What the Patriots could realistically expect in a N'Keal Harry trade

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Phil Perry
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Perry: What Pats could realistically expect in a N'Keal Harry trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A fresh start would make sense for N'Keal Harry.

Maybe he finds a program that suits him better off the field. Maybe he finds an offense that caters to his skills better on the field.

In New England, Harry was "battered," according to Cam Newton during a visit with the "I AM ATHLETE" podcast earlier this offseason. The implication was that the second-year receiver, who'd grown close to Newton in their time together, was worn down by the atmosphere and the demands placed upon him in Foxboro.

That's what made it interesting to hear the NFL Media report Wednesday that suggested teams have called the Patriots about potentially acquiring Harry via trade. It would make all the sense in the world for him to jump at the chance to make a move.

What about the Patriots, though? They've parted ways with early-round picks before. Their 2014 first-rounder Dominique Easley never made it to Year 3, and neither did second-rounders Chad Jackson and Cyrus Jones. Second-rounder Duke Dawson never made it to Year 2.

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Even if it was the right time to cut ties with Harry, their first-round pick from 2019, what could the Patriots realistically expect in return?

Not much.

The closest recent deal that would serve as a legitimate comparison would be the trade that sent Corey Coleman, the No. 15 overall pick in 2016, to the Bills in exchange for a future seventh-round draft choice. 

Coleman played just two seasons in Cleveland before being shipped out. (He later spent about a month with the Patriots on their roster and practice squad before being released.) He saw action in 19 games in his two years with the Browns, catching 56 passes for 718 yards and five touchdowns. Harry, meanwhile, has reeled in 45 passes for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games with New England. 

Is there a chance the Patriots get more in return for Harry? Potentially. 

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There have been other 2019 early-round receiver draft picks who've struggled with their clubs, including Philadelphia's JJ Arcega-Whiteside (14 catches, 254 yards in two seasons), Arizona's Andy Isabella (30 catches, 413 yards) and Indy's Parris Campbell (24 catches, 198 yards) -- all of whom were second-rounders that year and could potentially be available in a receiver-for-receiver swap. Third-rounders from that draft class like Baltimore's Miles Boykin (32 catches, 464 yards) and San Fran's Jalen Hurd (has not played due to injury) haven't hit either.

Given the sell-low nature of a Harry trade and the expected return, it might be worthwhile to give Harry another crack at a role on the team in 2021. He dealt with injuries in his first year that appeared to derail his season. He dealt with a limited offseason and a quarterback change in his second season. The Patriots could argue there have been circumstances out of his control that have led to Harry's lack of production -- even though fellow second-year receiver Jakobi Meyers burst onto the scene with a 59-catch, 729-yard season in 2020.

If the Patriots saw Harry struggle behind the scenes the way Newton did last year, if he was truly "battered," and if the Patriots feel it will be more of the same from Harry in 2021, a future Day 3 pick -- light as that return would be -- might be enough to make them pull the trigger on a trade.