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What's next for Patriots at WR after re-signing Kendrick Bourne?

What's next for Patriots at WR after re-signing Kendrick Bourne? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Kendrick Bourne is the kind of personality the Patriots should want to keep around. Particularly as the team builds up its roster and looks for high-energy players with good character who can infuse the locker room with real ability, re-signing Bourne makes sense.

That's exactly what the Patriots did Sunday, less than 24 hours before the start of the NFL's legal tampering period, committing to Bourne as part of their receiver room for the next few seasons. The 28-year-old is receiving a three-year deal for $19.5 million with a $4.2 million signing bonus, per the Boston Herald.

Bourne was on his way to a career year in 2023, racking up 37 catches for 406 yards and four scores in eight games, before tearing his ACL in a game against the Dolphins.

"Three years, it was a rebuild while I was there," Bourne told NBC Sports Boston during Super Bowl week. "And I loved being a part of that. Setting the foundation. And I think it's going to take off pretty soon. I want to be a part of the take-off, in a sense, and I'm excited for the new chapter. I would love to be a part of it, man. I definitely have unfinished business."

The Patriots, meanwhile, still have work to do at the receiver position. Bourne hopes to be ready for training camp, and second-year wideout DeMario Douglas will be looking to build on a productive Year 1. But questions abound.

What will the team do with veteran boundary wideout DeVante Parker? If the Patriots want to release him (as a post-June 1 cut), they would save almost $2 million, but they'd also have to be willing to eat almost $5 million in dead money.

Then there's JuJu Smith-Schuster, who's probably less likely to be released given the $9.6 million dead-money charge that would hit New England's books if designated as a post-June 1 cut.

But the Patriots probably can't keep everyone. They know last year's group wasn't good enough. What's next, then?

Perhaps they would work hard to part with one of their higher-priced veterans if they can figure out a way to come away with a talented free agent at the position.

Jacksonville's Calvin Ridley looks like the best of the bunch in this year's free-agent class and could command a contract that pays him in the $16 million-per-year range. Arizona's Marquise Brown is set to hit free agency as well. Cincinnati's Tyler Boyd, Buffalo's Gabe Davis, Baltimore's Odell Beckham, Chicago's Darnell Mooney and Houston's Noah Brown are all interesting names for the Patriots to keep an eye on, too.

But the avenues for adding receiver talent aren't limited to free agency. It's a strong draft class at the position with potentially about a dozen wideouts flying off the board in the first and second rounds.

While the Patriots could use their No. 3 overall selection to take a quarterback, grabbing a receiver at No. 34 overall wouldn't be out of the question. South Carolina's Xavier Legette, Florida's Ricky Pearsall, Georgia's Ladd McConkey and Michigan's Roman Wilson could all be worthwhile options for the Patriots at the top of the second round.

The Patriots have money to spend. They have the draft capital to invest in young explosive receiver talent. But they only have so many spots for pass-catchers on next year's roster.

Bourne looks destined to take one, once he's cleared. Douglas should have another. Who ends up being the centerpiece to the room in 2024 and beyond, though, remains anyone's guess.