At the onset of free agency in 2021, the New England Patriots commanded the headlines with a stunning spending spree.
It was an uncharacteristic approach for Bill Belichick's squad on the heels of a playoff-less 2020 campaign.
One of the recipients of the Patriots' free-spending dalliance was veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor signed with New England for two years and $26 million in a deal that raised eyebrows at the onset and even more when he finished 2021 in disappointing fashion.
The 28-year-old wide receiver isn't focused on the dollars and cents of it all, though, but more so on fulfilling his potential as a crucial piece to the Patriots' offense going forward.
"I don't focus on that," Agholor said, via WEEI 93.7. "I'm here for a reason and I love the opportunity that's given to me to be a Patriot, to work hard and the best part about it is in year two in the Patriots system is when guys really get going. I feel comfortable and I'm excited to have my best season with the Patriots and show why I'm here."
Agholor posted a career-high 896 yards receiving on 48 catches in his one season with the Raiders in 2020. He also matched a career high with eight touchdown catches. All those numbers added up to him landing the Pats' deal.
In 15 games with New England in 2021, Agholor garnered 37 catches (his lowest total since his second year) and 473 yards to go with three touchdowns.
Those statistics hardly compel excitement for what's to come.
Nonetheless, Agholor isn't looking to prove any doubters wrong and finds little inspiration in hauling a chip around on his shoulder. Instead, he's looking to have some fun and let that lead to a successful campaign.
"I think I'm at my best when I just have fun, play fast," Agholor said. "A lot of people have different ways of carrying motivation, they carry a chip on their shoulder and things like that. I'm a competitor naturally. I love to compete. I love to play the game. When I have fun with the game, and I have fun with the guys and play hard and practice hard I do really well. So I'm in a really happy place and super excited about the work that's coming from being in that happy place and the growth that's coming from it. So my motivation is to make it a memorable season with this team and the guys that I play alongside with and let it be something special."
Viewing it from an optimistic lens, Agholor is entering his second season in New England. He should gain familiarity and comfortability. Likewise, quarterback Mac Jones is entering his second NFL season, and there's been more time to build chemistry. There's bound to be room for improvement. At least that's what Agholor is banking on.
"For me it's familiarity first with the concepts," Agholor said. "Familiarity with how we do things, whether it's scheduling, training, all those things. And being more in the routine. I think it helps that I'm familiar with the environment, familiar with my coaching staff in terms of people in this building, strength staff, training staff. And I know the routes. Because the route tree is unique. Everybody runs certain routes, but the route tree is a little different than what I ran before. Now I know it, so I get to put my own spin on how we do things and play fast.
"So I'm just growing, practicing, putting stuff on tape and being comfortable with it. Putting my own flavor with what I put on tape. Whereas a year ago I was learning, so you do things at like a certain learning tempo. You never get to go just full speed because you want to make sure you are doing it right. So you kind of move with caution. Now I know what it looks like and I get to put my flavor on it. That's the cool part about year two. You've done it. You have a year of tape of it. Now you self-study and you just play fast."
This time last year, the Patriots were invested in Agholor playing fast and it didn't end up coming to fruition all that much.
New England's WR corps looks much the same as it did a season ago with Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Agholor. However, the Pats trading to acquire DeVante Parker would seem to put into peril Agholor's role.
Due $9 million in base salary in 2022, along with a $5 million signing bonus, Agholor carries a $14.8 million cap hit. He also has a $10 million dead cap number if he were to be released (before June 1 or after it), though it would save the Pats $4.88 million on the cap. It would seem unlikely Agholor gets cut, but a salary restructure could be a possibility.
Whether he wants to talk about it or not, Agholor will be looked upon to live up to his contract numbers by producing far better numbers on the field.