The New England Patriots were sorely lacking at the tight end position last season. That’s not necessarily an indictment as it is incredibly hard to fill the shoes of a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Rob Gronkowski.
Tight ends recorded just 37 receptions (53 targets) for 419 yards (11.3 per reception) and two touchdowns across four different names. Those names were Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson.
Knowing that soon-to-be free agent quarterback Tom Brady wants to win another Super Bowl and might ask for more weapons versus more money adds pressure to Bill Belichick to follow through. Names that have floated around since the offseason began are Tyler Eifert, Hayden Hurst, Hunter Henry, Greg Olsen and Thaddeus Moss (via the draft).
Point being, the four guys that came in last season simply aren’t going to cut it if the Patriots want a shot at keeping their Hall of Fame quarterback under wraps for 2020.
But who could?
As mentioned previously, New England has kept tabs on some of the tight ends who could be available. However, they tend to do their best offensively when they have two tight ends who can create problems for opposing defenses. Whether it be two pass-catchers (a la Gronkowski and Tim Wright) or a receiver and a blocker (a la Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen), the Patriots likely need to add multiple to their receiving corps this summer.
After missing out on Greg Olsen (signed with Seattle), the market for cheap, veteran tight ends is bleak. Yet, one name has recently surfaced after reports indicated he will be released: Jimmy Graham.
One potential play-maker hitting the market: #Packers TE Jimmy Graham is not expected back in Green Bay, sources say. The move with the 33-year old former free agent signing is noteable, though not a surprise for anyone involved.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2020
Graham has had a rough go of things since leaving Seattle and heading to Green Bay. However, he’s been named to the Pro Bowl as recently as 2017 with the Seahawks. That season he recorded 57 receptions for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, even with his so-called decline in skill, he still outpaced Patriots tight ends to the tune of 38 receptions, 447 yards, and three touchdowns (45 catchers for 555 yards and three if you include the playoffs). All three would’ve led the Patriots’ tight end corps and he bested all four New England tight ends combined in those numbers.
He also only dropped two passes on 60 targets in 2019, which would’ve been the best mark among featured tight ends for the Patriots a season ago.
If there’s one thing Brady loves and has shown the tendency of loving through his career, it’s veteran receivers with good smarts. Graham, although 33 years of age and declining a bit in talent, still is a more-than-capable pass-catching tight end that the Patriots so desperately need.
Oh, and his downfield blocking as a receiver isn’t too shabby either.
Oh hello Jimmy Graham
More of this please pic.twitter.com/0RPR9bU0aw
— Alexander Basara 🇵🇱🐺 (@Basaraski) October 9, 2019
He’d likely come cheap and wouldn’t hinder the development of any tight end New England opts for in the draft. In laymen’s terms, he’s a low-risk, high-reward kind of signing that could do wonders for re-signing Tom Brady.