The New England Patriots are in a transition stage at the wide receiver position 14 weeks into the National Football League season.
Veteran wideout Deion Branch was released while battling a hamstring injury on November 17, while the emerging Julian Edelman was placed on season-ending injured reserve following Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins in which he suffered a broken foot.
In steps another familiar face around New England, Donté Stallworth.
Stallworth was originally signed by the Patriots as a big-money deal back on March 11, 2007 and went on to have a productive season with Tom Brady and company even while fighting for reps alongside Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney.
Stallworth finished the 2007 campaign with 46 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite having a successful season with the 18-1 Patriots, Stallworth was released following the 2007 season before receiving millions more in guaranteed money that would have been owed to him if he remained on the roster another year. Since then he has bounced around the league, playing for the Browns, Ravens and Redskins before returning to New England this March.
Stallworth then spent the entirety of training camp with the Patriots this summer before being released during final cuts in September.
At 33 years old it is obviously unfair to expect the production he had during his go-around in New England, but with only Welker as a solidified option at the position currently, there is room for Stallworth to contribute.
Even former Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd, who was signed this offseason, has not been what the Patriots had hoped, and in fact was losing snaps to Edelman before he ended up on I.R.
Fans looking for Stallworth to add the deep-threat they have been lacking since the departure of Moss will be disappointed in the speed Stallworth has at this point in his career. In the preseason quarterback Ryan Mallett tried finding Stallworth deep on a few occasions, never leading to a completion.
What Stallworth may be able to bring to the table is his agility and ability to gain yards after the catch, something that has not been a strong point for Patriots' receivers like Lloyd and Branch in recent years. Stallworth can factor into the screen game immediately, a part of the offense accentuated by returning offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
With just himself and Matt Slater behind Welker and Lloyd on the depth chart, Stallworth may get more balls thrown his way than the Patriots would like, especially in the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.
It would not be a surprise to see Stallworth step in and have a handful of targets Monday night as the Patriots take on the AFC's current No. 1 team, the Houston Texans.
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