While much of the attention of the New England Patriots faithful remains with the uncertain status of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady as an arbitrator considers the appeal of his four-game suspension handed down by the NFL in the wake of the Deflategate scandal and the findings of the Wells Report, other issues face the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick on the field. While Brady has proven more than capable over his career of making due with whatever offensive weapons Belichick provides him - last year was no exception - and the presence of a one, Mr. Rob "The Gronk" Gronkowski at tight end certainly makes up for deficiencies elsewhere, there's simply no denying that the Pats could use an influx of talent at the wide receiver position, where diminutive, but athletic Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola represent the cream of the New England crop.
While nothing may yet be imminent, the Patriots and Belichick are among a small handful of teams showing interest in former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, according to a report from Dave Furst of WRTV-6 in Indianapolis. While Wayne, now 36, is certainly no longer the player he once was from a physical standpoint, he still possesses the same gritty, veteran savvy and crisp, intelligent route-running that has marked his game throughout his 14-year NFL career. While he has fallen short of his usual prodigious production the past two seasons - just 38 receptions for 503 yards in seven games in 2013 and just 64 receptions for 779 yards in 15 games last year - his dropoff in athleticism has coincided with the development of a plethora of explosive new toys for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, including TY Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Donte Moncrief and the recent additions of big-bodied veteran Andre Johnson and speedy draft pick Phillip Dorsett. He indicated recently that his ideal situation would be to play at least one more season and then call it a, likely Hall of Fame-worthy, career.
Last season for the Pats, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Edelman managed 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns. While Edelman is certainly talented and exemplifies the vaunted Patriot Way, his small stature and high volume of receptions, but limited overall yardage point to a good player unable to stretch the field and thus unlikely to ever strike fear into the heart of opposing defenses.
Amendola is likewise talented, but limited athletically. Despite appearing in 16 regular season games last year, Amendola managed just 27 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown. LaFell, while the biggest of the three and likeliest to take on a more prominent role in his second year with the Pats, has also proven nothing more than a good, not great player during a five-year NFL career. In 16 regular season games last season, he posted career highs in several categories, but still managed to fall short of the expectations one could fairly place on a No. 1 wide receiver. In 3 postseason games, his numbers were even more paltry - 13 receptions, 119 yards, two touchdowns.
The Pats have and likely will continue to be paced by an offense predicated on short, drive-sustaining passes to the likes of Edelman and Amendola, a strong running game and the occasional big play to Gronk, but if there's any team or coach in the league that could take a strong veteran player like Wayne, once considered to be amongst the best in the league at his position, and squeeze another season or two of high-level play out of them, it's the Patriots and Belichick.