The Patriots are using more cap space on WRs than any team but aren’t likely to have a WR1

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You can’t say the New England Patriots have failed to put their financial support behind quarterback Mac Jones in his second season. They certainly have. New England is dedicating more cap space than any other NFL team to the receiver position in 2022, according to Spotrac.

With salary cap numbers, looks can be deceiving. So I’d like to also present you with a few other figures before I dive into what it means. New England is third in the NFL in positional sending at receiver, per Over The Cap. The Patriots are spending the 10th-most money in new cash (through salary and bonuses), per Spotrac. Suffice it to say that Bill Belichick has decided to make a substantial investment in their wideout position.

There’s no clear recipe to offensive success when it comes to spending at receiver. The New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams round out the top seven. It’s a mixed bag.

The teams that have successful offenses in that group are the ones with a No. 1 receiver — and perhaps more than one truly elite receiver. That’s what makes New England’s offense so challenging to project. They do not have a clear-cut elite wideout. Their group includes Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Tyquan Thornton (rookie), N’Keal Harry and Tre Nixon, among others. Typically, I like to list a position group in order of how I think their snaps will be allocated from first to last. But in this case, I have absolutely no clue how the Patriots will divvy up their workload among their top five players at the position.

Bourne is probably the strongest candidate to finish the season as WR1, at least in terms of production. He demonstrated tremendous upside and versatility to play in the slot and outside. He was durable and played all 18 games (regular season and playoffs). He proved capable of delivering touchdowns (five) and big plays. He also managed an impressive catch percentage (78.6), which led receivers and tight ends. He has upside. It’s just a question of how much.

Parker was, for a short time in 2019, a bonafide WR1 in an offense very similar to what the Patriots run. He has been too injury-prone to be reliable, however. Even with that injury history, Parker has as good a chance as any receiver to be the top option — so long as he picks up New England’s offense.

Agholor flunked out of New England’s system in 2022, so it’s hard to think he’ll elevate into a substantial role. Meyers is a slot player who is productive but lacks elite size or speed. Thornton is a rookie, and the Patriots almost never see returns on investment at the receiver position in Year 1.

And because I’ve listed so many candidates — Bourne, Parker, Agholor, Meyers, Thornton — there isn’t likely to be a WR1. They will each eat into the other’s production, with the Patriots likely using different players based upon a different matchup and game plan. Teams may choose to put their CB1 on a different receiver in any given week.

The Patriots seem to be running a money-ball approach, with so much depth at the position that it makes life difficult for opposing defensive coordinators. The problem is that an offense can only use so many receivers on one given play. And the key to money ball is avoiding frivolous spending — and New England hasn’t done that. So if the Patriots don’t see a receiver take the alpha role, New England’s offense might be due for some issues — unless Belichick can use that incredible depth in ways the rest of the NFL has not considered

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