This is the most interesting position to watch this off-season. Randy Moss is an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots passed on the Stallworth option, making him a free agent. Jabar Gaffney is also an unrestricted free agent.
The Patriots did not franchise Moss. Many speculated that this non-action would lead to a long-term deal with the receiver. It has not, at least not yet.
There is an unsubstantiated and flimsy rumor that the Cowboys are interested in Moss. To me that is like saying "Men are interested in breasts." Of course they're interested!
The rumor has Moss and the Cowboys talking about a possible deal. There's also another rumor that Moss agreed to let the Patriots match any offer he received from another team.
The fate of Randy Moss will be the most dramatic saga in Patriots history since Bob Kraft threatened a move to Hartford. There will be reports, rumors, speculations, stipulations, heresay, conjecture, and people making things up.
But I feel as though Moss likes it here, but can't resist snooping around to see what else is out there. It's got to be a contending team, with a good QB (this eliminates Dallas), and enough cap room for Moss to get a big deal.
The Patriots did not exercise their option on Stallworth. But that doesn't mean he won't be back. The team will try to work out a new deal with Donte. But Donte may want to test the waters of free agency. He won't get a big contract, but he may want to be a team's #1 or #2 receiver. In New England, he has become #3 behind Moss and Welker.
Wes Welker is thankfully here to stay. His 112 receptions, and 1,175 yards were a huge part of the Patriots going 16-0 in the regular season. Had the Giants not won the Super Bowl, Welker would have been my first choice for MVP of the game.
Jabar Gafney emerged in the 2006 post-season, and endured a year behind Moss, Stallworth, and Welker. He still contributed when called upon, catching 36 passes for 449 yards. He might want to go to a team that will have him higher on their depth charts. And you just know that some team will offer him a bloated contract thinking if he's paired with a mediocre QB he'll have the same kind of performance.
If Stallworth goes, I think Gafney's return is a sure bet. If Stallworth stays, Gafney might allowed to leave. But as far as #4 WRs go, Gaffney's probably the best in the NFL.
The Patriots recently passed on an option to keep Kelley Washington. His situation is similar to Stallworth's. A pickup would result in big bonus money and a big cap hit. The Pats have expressed an interest in reworking Washington's deal.
Washington didn't catch a pass, or have any offensive touches whatsoever. But he did contribute on special teams. He had 16 total tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt. He was a big reason why Patriot opponents rarely had good field position after kickoffs.
Kelley may want to find a team that allows him to play more on offense. Then again, he seemed to relish his role on special teams. If certain players ahead of him leave (Moss, Stallworth, Gaffney), he becomes a much more integral part of the offense.
Former 2nd round pick Chad Jackson also didn't see an offensive snap in 2007. His injury woes kept him sidelined completely until November 8th. He still only saw limited time as the 6th receiver on the depth chart. He returned a few kicks, as well as a few punts.
We've yet to truly see what Jackson can do. When the Pats drafted him, he was an exciting prospect. The Pats traded up to draft him 36th overall in 2006. But a hamstring injury, followed by an ACL tear kept us from seeing as much as we wanted to see. Like Washington, Jackson moves up and fills in if other WRs leave.
Troy Brown has seen his last days in red, white, and blue. He's an unrestricted free agent, and will be 37 years old when the season starts. But he gave the Patriots 14 years of service. He's one of the few players to play in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.
One possibility that might strike some as bizarre is Chad Johnson. Yes, Ocho Cinco himself. He's not happy in Cincinnati (who would be?). Belichick always talks about Johnson with as much of a smile as the Coach can muster. And we've seen "characters" come to New England and all of a sudden become monotoned, polished, and professional (See: Rodney Harisson, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss).
If I were a betting man, I'd set the odds of Johnson becoming a Patriot at 100 to 1. With the depth the team already has at the position, adding CJ would be slightly gratuitous. Plus the team would lose cap room to rebuild the defense. Plus he would be costly to trade for. Plus you'd have three different guys who are all used to being #1 receivers on the field at once.
But you never know what's going to happen. If Moss and Stallworth leave, the odds will change.
Here's what I think the Patriots depth chart at WR will look like for the 2008 season:
WR1: Randy Moss
WR2: Wes Welker
WR3: Jabar Gafney - re-signed
WR4: Kelley Washington - re-signed
WR5: Chad Jackson
After that, who knows.
Now here's the "If there were no salary cap and the Pats could afford to load up at one position" dream depth chart:
WR1: Randy Moss
WR2: Chad Johnson
WR3: Wes Welker
WR4: Donte Stallworth
WR5: Jabar Gaffney
Impossible, but it's fun to dream.
The Dallas Morning News