The Patriots now have 12 wide receivers on their roster after signing free agent Lavelle Hawkins to a 2-year deal. The addition makes for an interesting mix as the group of players competing to make the team swells to a number worthy of the show “Survivor.”

The clarity of the group’s rankings isn’t helped by Julian Edelman’s status, who is back in a walking boot after re-injuring his right foot. He is one player who can not afford to have an unhealthy training camp while the team has plenty of options – both cheaper and younger – to turn to in his stead. Without Edelman, who will possibly miss OTAs because of the injury, the Patriots are looking at a full-blown overhaul in the position group. That will lead to training camp battles as both veterans (Hawkins, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones) and rookie free agents (T.J. Moe, Kenbrell Thompkins) fight for the remaining spots on the team’s roster.

But as history under Bill Belichick will tell you, the odds do not favor the veterans. For instance, just last season Belichick brought in free agents Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Anthony Gonzalez in the offseason. Lloyd was the major free agent grab for the team, replacing Chad Ochocinco/Johnson, so his spot was secure. But Stallworth and Gaffney were returning to the franchise after sputtering out at their last stops. Neither made it through training camp, while Stallworth latched back on after injuries. Gonzalez didn’t even make it into training camp, with his career succumbing to his own injuries. Despite all three having respectable careers, they were no match for a healthy and entrenched group.
Unfortunately for Hawkins, he doesn’t have a decorated career to force his way onto a roster. But he does have the track star speed that NFL coaches lust for, making him a valued commodity at the right price. At 5-11 and 194 pounds, he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash coming out of college.

But he has been an underachiever in five NFL seasons so far. In his most productive year, 2011, he caught 47 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, after the Titans drafted receiver Kendall Wright in the first round (they added Justin Hunter this year), Hawkins was relegated to third string behind Nate Washington and Wright to start the season. The Titans added Hunter in the draft and then Houston Texans castoff Kevin Walter this offseason, making Hawkins’ hefty salary (slated for $1.9 million in 2013) expendable.