It sounds like wide receiver N’Keal Harry won’t be a Patriot for much longer.
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Harry’s agent, Jamal Tooson, announced he has formally requested a trade on behalf of his client.
“Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp,” Tooson wrote in a statement, first reported by NFL Network.
Training camp is scheduled to begin July 28.
Harry, drafted out of Arizona State with the 32nd overall pick in 2019, has not lived up to his first-round billing in New England.
He spent the first half of his rookie season on injured reserve, before returning to catch 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
Despite better availability and a close relationship with quarterback Cam Newton, the 23-year-old Harry posted equally underwhelming numbers in 2020. In 14 games — he missed two with a concussion — Harry finished with 33 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns. His receiving yardage ranked fifth on the team, behind undrafted Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, running back James White, and veteran Julian Edelman, who only appeared in six games.
Edelman retired and Byrd signed with the Chicago Bears, but both Meyers and White will be back in New England for the upcoming season. The Patriots also signed multiple offensive threats that are sure to command a large share of targets in wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for Harry, who likely would have been buried on New England’s depth chart. The Patriots also have Gunner Olszewski, Tre Nixon, Isaiah Zuber, and Kristian Wilkerson available at receiver.
“For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to allow N’Keal to thrive in New England,” Tooson wrote. “Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college.”
Harry still has two years left on his rookie contract, with most of his remaining money guaranteed since he was a first-round pick. Harry’s 2021 salary of $1.413 million is fully guaranteed. He has a 2022 salary of $1.872 million, of which $673,937 is guaranteed.
If the Patriots trade Harry, the new team would be responsible for his salaries, and it would leave the Patriots with salary-cap charges of $1.341 million in each of 2021 and 2022.
If the Patriots can’t find a trade partner and end up releasing Harry, it would leave them with cap hits of $3.428 million in 2021 (his remaining guaranteed money, plus $1.413 million of his signing bonus) and $1.341 million in 2022. However, since Harry’s contract has offset language, the Patriots’ obligation to Harry — both with salary and the salary cap — would be reduced by however much he can get paid if he signs with another team. The minimum salary for a player with two years of experience is $850,000 this year.
“N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity,” Tooson wrote. “He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”
Jones signs four-year rookie deal
Quarterback Mac Jones has officially signed his rookie contract, a four-year deal worth $15.6 million. The contract also includes a team option for a fifth year, which is customary for first-round draft picks.
Jones, selected 15th overall in April, is the sixth of New England’s eight draft picks to formally sign his contract. Only defensive tackle Christian Barmore and linebacker Ronnie Perkins remain unsigned.
Olszewski to begin a drive in Loudon
Olszewski will be driving the pace car for the upcoming Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, the 50th NASCAR Cup Series race hosted at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“This is a dream come true,” Olszewski said, via press release. “My brother and I grew up watching NASCAR with our dad, and I’m still a huge fan today. I can’t believe I get to lead the field to the green flag at ‘The Magic Mile!’”
The race is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 18.
Past pace car drivers include retired safety Patrick Chung (July 2018), Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (July 2017), retired offensive tackle Matt Light (September 2016), retired linebacker Rob Ninkovich (July 2015), and Edelman (July 2014).
“Gunner has proven himself on the gridiron and now is his chance to show New England race fans what he’s got,” said David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “We’re excited to welcome him to ‘The Magic Mile’ and put him behind the wheel of the official Toyota Camry TRD pace car.”
Ben Volin contributed to this report.