Tom E. Curran

Patriots 2024 roster reset: Time to target a tight end in NFL Draft?

The Patriot are dangerously thin at a key offensive position.

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Editor's Note: With the beginning of NFL free agency looming on March 13, our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran is resetting each Patriots position by assessing their 2023 performance, laying out their 2024 contract status and ranking their offseason priority on a scale of 1 to 5.

Curran has covered quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. Next up: tight ends.

The Patriots weren’t deep at tight end in 2023, and as a group they weren’t especially productive in the passing game.

A grand total of three tight ends trotted out and caught passes – Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki and Pharaoh Brown. And Gesicki was a hybrid TE/WR. So really, it was Henry – who had a very good season given the circumstances with 42 catches for 419 yards and six touchdowns – and Brown manning the conventional tight end spots.

As a group, they had 84 catches for 871 yards and nine touchdowns. Basically, a down year for Gronk. But times change. And more changes to the position will be coming.

Henry, Gesicki and Brown are all free agents. The only tight end currently on the roster is La’Michael Pettway, who played in the USFL for three seasons and was added to the Patriots practice squad on December 27.

Bright spots from 2023

Henry was the Patriots' most consistent pass-catcher before his Week 15 knee injury against the Chiefs ended his season. He was Mac Jones’ most dependable pass catcher and has provided solid leadership during his three years in New England. He was targeted 61 times, third on the team behind Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson.

Brown was a nice surprise, coming on after being released by the Colts at the end of training camp. He was primarily a blocking tight end and played in all 17 games.

He had a big-play touchdown against the Jets when he was left completely uncovered for a 58-yard catch. He had 13 catches on 15 targets.

Disappointments from 2023

It just didn’t work for Mike Gesicki the way the Patriots seemed to hope. He played in 17 games and started 10, but the guy who caught 73 passes for Miami in 2021 was reduced to an afterthought in the struggling offense.

After catching eight passes in the first two games, Gesicki had 21 in the next 15 with 10 catches in the final nine games.

Contract statuses for 2024

As mentioned earlier, all the tight ends who played last season are now free agents.

Offseason priority (Scale of 1-5)

Again, it’s a 5, as it was with wide receiver, running back and quarterback. It’s a position that can’t be ignored.

First things first, the team needs to gauge Henry’s progress as he returns from his knee injury and see about bringing him back. He’s a better-than-average player and turns 30 in December. His last contract was three years, $37.5 million with $25 million guaranteed.

It’s not a great tight end crop in free agency and Henry is viewed as the No. 2 option there behind Dalton Schultz so there may be competition for his services. (UPDATE: Schultz reportedly has agreed to a three-year $36 million contract to remain with the Houston Texans.)

Brown would be a low-budget option to return as the blocking tight end.

Last year’s tight end draft class was a bumper crop, with six going in the first two rounds. This year’s group is loaded as well with projected top-five pick Brock Bowers leading it.

If the Patriots want to spend a third-rounder on a tight end, Kansas State’s Ben Sinnott could be there. He’s a horse and a terrific pass-catcher in traffic. Same with Cade Stover from Ohio State.

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