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FOXBOROUGH – Could Dez Bryant pass a crash course in Patriots 101?
The enigmatic and emotional Bryant, 29, is the top receiver on the free agent market and with the Patriots thin at the position, the inevitable question about a possible connection comes up about a 1,000 times a day.
With the regular season less than two weeks away, Bryant would need to get up to speed quickly with what Tom Brady on Monday called a “graduate level” offense. Bryant has eight years of pro experience under his belt, but all of it was in the Cowboys offense.
Many veteran receivers have tried to extend their prolific careers in New England but few have had success, not being able to fully grasp this ever-evolving offensive scheme. Joey Galloway, Chad Johnson (Ochocinco), and Reggie Wayne are among the more notable swings and misses.
New England’s offense requires receivers to run precise routes with multiple options of those routes.
Related: A look at some wide receivers the Patriots might be eyeing
“I would say receiver is a challenging position in our offense,’’ Brady said during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI. “We have a graduate-level type of offense. It takes a lot to learn. It’s not easy. [It’s] not easy for rookies. It’s not easy for veterans. It’s a lot of work. It’s time consuming. If we are going to be effective on offense, we have to have a lot of people out there who can process information quickly and make adjustments. Everything changes week to week. Everything is a big adjustment.’’
Perhaps too big of an adjustment for Bryant, who, despite being an elite playmaker in his prime, was never considered an elite tactician.
Running tight routes has never been one of Bryant’s strengths. Instead, his strength is his strength, and that’s how he has done most of his damage.
Blessed with ridiculous size, power, and athleticism, the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Bryant, who has 531 catches for 7,459 yards, and 73 touchdowns, could beat opponents into submission with brute physicality.
Brady was asked specifically about Bryant, who recently posted during an Instagram exchange that “Tom Brady has always been my favorite player . . . real fact,” during his radio appearance but the quarterback wasn’t interested in campaigning for the diva receiver.
“I know Dez just a little bit,” Brady said. “I think he’s obviously a hell of a player, but I don’t make those [decisions] for our team and I don’t go in there and tell them who I want. This is not the position I have ever played here. You just respect our team for what they are looking for and our personnel people. My job is to play quarterback and whoever is here, that is who I have to make it work with.’’
Another thing that wouldn’t work in Bryant’s favor is his history of unprofessional behavior, including missed meetings and appointments and sideline outbursts, where it often appeared as though he was showing up teammates or the coaching staff.
In 2016, ESPN reported Bryant “had been tardy or missing at least 20 times and possibly as many as 40 times” to team meetings and medical treatments during his career.
Following a knee injury suffered in a game in 2016, Bryant went MIA for three days, missing an MRI and meetings without communicating with the Cowboys.
That kind of behavior would not be tolerated at One Patriot Place.
Perhaps a better fit would be a second go-around with Michael Floyd, another big receiver (6-3, 220 pounds) who could be caught in a numbers crunch in New Orleans.
Floyd joined the Patriots in mid-December of 2016 to bolster a receiving corps thinned by an injury to Danny Amendola. Floyd became available after being cut by the Cardinals following a DUI arrest.
Floyd, who had a familiarity with New England’s offense from his time playing under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, saw limited action, catching four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown and had one catch for 9 yards in the divisional-round win.
He was the odd man out when the receiving corps got healthy, though he did have a sideline view for the Patriots’ epic Super Bowl LI win over the Falcons in Houston.
“I love it here. I hope to be back in Foxborough,’’ Floyd said that week. “I hope that I can make that happen, for sure.’’
Bill Belichick has a good relationship with Saints coach Sean Payton and the two have pulled off a lot of trades in recent years, including the deal for receiver Brandin Cooks.
If the Patriots chose to go the free agent route – the club did sign K.J. Maye on Monday – another name to keep an eye on is Jeremy Maclin.
An eight-year veteran, Maclin’s blazer days are behind him, but he still has the quickness and route running that could allow him to thrive in the slot – especially through the first four weeks when Julian Edelman will be shelved by a league suspension.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.