The New England Patriots’ already-questionable roster situation became even more compromised prior to the start of training camp when a league-leading eight players opted out due to concerns about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
These losses expectedly proved costly as the Patriots stumbled to their worst season in two decades. With 2020 officially in the rearview, however, you would think that they could finally start to welcome those players back to the team, right?
Not exactly. It was reported last week that linebacker Dont’a Hightower is not only unsure of whether he’ll return next season, but that he’s also pondering retirement. In fact, the only positive update the Patriots have received from their opt outs has to do with wideout Marqise Lee, who told ESPN this week that he’s eager to return to football.
Lee revealed that he arrived in Boston this past weekend, passed his physical, and wants to hit the ground running as soon as possible. Objectively speaking, it’s encouraging to know that the former second-round pick is in the right headspace to return to football amid the continued surge of positive cases throughout the country.
However, this update shouldn’t inspire much confidence in Patriots fans as Lee is far from a vital player and was never expected to play a big role on the team. He was signed to a one-year, $1.05 million (veteran minimum) contract last offseason after being limited to just six games over the previous two seasons because of knee and shoulder injuries.
At 29 years old, Lee probably has plenty left in the tank, but it says a lot about his outlook for next season that he is now four and five years (!) removed from his most productive campaigns. Even then, he wasn’t anything to write home about, logging a combined 119 catches for 1,553 yards (7.7 yards per target) and six touchdowns between 2016 and 2017.
In normal circumstances, Lee wouldn’t stand a chance at sniffing targets. However, being that the Patriots have arguably the thinnest WR corps in the league — that could become even weaker if veteran Julian Edelman were to leave — he might just weasel his way into a starting role if he makes the team out of training camp and the preseason.
In summation, not exactly what Patriots fans want to hear right now.