One of the problems that faced the New England Patriots in the playoffs was that they did not have a deep threat receiver. Randy Moss leaving may have helped the team in the locker room, but it hurt them on the field. When free agency eventually begins there will be many options for the Patriots to replace Moss as a deep threat and, fortunately, they will not come at a steep price. There are three wide receivers with troubled characters that the Patriots could be looking at in the next few months.
1. Steve Smith (Carolina) – The Panthers’ wide receiver needs a change of scenery, especially with all the different quarterbacks Carolina has had in the last few seasons. Now, it’s possible that the Panthers take another shot with Smith now that Cam Newton is in the fold, but he might be available via trade. The price for Smith would likely be in the neighborhood of a 2nd-3rd round pick. The Patriots happen to have two second round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. New England knows what Smith can do from the 2003 Super Bowl and Bill Belichick could likely get a lot out of Smith, who has an affordable contract over the next 2 years. He is only 32, so it would be wise for the Patriots to consider giving this guy a shot and allow him to have more than 42 catches.
2. Plaxico Burress (Free Agent) – The former New York Giant who shot himself in a nightclub is getting out of jail on Monday. He cannot dictate his terms of a contract in any deal, so this is where New England can make a decision on whether or not to take the risk and sign him. If there are no other options fold though, I would take a chance on Burress. As we saw with Michael Vick, jail can be a humbling experience and Plaxico will be a different character than the guy that showed up late to all the Giants’ team meetings. He is still a threat downfield and if he shows that he still has it in training camp or in a private workout, why not give him a shot? The media storm surrounding Burress will not be as big in New England as it would be if he re-signed with the Giants or went to go play for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
3. Chad Johnson (Bengals) – This is the guy I really want the Patriots to sign. The former Ochocinco is great friends with Bill Belichick and will probably not act up if he becomes a Patriot. It is almost certain that owner Mike Brown will release Johnson once the lockout is over. Keep this in mind before you call me crazy for wanting to add Johnson’s “personality” to the Patriots. When Johnson was the number one receiver for the Bengals in 2009, he still had over 1000 yards receiving. Then, Terrell Owens came in and the circus began. Johnson has a lot to prove to himself, the media, and to Marvin Lewis. I think he still has some game in the tank and if he can have a team mindset, he would be a great player here in Foxboro.