Just three years after they acquired him as a draft pick in the first round, it seems to be written on the wall: N’Kil Harry’s days as a member of the New England Patriots are numbered.
In the 32nd selection in the 2019 draft, Harry struggled to take a consistent role in the Patriots ’offense. Although he has appeared in 35 games in his first three seasons in the league, he has caught just 59 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns – all performing mainly as a depth and receiver lock option.
In 2021, he was the team’s fourth option in that position. Having won 331 of a possible 1,169 offensive shots with just 28.3 percent playing time, Harry recorded 12 assists for 184 yards; his most notable game could be a lost touch during the return of the antlers against the Buffalo Bills at 13 weeks.
The 24-year-old seemed to be on his way out of Foxbury even before the Patriots bought one of DeVante Parker’s wide-ranging receivers last weekend. This move, however, makes it even clearer that the team is ready to move in another direction in place of the X-receiver: Parker is expected to play the same major role as Harry, but offers proven NFL-level production plus a more versatile skill set .
As a result of this trade plus Harry’s frustration over the past three years, the divorce seems to be happening sooner rather than later. If that happens, the Patriots will most likely try to ease the trade: trading it will lead to cleaner savings ($ 1.17 million) than a simple release ($ 493,111).
The question, obviously, is who will be willing to invest in the former first round selection. There are a few commands that come to mind.
If Calvin Ridley is dismissed for a year and Russell Gage resigns, the Falcons may be left with the worst wide-depth receiver chart in the NFL.
Returning veterans Olamid Zaccho, Frank Darby, Austin Tremel and Chad Hansen received a total of 55 passes for the organization, while free agency subscribers Auden Tate, Khadarel Hodge and Damier Byrd are also not world winners. Needless to say, Atlanta has an urgent need to find additional bodies and potential upgrades to the position.
Would N’Kil Harry be like that? Probably not. However, it offers experience and something more powerful even after three disappointing seasons: a first-round pedigree.
The poor, as the old saying goes, cannot choose. Thus, the “Falcons” may be willing to part with the selection at the end of the round to get into the hands of a player who has a certain talent, but obviously not in the place to realize their potential.
Unlike the Falcons, who recently replaced longtime quarterback Matt Ryan, the Bears have already found their defender of the future. However, the supporting cast that surrounds Justin Fields is not necessarily filled with proven talent – especially after the departure of Allen Robinson to a free agency.
Although Darnell Mooney is a good receiver after two productive seasons, the depth behind him is suspicious. At the moment, the additions to the free agencies Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown presents the following best options. It goes without saying that additional updates are needed.
The Bears are likely to take on the draft to find them, but chances are they’ll miss top-level talent after exchanging choices in the first round to move on to Fields ’pick last year. But even if they manage to get one of the best wide-ranging players available on board, adding more potential players could be on the agenda of general manager Ryan Pace.
Harry has not established himself as such, but the Bears may be a team eager to find out if they can help save his career – while giving his young QB a powerful and athletically intriguing reception option.
Although the CeeDee Lamb is a superstar in its infancy, the rest of the Cowboys ’extensive group of receivers has plenty of room for improvement. That’s why Dallas has been actively pursuing ample opportunities this offseason, including the new acquisition of Patriots DeVante Parker.
So far, however, only former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver James Washington has been added. That’s why David Howman of Blogging The Boys is lobbying for the team to expand trade with New England and take Harry on board:
[W]why should cowboys be interested in Harry? Well, for starters, he’s exactly the type of player this team is looking for. He was a former choice in the first round, which can now be obtained at a very low price. … Given Harry’s elite production in college, his strong athletic and physical profile, and the way things have unfolded for him so far, it seems that a change of scenery is the only way to unleash the potential of this former freshman. This new landscape should be Dallas, where the Cowboys need receivers after losing [Cedrick] Wilson is in a free agency trading Omar Cooper, and potentially doesn’t have Michael Gallup to start the season.
Harry would not replace either Wilson or Cooper, and he also would not suddenly start sick Michael Gallup. However, it will represent for the team a low risk / high reward acquisition:
If the Cowboys are able to get Harry to choose on the last day of 3 or even sign a very cheap deal with him in the event of his release, they will get a player with elite traits and strong potential for a rare low price. If it fails, then the Cowboys have lost no real value. But if that happens and Harry returns to the form that made him his choice in the first round, it will be a great helmet for the front office that desperately needs him.
Harry suddenly justifying his label in the first round would be a surprise, but this one chance might be worth a shot from Dallas ’point of view.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rogers is back, but the future Hall of Fame defender had to watch three of his top five raid receivers go free agency a year ago. Among them is All-Pro Devante Adams, who was sold to the Las Vegas Raiders after catching more passes in 2021 than the rest of the broader Packers receivers combined.
N’Kil Harry won’t help replace Rogers ’favorite receiver, but he can help lift a position in a group that isn’t proven outside of Allen Lazard and Randall Kobe, who is falling. That alone could be worth the draft choice in the eyes of the Packers – and if only to show Rogers that something is being done to resolve the situation.
Nick Caserio, a longtime director of New England players, has never shied away from finding talent at his former club: eight former Patriots are currently signing with the Texans, who added Caserio as general manager in 2021.
Among them are two broad receivers, Brandy Cooks and Philip Dorset, and they are now acting as starting points. The rest of the position depth chart doesn’t look any better: with the exception of Nick Collins ’sophomore and Deshan Hamilton’s free agency pickup, Houston has no real talent for a contract on a wide-ranging receiver.
Harry won’t necessarily be a modernization – at least judging by his performance in New England so far – but he offers much more potential than the likes of Jalen Camp, Damon Hazelton or Devion Davis. As with the other four teams on this list, only it may be worth the investment of choice at the end of the round or player depth in the trade.
Jeremy Brenner of Battle Red Blog has already made this argument last offseason, after agent Harry publicly demanded to exchange his client:
Coming to Houston can be the perfect combination of new scenery and dating. … As a recovery team, the Texans should welcome as many talents as possible. Harry provides this, and Houston has to look for a deal for him. I can’t imagine Harry choosing more choices in the seventh round, so if he hadn’t succeeded, the Texans wouldn’t have spent much. This is a situation with a very low level of risk and a high reward that should arouse interest in teams like the Texans.
Although circumstances have changed over the past year – Houston fired head coach David Callie to begin with – the basic idea of trading for Harry remains the same from Houston’s point of view. The difference between Texans and falcons, bears, cowboys and packers is that their CEO knows Harry inside and out, and just three years ago found him worthy of a first-round draft pick.