Patriots Free Agency: Jabar Gaffney Should Return to New England

Samer IsmailAnalyst IIMay 1, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 02: Jabar Gaffney #10 of the Washington Redskins makes a catch against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on October 2, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Washington Redskins beat the St. Louis Rams 17-10.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

About two weeks ago, the Washington Redskins put receiver Jabar Gaffney on the trade block. I wrote that the New England Patriots would at least entertain the notion of trading for Gaffney, who had spent much of the 2006 season and all of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Patriots.

That said, I felt it wasn't a move the Patriots needed to make.

Today, the Redskins officially released Gaffney, making him an unrestricted free agent.

It's always hard to tell the exact reasons why teams pass on trading for players, but when a player who could be traded is released instead, one of two things generally has to be true. On the one hand, the potential suitors might just not have an interest in that player. On the other hand, the suitors might simply prefer to take their chances on the player being released so they don't have to cough up a draft pick.

If I had to guess, given the Patriots' current logjam at wide receiver, I'd say that both of those options were possible. (Bill Belichick will look at any player who gets released, though; such thinking netted them Danny Woodhead in 2010 and Brian Waters last year.)

Even though the Patriots weren't willing to trade for Gaffney, I think it highly likely that the Patriots will make an offer to him. First, they haven't been terribly active in signing undrafted free agents, so there's certainly room on the roster for him.

Second, Gaffney shouldn't be terribly expensive: his 2012 salary was only about $2 million. At this point in the offseason, it's unlikely he'll get a big offer.

Third, he was productive in this system. And if there's been one clear signal this offseason, it's that the Patriots have been looking for receivers that they feel will work in the Patriots' offense.

They brought in Brandon Lloyd, who has two years of success under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and brought back Donte Stallworth, who put up good, though not overwhelming, numbers as a Patriot in 2007. Even their one drafted rookie wide receiver, Jeremy Ebert, is noted for his route-running, a skill essential to success in Foxboro.

Finally, while Gaffney wouldn't be the No. 3 option here, he wouldn't need to be. The Patriots already have Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, plus Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. So he probably wouldn't see more than a handful of targets a game—but given the threats posed by the other receivers, he'll almost certainly be in single coverage every time.

All in all, now that it won't cost the Patriots anything but salary cap room, I think that signing Gaffney, while not a no-brainer, makes a lot more sense than it did two weeks ago.