On Saturday, the New England Patriots acquired wide receiver DeVante Parker and a 2022 5th-round pick in exchange for a 2023 3rd-round pick, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Moving Parker solves a logjam at receiver for Miami created by the offseason additions of Cedrick Wilson and Tyreek Hill. While his contract remained reasonable, Miami essentially opted to replace him with the younger, unproven Wilson.
Some have bristled at the price the Patriots paid to acquire Parker. A swap of third and fifth-round picks for a 29-year-old receiver who has played 16 games and had 1,000 yards once in a seven-year career is unusually steep, and a reflection of both the teams’ status as rivals and New England’s high opinion of Parker as a player.
READ MORE: Why DeVante Parker Didn’t Work in Miami
DeVante Parker A Perfect Fit For New England Patriots
Parker fits the mold of a Patriots acquisition to a T. Bill Belichick has a history of acquiring veterans who have not lived up to their high draft pick status (Kyle Van Noy, Barkevious Mingo, Eric Rowe, etc.) with their drafted teams, and Parker, the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, is just another one of those players.
Parker’s performances against the Patriots in big moments were also likely salient in Belichick’s evaluation of him as a player. Much like when Belichick signed Chris Hogan to an offer sheet a few months after Hogan had a career game (6 receptions for 95 yards) on a Monday Night in Foxboro in 2015, Parker has often played some of his best games against the Patriots.
Most notably, he played a large role in playing spoiler to the 2019 team’s bid at a first-round bye, turning in an eight-catch, 137-yard masterclass on Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore in Week 17. He played a similar spoiler role in 2015’s Week 17, with a five-catch, 106-yard, one-touchdown performance in Miami’s stunning win over New England that robbed the Patriots of home-field advantage throughout those playoffs (and, this author will always believe, Super Bowl 50).
DeVante Parker should be the most dominant downfield presence the Patriots have had since Brandin Cooks
Not the same separator as Cooks due to a lack of top-end speed, but few maximize their size and work the boundary as well as Parker pic.twitter.com/Y74iXeBXnH
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 2, 2022
Parker’s Fit In the Offense
With Parker’s pedigree and history of strong performance against the Patriots, it shouldn’t have been surprising to see the team make a deal happen with their division rival. When you add to this the fact that Parker walks into the facility in Foxboro and instantly fills a need, the move becomes a no-brainer for the Patriots.
Parker’s fit alongside the team’s current group of wide receivers should be close to seamless. He provides the team with a true X receiver, something the group lacked last year. As a result, the team was forced to play marquee free agent signing Nelson Agholor out of position for most of last year. Having Parker in the fold and playing him at the X should move Agholor back out to his more natural Z spot, where he’ll face less press coverage and be free to run more routes that are natural to him.
Meanwhile, Parker provides the offense with something they thought they selected in the 2019 Draft: a player who can win contested catches, be “open when he’s not open” and at the very least, put a little fear in the minds of the opposing defensive coaching staff. While N’Keal Harry hasn’t proven to be able to do that at a consistent level in the NFL, Parker has. According to PFF, Parker leads the NFL in contested catches since 2019. The Patriots did not have a player like Parker on their roster before this trade. Now they do.
Concerns With the Trade
There are reasons to be concerned about Parker. For one, Miami essentially gave up on him, opting to replace him with the number four receiver on the Cowboys. The Patriots will have to hope that Miami’s internal evaluation of Parker was flawed.
In addition to this, Parker comes to the Patriots with a litany of injury concerns, particularly pertaining to his hamstring (strains in 2016, 2020, and 2021) and shoulder (injuries in 2013 and 2021). Parker has also had other assorted injuries to his foot, back, ankle, hand, and quad during his career; his durability cannot be counted on.
Bringing the Offense Together
In the best-case scenario, a receiver quartet of Parker, Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers is not special, even when coupled with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at tight end and New England’s stable of running backs. But it should be good enough.
With Parker in the fold, the Patriots finally have an archetypal player for every position in their offense: Parker as the X, Agholor as the Z, Bourne and Meyers as the versatile and interchangeable slot receivers, Henry as the traditional Y tight end, Smith as the F tight end, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson splitting early-down rushing duties with James White in his third-down role.
This offense does not boast the spectacular high-end talent of many in the NFL. This is the shortfall building it mainly through free agency– those high-end players rarely get there. But the Patriots are close, and the acquisition of DeVante Parker fills a major hole and brings them even closer.
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