FOXBORO — New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor is taking a page out of the team’s handbook when it comes to outside distractions.
Simply put, he is “ignoring the noise.’
Nelson Agholor follows his blocker vs. Buffalo Bills
Nelson Agholor goes up to make the grab
Nelson Agholor, Patriots WR
While the phrase may adorn a plaque on the wall of Patriots team headquarters at Gillette Stadium, it has taken on a new meaning for Agholor as he prepares for his eighth NFL season, and second with New England.
Though the 28-year-old has been the subject of trade rumors as of late, his positive outlook indicates that he plans on being a part of the Pats plans at the position in 2022. Agholor clearly expressed these sentiments when meeting with reporters on Tuesday via video conference.
‘I don’t focus on that,” Agholor said of the rumors surrounding his future in Foxboro. “I'm here for a reason. I love the opportunity to be a Patriot. Year two in the [Patriots] system is when guys really get going. I feel comfortable. I'm excited to have my best season with the Patriots.”
Throughout his career, Agholor has been a more-than-serviceable receiver. Prior to his arrival in New England, the former USC Trojan spent time with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Las Vegas Raiders. While he primarily played out of the slot during his time in Philadelphia, he was most commonly used on vertical outside routes with the Raiders.
Upon signing with the Patriots, it was expected Agholor would be employed in the same fashion, taking advantage of his speed and ability to separate over the top. His two-year, $26 million price tag was described as ‘a bit high’ by certain sections of fans and media, alike. However, it could not be denied that Agholor had the chance to provide a versatility and skill set that the Pats had lacked for the past few seasons.
Following a career year with the Raiders in 2020, Agholor got off to a hot start with New England in 2021. In Week One against the Miami Dolphins, the 28-year-old compiled 72 yards receiving, with one touchdown. Incidentally, he will hold the distinction of hauling in quarterback Mac Jones’ first touchdown pass in a Patriots uniform. At the conclusion of the season, he had compiled 37 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns.
However, Agholor’s production slowed as the season progressed. He finished the season as fourth on the list of most targeted Patriots’ pass catchers, while being fifth on the team in receptions. While those numbers may not seem to be commensurate with his hefty salary, Agholor is determined to make the most of his future opportunities by using the past as motivation.
“Well, it’s behind us, but I would say that it went the way it was supposed to for me..[in order] to grow,” Agholor said of his 2021 season. “I really can’t look at it any other way. I needed to grow, I needed to adapt, I needed to be able to do what I wanted to do, and I think everything happens for a reason. I’m not going to get upset about this or that because it’s in the past. What I do have in front of me is a really wonderful opportunity this year to be what I’m supposed to be and play the way I want to play.”
Although Agholor possesses a unique and versatile skill set, the Pats’ recent acquisitions at the position have led some to believe that he may have become expendable in the Patriots offense. In addition to adding former Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker, the team selected Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Alongside incumbents Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, New England has definitely upgraded its corps of wide receivers — and they have done so with two players with similar traits to Agholor.
Nelson Agholor, Mac Jones
Still, the veteran wideout remains undaunted by the presence of competition. In fact, he is hoping to thrive in it.
“This is the NFL,” Agholor stated. “Every year, there’s someone good in front of you and behind you. The job is to compete. I like to compete…having those guys [Parker, Thornton, etc.]…their ability will only make my game rise and help me to be a better player.”
Despite his resolve, however, Agholor’s future with the team may ultimately be determined by finances. By parting ways with him, the Patriots would stand to gain considerable salary cap space. The dead money on his contract would amount to $10 million if cut, $5 million if traded. According to Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the $5 million difference results from his $5 million in fully-guaranteed salary. If Agholor is moved via trade, the responsibility to pay said amount would go to his new team. As such, the Patriots would save approximately $4.9 million additionally against the cap if they were to trade Agholor, as opposed to releasing him outright.
Per Benzan’s calculations, the Patriots currently have $765,014 in available salary cap space heading into 2022.
No matter what the future may hold, Agholor will continue to move forward. He is already hard at work to make himself as much of an asset to the team as possible—from participating in informal throwing sessions with his teammates, to his presence at the team’s voluntary offseason workout program. Amidst the uncertainty, Agholor made one thing perfectly clear: he is happy to be a Patriot.
“I’m in a really happy place…and I’m just super excited,” Agholor said with a smile. “My motivation is to make it a memorable season.”
His coaches, teammates and Patriots fans undoubtedly share his enthusiasm.