It was not long ago that the New England Patriots believed that 2019 first round pick N’Keal Harry could be a cornerstone of their offense for years to come. The team knew that they needed to infuse their attack with younger talent, as the weapons around future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady continued to age.
However, the former Arizona State wide receiver was not able to establish a connection with Brady, or a foundation with a Patriots offense desperately seeking a spark. The franchise decided to part ways with Harry before training camp, sending him to the Chicago Bears for a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
New England career summary
N’Keal Harry’s career with the Patriots got off to a very slow start, one that he arguably never recovered from. He had an inconsistent minicamp in the summer of 2019, which was inauspicious when considering that Brady was already in his forties, and wanted players he could rely on. Unfortunately, the prospect was also slowed by injuries that cut down on his practice time. An ankle injury suffered in the preseason opener forced the Patriots to place him on injured reserve. He would make his debut in mid-November against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Harry could never carve out a role in the passing game. He would finish the regular season with just 12 catches and two touchdowns.
During the following offseason, Brady took his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Patriots were left searching for answers under center. They ultimately decided to rebuild their offense around Cam Newton, who was a much different player than Brady.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels emphasized a running style to highlight Newton’s skill set, leading to very few opportunities for Harry to shine. He did appear in 14 games in the 2020 season, and caught 33 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Heading into the 2021 season, Harry would once again have to learn how to play with a new quarterback. This time it was rookie signal caller Mac Jones.
New England still decided to focus on rushing the ball in order to ease Jones into NFL life. Even with that context, Harry was not a focal point when the ball was thrown. He finished seventh on the team in receiving with 184 yards and 12 catches to his name last year.
Future in Chicago
It was clear that Harry’s future in the NFL was not going to be in New England. From a personal standpoint with regards to opportunity, the Chicago might be one of the best places for him to land.
The Bears lost Allen Robinson in free agency, and have one of the most unproven group of receivers in the NFL. The team is in the middle of retooling, having hired a new head coach in Matt Eberflus and a new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy. As a result, previously defined roles and camaraderie established in prior years will not mean much, as the entire roster looks to prove that they should be included as part of Chicago’s future. Harry should get a legitimate chance in a fresh situation to demonstrate he is a capable NFL playmaker.