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Patriots 2012 Off-Season Priorities: Wide Receivers

Patriots After Super Bowl XLVI (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In an off-season that perhaps is even more exciting than last year’s lockout-shortened free agency period, the Patriots have plenty of needs.  None are bigger, however, than wide receiver and defensive end. Let’s first look at receiver.

Last season, we saw a soon-to-be 33-year-old Deion Branch get even older right before our eyes, totaling only 51 catches in an offense that passed for well over 5,000 yards.  Branch was clearly the fourth option on a team with three elite pass catchers, and offered little to diversify a passing game that lived over the middle of the field all season.  Branch will likely, or should I say hopefully, not return for next season.

Chad Ochocinco, 34, was a complete and utter failure last season, totaling 15 catches on a team with little competition at outside wide receiver.  I can’t see a place for him on next year’s roster.

So, that leaves the Pats with the recently franchised Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowksi, and Aaron Hernandez. As you can see, the Patriots have a gaping need at receiver. While their top three options are more than viable, Hernandez has had a history of playing through nagging injuries that one day may become more than just nagging. Furthermore, not one of their top three options has been a threat outside the numbers.

For those reasons, the Patriots would be wise to pursue a receiver who can compliment the “big three’s” middle of the field presence. Let’s take a look at a few options at receiver that are still available (not that there are many after only a day):

Brandon Lloyd

Lloyd has to be the Patriots’ top choice. While rumored to have an attitude problem, the Patriots have proven that they aren’t afraid to bring in troubled players (Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth). Lloyd has had his best best years as a professional under the tutelage of Josh McDaniels (the current Pats OC), and for that reason, New England should be a desirable place for Lloyd.

Jabar Gaffney

Gaffney, coming off a quietly solid season on a bad Washington team, has already played with Brady and earned his trust, and is a younger option than both Ochocinco and Branch.  He hasn’t been talked about a lot, but while Washington loads up on sexier options for Robert Griffin III, Gaffney will likely fall to their periphery.

Donnie Avery

He hasn’t been mentioned a ton, but he played for McDaniels in St. Louis, and they Patriots could probably sign him for short money as he is only a year and a half removed from knee surgery.

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