Perry: Where will the Meyers market land? And more combine buzz


We're a ways away from the opening of the legal tampering period, but the tampering has effectively begun out in Indianapolis this week.

The site of the annual NFL combine also happens to be the site where real ground is covered by clubs and player representatives. Feelers are placed. Interest is gauged.

It's tradition.

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There remains time for estimations to shift, and numbers can balloon if there happens to be a bidding war, but team opinions on free agents are just about fully formed at this point. And there's one Patriots impending free agent whose entry into the market carries more interest than any other: Jakobi Meyers.

Ranked the No. 7 free agent by Pro Football Focus -- and top wideout on the market -- Meyers is hitting free agency at what appears to be an extremely advantageous moment in time. But how much are teams expecting to have to cough up to entice Meyers to sign?

Multiple receiver-needy clubs I've spoken to estimated that the Meyers market could end up in the $12 million-per-year range and top out at about $15 million per season.

That number would fall several million -- in terms of average annual value -- below the deal handed to Christian Kirk by the Jaguars last year ($18 million per year). Kirk (236 catches through his first four seasons) isn't a bad statistical comp for Meyers (235), but Meyers' traits and what's perceived to be a lack of top-end speed could limit his market. For a team to get to the Kirk deal for Meyers, one league source explained, they would likely have to view him as a "back-end No. 1" and it's not anticipated that that will be the case.

If Meyers were to hit the upper threshold of the expected range -- around $15 million -- that would put him just about on par with slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who signed a two-year extension with the Raiders worth $31.7 million. If Meyers landed somewhere closer to $12 million per year, as we projected earlier this offseason, he'd fall in a realm closer to slot operator Curtis Samuel, who inked a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with the Commanders in 2021.

What may benefit Meyers in his pursuit of a lucrative new deal is that there are Patriots-minded front offices strewn across the NFL. While league perception seems to be that the Patriots are higher on Meyers than the rest of the NFL, there are a handful of Patriots-like teams out there that could help drive the market.

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If Bill Belichick values separation at the tops of routes, nuanced route-running, toughness and blocking ability in his receivers -- all things Meyers brings to the table as a bigger slot receiver (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) -- then there is a chance that former Belichick assistants like Jason Licht of the Bucs, Nick Caserio of the Texans, Dave Ziegler of the Raiders and Monti Ossenfort of the Cardinals feel similarly. That could increase the competition for Meyers and elevate his price tag. (Both PFF and ESPN have projected Houston as the best organizational fit for Meyers this offseason.)

Meyers may also benefit from there being little consensus in this year's draft about the best receivers in the class. This group isn't loaded with blue-chip players at that position -- especially with some of the best players at that position checking in under 6-feet and/or under 200 pounds -- which might make a steady passing-game option (with some size) like Meyers more attractive.

The Patriots would like to have Meyers back. He's viewed as a candidate to make up part of the next wave of leadership in the locker room at One Patriot Place. But, as they often do, the team appears to be at the point where they're waiting to see how his market materializes.

DeAndre Hopkins a possibility?

While Tee Higgins and Keenan Allen got strong votes of confidence this week from team leaders that they won't be dealt, that didn't occur with DeAndre Hopkins when new head coach Jonathan Gannon was asked about him.

"I'm not sure," Gannon said. "We are looking at evaluating everyone. I know this: he's a premier receiver you have to have a plan for."

General manager Monti Ossenfort was a little more positive on the veteran receiver's presence on the roster. 

"I'm glad that he's on the team," Ossenfort said this week.

Indications are, though, that Hopkins is available via trade at the right price. If and when those negotiations take place, it may end up costing the acquiring team a second-round pick.

Would that be worthwhile to the Patriots? Hopkins isn't viewed as the player he once was, but one personnel director explained that he's still capable of being a difference-maker. Furthermore, Bill Belichick was extremely complimentary of Hopkins before the game between the Patriots and Cardinals in December.

League sources wonder if Bill O'Brien and Hopkins would co-exist in New England after their divorce in Houston. Additionally, Hopkins' personality is one that is viewed in the league as mercurial. But if Hopkins can still achieve a certain level of effectiveness, his contract wouldn't necessarily be prohibitive. He's scheduled to make $ 19.5 million in base salary in 2023, but it's not guaranteed. The 31-year-old is under contract through 2024 ($ 14.9 million in base salary that season).

Tackle market cooler than expected?

There are a handful of middle-tier tackles who could intrigue the Patriots this offseason: Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor and Kaleb McGary. In our five-point plan published earlier this offseason, I wondered if McGlinchey might be available for the Terron Armstead contract, something in the range of $ 15 million per year. 

Indications are -- to this point, at least -- the number for that group of tackles may not get there. If so, that may be good news for the Patriots, who could still use help at the position even after agreeing to re-sign Conor McDermott.

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As a third or fourth tackle option, McDermott makes sense, one league evaluator said. But a starting option to play opposite Trent Brown is still something the Patriots should be looking for. And if that player costs just north of $10 million per year? That would seem to qualify as a bargain based on how the tackle market has grown in recent years.

Big swing for Jalen Ramsey coming?

The Patriots will take a close look at corners this offseason after a year in which they were short at the position during their stretch run. (A soft-tissue injury to Jalen Mills robbed them of one of their starters for weeks, and rookie Jack Jones finished the season suspended by the club.)

Would they be in the running to try to land All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey via trade? On his current contract, he's scheduled to make about $ 16 million per year in base salary. Not bad for a player who remains one of the best in the game at his position. 

But a recent report from PFT's Mike Florio that Ramsey may want a new deal if and when he's dealt could complicate things for any potential Rams trade partner. If Ramsey is looking for new money -- say it's a contract that gets him back into the top-five players at his position in terms of average annual value for the next three years -- league minds are inclined to believe that would be enough to take the Patriots out of the mix for his services.

One Patriots type who impressed

We'll have plenty to discuss in the next few days and weeks about the top performers at this year's combine. But there's one under-the-radar name at a position of need who's worth keeping an eye on over the course of the process. 

Ole Miss receiver Jonathan Mingo, who impressed at this year's Senior Bowl, came off as an especially bright young player during interviews. While the Ole Miss offense isn't considered complicated, one offensive coach who interviewed him this week told me he knew his scheme inside and out. Not always the case -- even with some simplistic systems.

At 6-foot-1, 226 pounds -- and with real playing strength that has led to impressive yards-after-catch moments -- Mingo would be an interesting fit in New England as a hard-nosed boundary option with the ability to potentially fill roles on special teams as well.

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