Hannable: Demaryius Thomas signing good for Patriots, but also indication of where things stand at WR

Ryan Hannable
April 16, 2019 - 5:54 pm
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Is it possible for a free-agent signing to be both a good and bad one at the same time?

The Patriots clearly needed to added proven NFL talent at the wide receiver position, which is why signing Demaryius Thomas was a good move. But at the same time, it is the type of signing that would be mocked if another top AFC contender did it.

Thomas, who will be 32 years old next December, is working his way back from a torn Achilles suffered Dec. 23 of last season. This is the second time in his career he’s suffered the injury, and he reportedly will be back on the field at some point before the start of the regular season. Although, how productive he will be is a different story and really a mystery at this time.

It’s worth pointing out Thomas has seen his receptions, yards and touchdowns decline in each season since 2014 when he recorded career-high’s in receptions (111) and yards (1,619). Last season between Denver and Houston, he finished with 59 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns. Thomas was traded from Denver to Houston at the deadline last year and the Patriots had interest in him then, too.

Is signing this player to a reported one-year deal worth up to $6 million a good move? Probably not, but given the Patriots’ situation it was a signing that needed to be made.

Before adding Thomas, the Patriots had a wide receiver depth chart of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Matthew Slater, Braxton Berrios and Damoun Patterson. Edelman, Dorsett and Slater (who doesn’t really count as a receiver) were the only locks to make the team.

Clearly, more was needed.

There’s also the upcoming NFL draft, but that comes with risk considering how difficult it is for receivers, and rookies in particular, to pick up the Patriots offense. In addition, wide receiver hasn’t been a position the Patriots have hit on via the draft under Bill Belichick.

Thomas likely has a good connection with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as he was the coach who drafted him in 2010 when he was in Denver. Their familiarity could be beneficial and it’s likely McDaniels was heavily involved in the move.

Another thing to consider is the quarterbacks Thomas has had during the recent stretch where his numbers have declined. They include Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum. This does say Thomas should be more productive in New England with Tom Brady, but again, he’s coming off a torn Achilles which is a tough injury to come back from, especially at age 31.

The addition of Thomas certainly doesn’t vastly change the wide receiver position, but it does help.

It gives the position a better chance of being successful because if he comes back healthy, it seems likely he will be able to put together a decent season with Brady as his quarterback. It also doesn’t mean the Patriots will be out of the market for receivers, as it still is a top priority in the draft and also potentially via trade.

Thomas isn’t quite in the Josh Gordon conversation in terms of being so much up in the air for the 2019 season and what he can contribute, but it’s certainly similar. With that being said, the Patriots were not in a great spot at the wide receiver position and that is exactly why they’re being forced to take a risk and make such a signing.

The final verdict on the signing won’t come until the actual season, but for now it appears one out of desperation with a slight chance of working out.

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