Lloyd has drawn the ire of Patriots fans thanks to his mostly underwhelming 2012. There seems to be a groundswell of support among the local media as well to jettison Lloyd.
Reports have surfaced indicating he isn’t in the team’s plans for next season, and everyone’s so busy bidding him good riddance that nobody seems to care who will take his place.
Assuming the Patriots do release Lloyd and re-sign Wes Welker, the next receiver in line would be 34-year-old Deion Branch.
Granted, Lloyd failed to meet expectations in his first season with the Patriots, but he came on strong towards the end of the season and totals 74 receptions for 911 yards are nothing to sneeze at.
He’s clearly no Randy Moss, but that doesn’t mean he’s useless. Lloyd has excellent hands and works the sidelines as well as any receiver in the NFL. OK, so he’s allergic to physical contact, but isn’t that where Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are supposed to earn their keep?
As a skill receiver on the perimeter, the only area where Lloyd didn’t fulfill his responsibilities was as a deep threat to open up the opposing defense.
As he gets older, it’s fair to wonder if Lloyd is still capable of stretching the field. While ability to do that remains in question, his potential replacement’s inability to do so remains a mathematical certainty.
Deion Branch should not be a starting wide receiver at this point in his career, under any circumstances.
If you told me the Patriots would sign Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings to replace him, I’d be on board with throwing Lloyd overboard. If you told me they would draft a receiver like West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, I’d be happy with that too.
But Belichick’s track record suggests he won’t spend a high pick on a receiver and even when he does it rarely works out. More realistically, Branch, Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman are the top candidates to replace Lloyd.
As long as that remains true, the Patriots need to keep Lloyd right where he is.