Arbella Early Edition

How Parker's extension and Patriots' pursuit of Hopkins are connected

There could be a few different subplots at play in the Patriots' WR room.

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This probably wasn't the wide receiver news that New England Patriots fans were hoping to hear.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday night that DeVante Parker has agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Patriots worth up to $33 million with $14 million in guaranteed money. That news was surprising on many levels -- most of all because New England is viewed as a front-runner to sign DeAndre Hopkins in free agency, yet just committed significant money to a player who tallied just 539 yards in 13 games last season.

So, what's really going on here? First, it's important to note that Parker will only earn $33 million if he hits several playing time and performance-based incentives -- one of which is earning All-Pro honors. Parker was set to earn $5.7 million in base salary in 2023, but ESPN's Mike Reiss reports the new deal is expected to lower Parker's base salary for 2023.

That means the Patriots still should have plenty of cap space to sign Hopkins, and as our Phil Perry reported Wednesday night, they're still very much in the mix for the Pro Bowl wideout.

"My understanding is this does not rule out Hopkins eventually signing with the Patriots," Perry tweeted of Parker's extension.

But why extend Parker now if the Patriots had the money to sign Hopkins either way? Perry noted a potential motivation for the team Wednesday on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition.

"It also does guarantee (Parker's) spot if they make a move (for Hopkins)," Perry said, as seen in the video player above. "So, maybe there was some discontent on the side of Parker and his camp saying, 'You guys (want to) bring in DeAndre Hopkins; we're working hard here, we thought we were going to have a big role here. Are we sure we're part of the plan here?' And the Patriots are saying, 'Yeah, you are.' And this is how they show it."

The Patriots clearly see something in Parker, whom they traded for in April 2022 as part of a pick swap with the Miami Dolphins. When healthy, the 30-year-old is a field-stretching deep threat with strong hands who excels at contested catches. Durability remains an issue, however, as Parker has missed 11 games combined in the past two seasons.

New England is now committed to Parker through 2025, however, and if the team brings in Hopkins as well, it's possible Kendrick Bourne could get left out of a wide receiver room that also includes JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton.

"I wonder if Kendrick Bourne should be worried," Perry added. "Now that you've given money to Parker, is Kendrick Bourne now the 'odd man out' in that receiver room if they end up landing Hopkins?"

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