|The Patriots have kicked the tires on Reggie Wayne (i.cdn.turner.com)|
For 14 years, the Patriots have had to watch Reggie Wayne compete against them from the other sideline. Whether it was in the playoffs or regular season , Manning or Luck, Wayne managed to average almost 6.5 catches and 83 yards per game against the Patriots since 2007. Back in 2012, the Patriots tried to court Wayne to sign with them as a free agent, but Wayne decided to stay loyal to the Colts. Now, Wayne is once again a free agent and again on the Patriots radar.
Per Dave Furst, originally the Patriots, Packers, Ravens, and Texans were among the teams interested, with the Broncos being out due to cap concerns.
Here you go-among the teams showing interest in former #Colts WR Reggie Wayne: #Patriots #Ravens #Texans #Packers. Broncos have backed off.— Dave Furst (@DaveFurst) July 17, 2015
Now, per Aaron Wilson and John McClain, the Ravens and Texans are also out on Reggie Wayne.
Ravens not expected to pursue veteran free agent wide receiver Reggie Wayne, according to sources— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) July 20, 2015
Texans not interested in Reggie Wayne.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) July 20, 2015
This leaves the Packers and the Patriots as the proposed teams still interested in Wayne. When you look at the Packers roster they have Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, rookie Ty Montgomery, and a variety of other young WRs. The Packers have shown a tendency to prefer grooming young receivers instead of pursuing free agents, which makes the Wayne interest a bit outside of their norm.
The Patriots situation isn't much different than the Packers: perennial winner, top three quarterback, and several established WRs ahead of Wayne on the depth chart. What the Patriots do have is Bill Belichick. Belichick has been a fan of Reggie Wayne for quite some time and has provided him some rave reviews. In the recent past Belichick has gone as far as calling Wayne one of the best route runners in the NFL and a "threat with the ball in his hands."
Belichick hasn't been afraid to bring on veteran WRs looking for one last shot at a title. In 2010, Bill brought in former St. Louis Rams WR Torry Holt who never made it out of the preseason. A year later, Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson was signed and proceeded to have an underwhelming season. So why would Wayne be any different than those guys?
Wayne won't be asked to do more than he can do. Belichick understands what kind of receiver Wayne is, and that is a route runner with reliable hands. His role would be similar to Brandon LaFell as an X receiver, running a variety of routes to capitalize on his good size and crisp routes. Being likely the 4th or 5th WR on the depth chart, he would be limited in his snap counts, keeping him fresh and healthy. Brady specializes in putting the ball where his receivers can get it, and Wayne's catch radius and solid hands make it a match made in heaven. Can the Patriots afford him on the roster though?
Not only will Wayne likely be cheap, but his spot on the roster won't be taking away from anyone vital to the team. I asked @Patscap about what it might take financially to bring in Wayne and we reached the consensus that a veteran minimum deal would be the likely course, giving him a cap hit of $665K. On top of that, given the top 51 rule (the top 51 contracts of the team will count against the cap hit) the "Pats would only lose 80K in cap space as he would displace a player with $585K salary from the top 51". This would be a miniscual portion of their remaining $10.7M in cap room, making his financial impact next to nothing. This also allows the Patriots to potentially go after Evan Mathis or carry the cap over into next year in an attempt to extend Chandler Jones, Nate Solder, and Dont'a Hightower.
@PatriotsInform no more than 2m max. Very good chance that he signs a MSB deal making his cap number 665K— CapSpace=$10,769,988 (@patscap) July 20, 2015
In terms of who will be negatively affected by Wayne potentially joining the team, the top candidates include Brian Tyms and Brandon Gibson. Tyms has the benefit of being a perfect practice squad candidate, where he can continue to develop and provide the Patriots with injury insurance for Dobson and LaFell. Given his on and off spring, Tyms will need to impress to keep a roster spot considering his inconsistencies with his route running and hands. Gibson could very well be the odd man out, given his skill set being similar to Wayne's and his unfamiliarity with Brady.
While Wayne would not provide any special teams value compared to Gibson and Tyms, there is already a plethora of special teams candidates on the roster including: Matt Wells, James White, Jordan Richards, Dane Fletcher, Travaris Cadet, Matthew Slater, Duron Harmon, Darryl Roberts, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, James Develin, James Morris, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney, and Patrick Chung, among the specialists and returners. While this is the biggest downside to Wayne, I think the Patriots can handle having one less special teams option.
The reason why he hasn't been signed yet likely is due to his health. A year removed from a torn ACL, in February, Wayne underwent a tricep surgery to repair a torn muscle and a knee scope to clean up his knee. He also battled an elbow injury as well last season, making him a shell of his former self. According to Wayne, he feels that "this is one of (his) best years as far as being in the best shape (he's) been in a while." While that sounds like a glittery call for attention, it very well could be true and if it is, what's there to fear about giving him a chance?
When you sift through all of the variables, signing Reggie Wayne on a minimum deal to see if he can produce in camp is worth it to the Patriots and a very real possibility. He almost signed with New England in 2012, wants to play for a winner, and has a connection with Bill Belichick making New England the ideal location for him to end his career. Should he not work out, the Patriots can cut him and go on as if nothing happened. If he works out and is at 100% you just added another weapon to an already impressive arsenal. To me this is a no-brainer: sign Reggie Wayne.
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