2012 NFL Free Agents: New England Patriots Bolster Receiving Corps

Aaron DodgeAnalyst IMarch 19, 2012

Most of us would've have been quite surprised if the New England Patriots and Brandon Lloyd didn't eventually come to an agreement. So while an addition to the receiving corps this offseason was anticipated, the other two have come a little unexpectedly. 

Following the failed pursuit of Reggie Wayne, speculation arose that Jabar Gaffney could rejoin the team. The Washington Redskins were collecting free-agent receivers, and it appeared Gaffney had become expendable. 

Gaffney has yet to be released, but a reunion will be occurring nonetheless. Teammates in 2007, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Gaffney helped quarterback Tom Brady break and set records. Five years later, Brady could find himself with two of those options still in the fold.


Where's Stallworth Been?

Stallworth inked a one-year, reportedly unguaranteed, deal that will allow him a shot to revive a career that has fallen quite flat since he departed as a free agent in 2008.  

He's 31 years old and, honestly, hasn't done anything since his first go-round in New England. Stallworth impressed back in 2007, as he was able to amass nearly 700 yards on 46 receptions in a loaded offense full of options. He only made four starts in Cleveland the following year and missed the entire 2009 season as a result of his well-documented league imposed suspension.

Stops in Baltimore and Washington over the last two years haven't proved to be fruitful, only resulting in 24 receptions, 391 yards and two touchdowns combined. 

Stallworth is certainly excited to be back and has high expectations. 

This time around, things will be different....

— Donte' Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) March 19, 2012

Barring a miracle, Stallworth won't be outpacing his 2007 self. He'll be lucky to make the roster at a position that all of a sudden has some serious meat to it's depth. 


Projected Receiver Depth Charts

1. Brandon Lloyd (Outside)

2. Aaron Hernandez (Outside)

3. Wes Welker (Slot)

4. Rob Gronkowski (Tight End)

5. Chad Ochocinco

6. Julian Edelman

7. Donte Stallworth

8. Anthony Gonzalez

Matthew Slater (Special Teams)

Deion Branch (Free Agent)


Age Concerning

When considering the collective age of that group, it highlights the need for an injection of youth as well. The team would be in much better shape if it had some prospective, developmental projects at the position.

An addition of that nature would clearly put pressure on the roster restrictions. All of these factors combine to make the receiving corps a group to keep an eye on this offseason. There are roster spots and many snaps to be earned and with a full offseason there should be ample time for that to happen.  


Interested in reading more by this featured columnist? Check out more of Aaron Dodge's work on Bleacher Report.

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