With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror and the dust beginning to settle, one position that the Patriots did not address was the tight end position. With a Rob Gronkowski-sized hole at the top of the depth chart after the future Hall of Famer announced his retirement, New England has a lot of production to replace at the position.
Adding man Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum was a nice signing that should bring good value to the team if he can stay healthy. The former University of Washington product had a strong year in 2017 with the Jets, catching 50 balls for 367 yards and three touchdowns, but had a down year this past season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, playing in just five games due to a core muscle injury.
The options after Seferian-Jenkins are...not great. New England is leaving itself open to a considerable amount of risk if Seferian-Jenkins, a player who has a considerable injury history, gets hurt again. To not draft a young tight end or sign another pass-catching tight end to add to the depth at the position is puzzling.
After Seferian-Jenkins, the tight end depth chart consists of Matt LaCosse (signed to a one-year free agency deal), Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo. Texas tight end Andrew Beck has also been rumored to have signed an UDFA deal with New England so let’s add him to the list too.
LaCosse is a fringe player who had 24 receptions for 250 yards and one touchdown last year with the Denver Broncos in what was considered to be the best season of his young career. Perhaps he continues that momentum this season and develops into more of a threat in the passing game. But that is wishful thinking right now: he should worry about just making the roster right now.
Hollister has shown flashes at times, but has struggled mightily to stay healthy thus far, only appearing in eight games last season due to a hamstring injury. He caught just four passes for 52 yards total.
Anderson was the tight end that was promoted to the 53-man roster from the practice squad to replace Hollister, and is an unknown at this point. Considered to be a “move” tight end like Hollister, Anderson didn’t get activated to the 46-man game day roster until the divisional round matchup in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Chargers. He will certainly have a chance to impress the coaching staff in training camp.
Izzo, a rookie last year, was placed on Injured Reserve at the end of training camp, but turned some heads prior to that with his blocking ability. There is some hope that he could replace the blocking of Dwayne Allen, at a much lower price tag.
Even if Seferian-Jenkins stays healthy all season long, there is not much there in the way of offensive production with this group overall. And yet, it does not look like reinforcements are coming anytime soon, after the team passed on the chance to take a tight end in a draft that was considered to have a strong tight end class this year.
So where do the Patriots go from here? Do they make a move for an available veteran tight end on another team, such as Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings? Or do they go into the 2019 season with this current motley crew and hope that a certain somebody decides to come out of retirement mid-season? That’s unclear right now, but the current state of the tight end depth chart for the Patriots suggests there is still one or two more moves to be made here to feel confident about this group heading into the regular season.