The New England Patriots‘ receiving corps received a much-needed boost on Monday.
After signing free-agent tight end Jonnu Smith to a four-year, $50 million contract earlier in the afternoon, New England later secured the services of wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Per reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter, Agholor will sign a two-year, $26 million deal, while Bourne will be inking a three-year, $22.5 million contract.
More from PFF's live free-agency coverage:
What Nelson Agholor provides
Agholor emerged as the top wide receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders last season after his five-year stint in Philadelphia came to a disappointing end. Agholor’s production for the Raiders mostly came as a deep threat. His 444 receiving yards on deep targets ranked sixth among wide receivers. He scored six times on his 11 deep passes, trailing only Tyreek Hill.
Agholor finished 2020 as a top-50 receiver by PFF overall grade, so he’s earned the chance to remain a starter in the league. As a fantasy asset, he was inconsistent. He was held to two or fewer catches in half of his games. He also had games where he put up less than 50 yards on eight or more targets. There was more good than bad late in the season, including two games with 100 yards and a touchdown in the last four weeks.
What Kendrick Bourne provides
Bourne isn’t a big-name receiver but has consistently improved during his time with the 49ers. His overall PFF grade, receiving grade and yards per route run all increased in each of his four years in San Francisco. He has experience playing both out wide and in the slot. He gives the Patriots three wide receivers with a PFF grade above 70 last season.
Patriots need for a wide receiver
The Patriots were thin at wide receiver coming into the 2020 season and had even bigger question marks this offseason. Second-round rookie Jakobi Meyers emerged in the slot for New England after Julian Edelman’s injury. On the outside, N’Keal Harry has been a disappointment while Damiere Byrd is a free agent.
The Patriots needed someone who not only can play outside receiver but catch deep passes. New England targeted deep receivers a league-low 35 times, leading to just three deep touchdowns on 16 catches. No individual receiver for New England had more than 140 deep receiving yards. Agholor immediately fills this need.
The addition of Bourne is bad news for the receivers currently on the Patriots roster outside of Meyers. Edelman is two months away from his 35th birthday and missed most of last season with injury; his PFF grade has been on the decline. He seems unlikely to be on the roster, while Harry falls to fourth on the depth chart.
The fantasy fallout after the signing of so many pass-catchers isn't pretty for the wide receivers. Newly signed tight end Jonnu Smith will likely lead the team in targets. The wide receiver group is pretty well rounded, which should lead to a relatively balanced target share among the three players. Agholor is the most proven wide receiver of the group, but his value takes a hit here. Cam Newton had an accuracy percentage of 33.3% on deep passes last year, well short of Derek Carr‘s 43.6%. Agholor's value will potentially see fewer targets and less accurate deep balls.
All three wide receivers are worth late-round fliers, as this change of scenery could be what any of these receivers needs to move to the next level. Of course, a different receiver could end up leading the team in fantasy points on any given week.
Fallout for Las Vegas
Henry Ruggs III is the biggest winner from these moves. He should be the new leader for Las Vegas in deep targets, and the Raiders have a good deep thrower willing to air it out. Hunter Renfrow should remain the slot receiver, leaving a hole at the other wide receiver spot. Las Vegas has the cap room to add a WR in free agency. If the Raiders don’t add anyone, then Bryan Edwards is the next man up on the outside.
Fallout for San Francisco
Llosing Bourne gives a very slight boost to George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. These players all deserve a high target share, but it will be hard for all three to get the targets they need competing against each other. Bourne would have seen at least a few targets per game, but now the gap in target share between these three and everyone else will be higher. The 49ers will likely leave Richie James as the third wide receiver on the roster, but he won’t see enough targets to be worth drafting.