Jakobi Meyers, the New England Patriots best wide receiver may inexplicably become a free agent. This is another personnel gaffe by the team whether he re-signs at this point or not.
The Patriots personnel operation has persistently been poor for much of the time it’s been overseen by Bill Belichick and company. And it’s been costly. Ironically, it comes on the heels four years ago of one of their absolutely best personnel moves maybe ever.
How’s that? Jakobi Meyers was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent or UDFA in 2019 out of North Carolina State. For certain, the New England Patriots track record at drafting wide receivers is abysmal. Yet, conversely, their record in signing solid UDFAs and in this instance a very good UDFA wide receiver has been quite good, thank you.
So if they did a fine job in scouting and signing this UDFA, why has it now become an issue? Actually, it hasn’t just become an issue. It’s been one for about two years. Let’s explore this.
New England Patriots Jakobi Meyers’s free agency is a lousy optic
After complimenting the New England Patriots, and it’s well-deserved, in their track record of signing top UDFA’s like Meyers, David Andrews, Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, and others, why is it now an issue?
It has become an issue because of what they failed to do rather than what they did. Meyers has been the Patriots’ best wide receiver since Julian Edelman hung up his cleats.
Meyers has caught 237 passes for 2,758 yards and hauled in eight touchdown passes in his four years in Foxborough. That’s a nice average of almost 60 receptions per season. Last season he caught 67 for 804 yards and six TDs.
Now he’s being touted by ESPN as the top free-agent wide receiver on the market.
Here’s part of what ESPN has to say,
"“A nuanced route runner with strong hands and a 6-foot-2 frame,” the entry on Meyers reads. “Meyers caught 47 of his 67 targets on throws inside the numbers this season, setting a career high with six touchdowns. He’s an intermediate target in the pass game with outside flex and has the ability to stretch defenses on seams and deep over routes."
He’s due for a big payday. How’s that for exceeding expectations? It’s a great story indeed, except for one major factor which puts a damper on this whole business. What exactly is wrong with this picture?
The problem with all this is that Meyers may become a free agent at all. Usually, after two or so seasons, it’s clear whether a UDFA can play or not. Meyers was clearly emerging after two years as a consistent, reliable receiver.
Now, Meyers is not a number-one receiver material, but he’s a solid second or a very nice third option if you are fortunate enough to have two that are better. The New England Patriots do not.
The missed opportunity (the same thing that eventuated with star cornerback J.C. Jackson), was that New England failed to lock the clearly emerging solid player or star into a contract extension after year two or so.
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The benefits are enormous on both sides. First, a young player who was not drafted sees that his team appreciates his performance and is willing to pay more in a long-term deal before they have to. That’s good for the player’s confidence, and loyalty to the team, and, importantly, provides security.
Secondly, the club has hit on a UDFA, which is good work. Then, to subsequently lock that player up long-term at what would be a much more cost-effective multi-year deal than they would get after four years is just plain good business (aka, solid sports personnel management).
Unfortunately, the New England Patriots are seldom accused of that attribute. So now Meyers will either hit free agency or if he eventually does re-sign with New England, it will almost certainly cost the team far more on the salary cap.
We’ll see what eventuates, but again, as with Jackson a prolific ball-hawking cornerback, the team has let the opportunity pass it by. It’s just deficient personnel management any way you look at it.
What do you think of the Jakobi Meyers situation and how it’s been handled? We’d like to hear.