloyd?

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Hartline may be a little bit pricier, but that could be the price the Patriots are willing to pay to get rid of a headache without leaving themselves bereft of talent at wide receiver.

In short, while there's evidence from the past that Lloyd can be a standout receiver, there's nothing irreplaceable about what Lloyd did in 2012.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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