Patriots re-sign Demaryius Thomas after placing first-rounder N'Keal Harry on IR

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor

Demaryius Thomas didn’t spend much time away from the New England Patriots.

Less than 48 hours after the Pats cut the veteran wideout, Thomas re-signed with the team on a one-year deal after they placed rookie first-rounder N’Keal Harry on the injured reserve, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Harry was already at risk of missing Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers because of an ankle injury he suffered in preseason, but this is quite a blow for the promising wideout’s development.

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Harry’s rookie season will get a delayed start

The Patriots have shied away from selecting skill position players in the first round of the draft, often doing the practical thing and trading down or selecting defensive player. That changed when they selected Harry 32nd overall in April, however, the first time they drafted a wideout in the first round since 1996.

Harry was the second wide receiver off the board after starring at Arizona State. He was a two-time all-conference performer with 2,230 yards and 20 touchdowns over his sophomore and junior seasons.

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Harry was expected to have a chance to crack the starting lineup but only appeared in three preseason snaps in the opener against the Detroit Lions. He left a joint practice with the Lions early on Aug. 6 with a leg injury and aggravated it in the preseason game — the malady is now listed as an ankle injury — while missing several practices afterward. Harry did return to practice on Sunday before landing on the IR.

Teams are allowed to designate two players to return from the IR early, so Harry won’t have to miss his entire rookie season. He will first be eligible to practice after Week 6 and can return to play as early as Week 9.

Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry will begin his rookie season on the IR. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Patriots rookie N'Keal Harry will begin his rookie season on the IR. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

How will the Patriots depth look without Harry?

The reigning champs should be able to fill in the gaps without Harry, especially since they brought Thomas back. The Pats return essentially all their top receivers from last season, save for Rob Gronkowski.

Tom Brady made ample use of James White in passing situations, as the running back led the team with 87 receptions last season, and Julian Edelman returns after leading the team with 850 yards in 12 games. Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson, who finished third and fifth among receivers, left in free agency, but they only combined for 83 targets and 56 receptions last year.

One of the team’s biggest upgrades will come from Josh Gordon, who will play starting in Week 1 and hopefully avoid further suspensions. He totaled 720 yards in just 11 games, putting him on pace for 1,047 over a full season. His 18.0 yards per reception ranked second in football.

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