FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are shopping a trade of third-year receiver Malcolm Mitchell as he attempts to come back from a knee injury that sidelined him all of last season, putting his future with the team in doubt, league sources confirmed Monday.
Mitchell, who has been a regular at the team facility throughout the offseason and whose advocacy for reading has generated national headlines, had his knee evaluated by doctors on Monday morning, a source confirmed.
NFL Network first reported the Patriots’ plans. The Boston Herald and Providence Journal reported that the evaluation included a procedure to determine the extent and cause of discomfort in Mitchell’s knee.
A 2016 fourth-round pick out of Georgia, Mitchell was a key cog for the Patriots in the second half of their comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. He had five catches for 63 yards in the second half, as the Patriots charged back from a 28-3 deficit.
Quarterback Tom Brady later noted the trust he had developed with Mitchell, pointing out how it showed up most in the game with the highest stakes.
But Mitchell, whose history with knee injuries since college had some NFL teams lowering his draft grade, had a setback in the 2017 preseason and began last season on injured reserve. He attempted to come back late in the season but was never activated off IR.
Mitchell was hoping for another comeback in 2018, saying earlier this year that his goal was to be ready for spring practices. When he wasn’t a regular participant, that was the first indication that things hadn’t reached the point he hoped.
In addition to Mitchell, the Patriots have Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister, Braxton Berrios and Devin Lucien at receiver.
Edelman will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy to open the season, which takes away Brady’s No. 1 option at the position. The Patriots would have liked to lean on Mitchell based on the trust he has built with Brady, but that now seems like a long shot.