N’Keal Harry in the summer of 2021 is like a gnat for the New England Patriots.
He is heard buzzing around, but a few whacks and it goes away for a little while. Basically, forgotten.
The gnat returned earlier this week when the Patriots wide receiver asked for a trade through his agent.
We assume the request, which had to be made through the Patriots president of football operations, Bill Belichick, went something like this:
Agent: “Yo Bill. It hasn’t worked out in New England with N’Keal. He’s not getting the targets and, well, touches. He would like to be traded.”
BB: (Laughing … laughing some more).
Agent: “Yo, Bill. What? Did you say something?”
BB: “No. You have my permission to find a trade partner. Whatever you can get, we would probably take it.”
BB: “Yes … (laughing) … whatever.”
Belichick has missed on some top draft picks. Dominique Easley (first round, 2014) and several second rounders.
But let's be honest, his "hit" rate is much higher. Much.
That is part of the job in selecting college talent. As Bill Parcells, my favorite quote machine once said in a presser in Smithfield, R.I., “This is not an exact science, fellas.”
This, though, was a big whiff. And expensive one, too.
Not because Harry wasn’t productive (only 414 receiving yards in two years) and was an injury machine (missing 11 games). That happens.
It was the “opportunity cost.”
Wow, that was a term – opportunity cost – I learned in micro-economics my freshman year and I’m actually using what I learned in the fall of 1979, in college, four decades later.
Which means “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”
There were 21 players drafted in 2019, as Harry was, that had more yards, including 13 wide receivers. And of those 13 wide receivers, 12 were selected after Harry.
Even worse, two of those wideouts, Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (64th overall) and Tennessee’s A.J. Brown (51st overall) made the Pro Bowl last year and are perceived superstar wide receivers.
Imagine what Tom Brady would have done with either one of those dudes, who averaged over 1,000 yards and nearly 10 TDs over their first two years.
In fact, Harry was brought here to New England to appease Brady, get him some “weapons.”
Instead, Harry was akin to a scud missile. Good-looking on the outside. But a dud.
Harry’s best play as a Patriot, in which he appeared to score a 15-yard fourth quarter touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs, never counted. Officials wrongly ruled he went out of bounds short of the goal line after fighting off two tackles.
In the end, Harry looked more like a tight end, speed and size-wise, when the Patriots needed a blazer down the sidelines.
He got hurt a lot. And we’re talking not just games, but practice, too.
While his agent may have thought he was starting the ball rolling now, the first week of July, Harry’s future as a Patriot ended within the first 24 hours of free agency on March 17 when the Patriots signed wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to beefy deals ($22 million guaranteed combined).
If there was any trade value for Harry a deal would’ve happened before the NFL Draft in late April.
While a release appears to be the easy option, it would be costly, as Harry would count $4.7 million in cap space for 2021 compared to $2.7 million if he is traded.
The fact that Harry will not be a Patriot in 2021 is not news. The fact he’s still around reminding us of what could have been is a problem.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.