New England Patriots

What Kirk Cousins' take on K.J. Osborn says about Pats' WR room

Osborn's situation in New England will be much different than in Minnesota.

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K.J. Osborn has the opportunity to put up career numbers in New England, which is both encouraging and concerning for Patriots fans.

The veteran wide receiver, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Patriots in March, spent his first four seasons with the Vikings catching passes from quarterback Kirk Cousins, who left Minnesota to sign with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.

Joining former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal on The Big Podcast with Shaq, Cousins singled out Osborn as one former teammate he would like to see have a breakout year.

"Pretty much all of them, but K.J. Osborn is a receiver who was with us in Minnesota who was kind of in the shadow of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and I always felt like K.J. was better than the opportunities he got," Cousins told O'Neal.

"He went to free agency and went to New England, and I’d love to see him have a huge year in New England kind of with a bigger role than what he had in Minnesota to show what he could do."

On one hand, that's encouraging praise from Cousins. Osborn was a steady No. 3 wideout for the Vikings, tallying 655 yards on 50 catches in 2021, 650 yards on 60 catches in 2022 and 540 yards on 48 catches in 2023. If Cousins believes Osborn is better than those numbers, then the 26-year-old wideout has the chance to make a real impact in New England and even be the team's No. 1 receiver. (DeMario Douglas led the Patriots in receiving yards last season with 561.)

But therein lies the concerning part of Cousins' comments: The bar is quite low at wideout in Foxboro. While Osborn was behind Jefferson and Thielen on Minnesota's depth chart, the Patriots don't have anyone nearly as talented, with the second-year Douglas, Kendrick Bourne (who's coming off a torn ACL), JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton and ex-Viking Jalen Reagor among the current wideout group.

Put another way: If K.J. Osborn has a real chance to be your No. 1 receiver, you probably need better receivers.

The Patriots missed out on top free-agent wideouts like Calvin Ridley and Marquise Brown, but they still could pursue a trade for an elite wideout like Tee Higgins or Brandon Aiyuk. The 2024 NFL Draft class is also loaded with talented receivers who could be worth a Day 1 or Day 2 pick for New England, as our Phil Perry laid out in his "Prototypical Patriots" series.

If the Patriots don't make any more significant investments at the position, then Osborn indeed should get plenty of opportunities to shine as one of the few productive pass-catchers in Foxboro.

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