Before we get into the main topic at hand, which is the flexibility Jordan Matthews could give the Patriots’ offense, let’s first take a second to acknowledge the bargain New England is getting in the fifth-year wide receiver.
That’s one-fifth as much as Ryan Grant and John Brown will make in 2018. It’s one-9.6th as much as Donte Moncrief will take home. Paul Richardson signed a multi-year deal for $39 million more. Marqise Lee signed a multi-year deal for $33 million more. Albert Wilson will pull in $6.652 million more in 2018. Matthews will take in significantly less than Taylor Gabriel and Cody Latimer.
Want a fact that is fun? Matthews, 25, has more career yards and touchdowns than any of those other wide receivers, all of whom also entered the NFL in 2014.
And sure, Matthews is coming off multiple surgeries and had a major down year in 2017. But wouldn’t you rather sign the guy with more career yards and touchdowns for $1 million rather than those other guys for $5 million per season and more?
Bill Belichick The GM seems to still know what he’s doing.
So, what role will Matthews play in the Patriots’ offense? He primarily played slot receiver with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills so it could be assumed he’ll do the same in New England, especially with Danny Amendola headed to the Miami Dolphins.
It’s certainly possible. But the Patriots also could be envisioning a position change for Matthews. Keep in mind Chris Hogan and Brandon LaFell, both bigger receivers like Matthews, also primarily played inside in their stops previous to New England. Hogan and LaFell were moved outside with the Patriots.
If the Patriots want Matthews, who’s 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, in the slot, then that would mean Julian Edelman would be playing much more outside receiver than in previous seasons. Edelman usually plays the “Z” receiver spot in two-receiver sets and kicks inside into the slot in three-receiver packages.
Here’s how the Patriots’ receiver corps would look with Matthews in the slot if he earns a starting spot.
Edelman is so good out of the slot, however, that it might make sense to move Matthews outside to take advantage of his height.
Here’s how that would look:
There’s also a possibility Matthews could impress so much this spring and summer that he overtakes Hogan for the No. 2 role.
Matthews has almost 900 more career receiving yards and five more touchdowns than Hogan. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
So, here’s what that could look like:
The Patriots have a history of taking big slot receivers and moving them outside. They don’t have a long history of using big slots. Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Amendola and Edelman aren’t exactly skyscrapers.
That’s not to say the Patriots won’t use Matthews inside. But let’s keep the option open that New England might view him in the same mold they previously used Hogan and LaFell. And it’s likely he’ll play all over the Patriots’ offense, which demands positional flexibility out of its receivers.
It’s also possible Matthews doesn’t beat out players like Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister for a starting slot or even roster spot. But he has more upside than those other receivers based on his age, past production and pedigree. And that makes him an intriguing weapon for the Patriots.