Arbella Early Edition

Perry: Where Patriots need to add at WR after K.J. Osborn signing

'He's not really what the Patriots need in the passing game, quite frankly.'

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We have good news and bad news for New England Patriots fans: K.J. Osborn might be the team's best wide receiver at the moment.

That's a reflection of Osborn's talent and dependability; the Patriots' latest free-agent signing averaged 52.7 receptions and 615 yards per season with the Minnesota Vikings from 2021 to 2023 and caught at last 48 passes in all three campaigns. It's also a reflection of New England's lack of depth at the position, as Osborn was the No. 4 option in Minnesota's passing game last season and isn't a true No. 1 receiver.

Patriots Insider Phil Perry believes Osborn can make an impact on the 2024 Patriots, however.

"I think you're getting a slot receiver guy who's really tough," Perry said of Osborn on Monday night on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition. "He's gonna do all the little things. He's gonna play inside, he's gonna block his face off. He's gonna give you everything that he has when it comes to doing all the little things.

"He gives you pretty dependable hands -- pretty low drop numbers over the course of the last few years -- but he's a guy who's been a No. 3, really, when he's at his best in Minnesota."

Second-year slot receiver DeMario Douglas may have more upside than Osborn, and wideout Kendrick Bourne looked like the Patriots' No. 1 receiver last season before he suffered a torn ACL. But given Douglas' relative inexperience and Bourne's recent injury, Perry still sees an incomplete receiver group in New England that lacks a key element even after Osborn's signing.

"I would say Pop Douglas is probably more talented than this guy, but he's smaller and he was banged up last year and we don't know if he can play a full season," Perry said. "K.J. Osborn, probably a little bit less talented but probably a little bit more dependable. And again, they kind of play the same role. They're gonna be interior guys.

"He's not really what the Patriots need in the passing game, quite frankly. You need someone who can win on the outside and can create an explosive play for you. That's not really his game. He's more (of a) durable, dependable interior, tough player that people are gonna like, but he's not really going to be a game-changer for them, in my opinion."

The Patriots missed out on that potential "game-changer" last week when Calvin Ridley chose the Tennessee Titans over New England and the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. Outside of perhaps Mike Williams -- who reportedly is visiting with several teams, none of which are the Patriots -- there are no "explosive" receivers left in free agency, so Eliot Wolf and Co. would need to either explore a trade for a player like Tee Higgins or Brandon Aiyuk, or turn to the 2024 NFL Draft to find a dynamic wideout.

Both of those strategies come with risk, but the need is obvious: New England had one of the NFL's least potent receiver rooms last season, and they've made only a marginal improvement so far in 2024.

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