Should the New England Patriots be interested?
It wouldn't be the first time the Patriots have "brought back" a receiver; it wouldn't even be the first time this season the Patriots have done so. The Patriots traded for Deion Branch in 2010 after trading away Randy Moss; they re-signed Donté Stallworth earlier this year after letting him walk after the 2007 season.
Gaffney joined the Patriots midway through the 2006 season (remarkably, as a street free agent). He stayed with the Patriots through the 2008 season. In 2009, he left Foxboro to join Josh McDaniels in Denver on a four-year deal worth $10 million (the Patriots paid him about $1.2 million in 2008).
While no one will confuse him with Calvin Johnson, he's arguably the best No. 3 receiver the Patriots have had over the last decade, and might be an upgrade over some of the players on the roster (most notably Chad Ochocinco).
He's also produced in a McDaniels offense, so he wouldn't need much time to get up to speed. He had career highs in receptions and yards in 2011; with Tom Brady at the helm in 2007, he caught 70 percent of his passes.
If the Patriots re-acquire Gaffney, it could result in a "best of both worlds" scenario. The Patriots could reunite half of their record-setting 2007 crew (Stallworth, Wes Welker and Gaffney) with several of the Patriots' "home-grown" pass-catchers (Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).
Should the Patriots try to acquire Gaffney?
Gaffney's in the final year of the four-year deal he originally signed with Denver. That deal was for $10 million, with $3 million in guaranteed money. So his 2012 salary would be on the order of about $2 million, which definitely wouldn't break the bank.
There are some flies in the ointment, though.
The first is age: Gaffney is already 31 years old, so he definitely won't be leading a Patriots youth movement.
The second is whether or not the Patriots would be able to acquire Gaffney. The only way the Redskins will release Gaffney outright is if they can't find any trade partner. So if the Patriots really want Gaffney, they'll have to trade for him.
That's a problem because the only day-three draft pick the Patriots have this year is their own fourth-round pick. (In 2013 they only have their fourth and seventh.)
On the flip side, the Patriots do have at least one potential bargaining chip in QB Brian Hoyer, who's on his restricted free-agent tender (which, coincidentally, is about the same as Gaffney's salary). It's at least possible that the Patriots would consider trading Hoyer for, say, Gaffney and a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick from the Redskins.
The third is his actual role on the team. In 2011 he led the Redskins in yardage; in 2009 and 2010, with the Broncos, he was No. 2 in receptions behind Brandon Marshall and Brandon Lloyd). In New England, he would likely be at best the No. 5 option in the receiving game, behind Welker, Lloyd, Gronkowski and Hernandez. That may not be worth $2 million to the Patriots.
The Patriots need two things at wide receiver: a reliable third option, and more youth. Gaffney should be able to do the former, but he won't help at all with the latter.
All in all, bringing Gaffney back would probably be a net gain in the short term, though not a very large one. This seems like a move the Patriots might make, but not a move the Patriots need to make.