Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers
After the disappointing loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, Patriots fans have to be looking forward to next season. The 2011-12 campaign, while incredibly successful, exposed some glaring issues within the system. For one, the defense needs some serious help. But something that some may not have noticed is that the depth at wide receiver is thin. Since Bill Belichick has taken to hoarding draft picks, the Pats have a multitude of options in the April draft.
But in addition to adding talent via the draft, this year's free-agent class is extraordinarily rich with talent. The Pats are in a position to make some significant changes to the team that could lead them to a title in 2013. Here are some free-agent WRs that New England should pursue:
Brandon Lloyd is a proven wide receiver who has shown proficiency at the No. 1 slot. However, if Lloyd were to come to New England, he would likely be the No. 2 wide receiver behind Wes Welker (assuming he is re-signed). In that role, Lloyd would thrive. Lloyd was the only WR on the Rams who was a legitimate threat, and yet he still managed to have a respectable season. Covering Welker, Lloyd and the Boston TE Party would be a very difficult task for defenses.
This kind of deal is something that could actually happen. Lloyd's coach last season, Josh McDaniels, is coming to the Patriots to be the offensive coordinator. Lloyd would like to follow him and play on a contending team. There is only one thing that could throw this deal out the window: Lloyd's agent.
Lloyd hired Tom Condon as his agent this year. This doesn't bode well for the Pats since Condon doesn't have a good reputation with the New England front office, but he recently said that he will entertain offers from the Pats, as the Boston Herald notes.
Yes, this is the guy who made the amazing catch in the Super Bowl that set the Giants up for a game-winning drive. But that is behind us. Manningham was the No. 2 wide receiver behind Hakeem Nicks last year, when both he and Nicks got Wally Pipp'd by a guy named Victor Cruz.
The Giants would like to retain their trio of Cruz, Nicks and Manningham, however, the likelihood of that happening is not very high. Many other teams are willing to give Manningham a larger role and a larger salary to go with it.
As mentioned before, Manningham will likely leave the Giants for an increased workload with another team. The Pats have a good shot at him, considering the fact that New York is likely out of the picture. Manningham will also probably be interested in playing for a team that is a Super Bowl contender.
Like Brandon Lloyd, Dwayne Bowe is a wide receiver who has proven himself to be an above-average No. 1 wide receiver. Over the past few years, Bowe has emerged as a wide receiver who can do it all; go deep, run underneath routes and block. However, the thing that sets Bowe apart is his play in the red zone and at the goal line. Bowe is a big body and creates mismatches on short routes. He is exceptional on the fade route and has the athleticism to make difficult catches in the air.
Bowe is an unrestricted free agent this year, but the Chiefs may put the franchise tag on him. The Pats might have a shot at landing him, but the chances are slimmer than the Brandon Lloyd deal. It's important to note that while Kansas City has expressed interest in retaining Bowe, he hasn't shown any sort of a response, making it possible for New England to sweep in at the 11th hour.
This is the kind of guy who strikes fear into opponents. Mike Wallace is easily one of the fastest players in the NFL. Just look up some of his highlights, he gets separation that no one else can and has great hands.
Wallace is a young talent who is developing into a complete WR. With one or two years in the right system, he could become the best wide receiver in the league. He would fit right in with the Pats, taking the top off the defense while Welker runs short routes and Gronk and Hernandez do their thing.
Wallace is a restricted free agent this year, which means the Pats would need to give the Steelers compensation. The compensation for Wallace is at least a first-round pick, which is a viable option since the Pats have two first rounders.
The Steelers cannot afford to retain Wallace this year, so the Pats have a good shot at landing him.
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