The legal tampering period was a quiet one from the New England Patriots’ side. After the club lost four players on the first two days, it slowly entered the action by making three reported signings. However, they have not been inactive the last few days and are apparently exploring the tight end market: according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the world champions have been “in the tight end market a little over the last couple of days.”
One name Rapoport mentioned was Jared Cook, arguably the best pass catching tight end available. The soon-to-be 32-year-old spent the last two years with the Oakland Raiders and is entering free agency coming off the best statistical season of his career: playing 73.6% of the team’s offensive snaps during the team’s 16 games, Cook caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns — all career-highs for the veteran.
Adding Cook would certainly give the Patriots another receiving threat at the tight end spot, especially with the group in an uncertain status: Rob Gronkowski is still weighing retirement, while the depth behind him — Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo — is unproven at this point. New England also let go of blocking tight end Dwayne Allen earlier during the offseason, further thinning out the group.
Cook would therefore be a welcome and talented addition, especially in case Gronkowski does not return. That being said, the Patriots are operating tentatively as if the game’s best tight end is going to be back — Rapoport said as much on NFL Network earlier today:
In discussing the TE market, I passed my along what I know on #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski: His agent says he has not made a firm decision, but the team is tentatively planning as if he'll be there in 2019 and some people close to him believe he wants to play. pic.twitter.com/YRyC36Xaoi— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2019
Gronkowski returning after an offseason full of positive signs — from him regularly showing up at Gillette Stadium to comments about him apparently wanting to chase another Super Bowl ring — would certainly be big for the Patriots. After all, the 29-year-old is still one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons as a pass catcher, and one of the best blocking tight ends in the game as well.
A potential addition of Cook, who was ranked as Pro Football Focus’ number nine tight end last season, would help take some pressure off Gronkowski in 2019 — similar to how the team used him last year.