Four teams are left standing in the NFL postseason tournament, but the New England Patriots are not among them. They are already in the process of turning their attention towards what lies ahead: the offseason has arrived at Gillette Stadium after their wild card playoff loss in Buffalo.
It projects to be an interesting one for the Patriots. The team did go 10-7 in the regular season and returned to the playoffs, but it does face plenty of questions after its late-season collapse and with numerous starters in all three phases headed towards free agency. With that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time one position at a time.
Today, we continue at the tight end spot.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2023 season. Asiasi has a salary cap hit of $1.2 million in 2022.
2021 review: After appearing in nine games during his 2020 rookie season and catching two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown, Asiasi had a challenging sophomore campaign. Not only did he miss the start of training camp after testing positive for Covid-19, he also found himself buried on the depth chart behind free agency acquisitions Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
As a result, Asiasi appeared in only one game during the 2021 season. He played 12 offensive snaps in a win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10 and did not record any statistics.
2022 preview: Despite his status as a former third-round draft pick, Asiasi’s outlook heading into 2022 is not necessarily encouraging. Henry and Smith are not going anywhere, which would leave him as a depth option behind them once again. The Patriots might decide to keep him in that role, but it would also not be surprising if they moved on from him via trade or maybe even a release further down the line.
Contract status: Set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 16.
2021 review: Three months after joining the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in mid-May, the team waived Fumagalli with an injury designation. Ineligible to be activated again, he was forced to spend the entire season on New England’s injured reserve list and did not see any game action outside of his 24-snap performance in the preseason opener.
2022 preview: Fumagalli is scheduled to enter free agency in March, and the team will likely not be in any hurry to bring him back. That said, a reunion should not categorically be ruled out. The 26-year-old, after all, could be re-signed as a low-cost camp body.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2023 season. Henry has a salary cap hit of $15 million in 2022.
2021 review: Even with Jonnu Smith being signed to a four-year deal the previous day, Henry and the Patriots agreed to a three-year pact worth $37.5 million on the second day of the NFL’s legal tampering period. The veteran tight end lived up to his hefty price tag in his first season in New England.
Building an early rapport with rookie quarterback Mac Jones, Henry ended the season as the team’s leader in receiving touchdowns and one of its most reliable pass catchers. Primarily aligning either in the slot or as an in-line tight end, the sixth-year man appeared in all 18 games; he caught 51 passes for 633 yards and nine scores.
2022 preview: Henry’s chemistry with Mac Jones was encouraging and will likely allow him to keep a prominent role in New England’s offense heading into the second year of his contract. It remains to be seen how his usage will evolve and whether or not he will get more opportunities as a receiving option in 2022, but Henry again playing around two thirds of offensive snaps and being one of Jones’ favorite targets should be expected.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2023 season. Keene has a salary cap hit of $1.17 million in 2022.
2021 review: Coming off an injury-filled rookie season, Keene’s second year with the Patriots was more of the same. After undergoing meniscus surgery during the offseason, the former third-round draft pick started training camp on the physically unable to perform list before being sent to season-ending injured reserve in early August. Keene did not appear in a single practice or game for the Patriots during the 2021 season.
2022 preview: Keene is in a similar situation as Devin Asiasi, but essentially missing an entire year worth of practice let alone game action. The 22-year-old still possesses some upside as a potential H-back/move tight end, but his output since joining the Patriots in 2020 has been a disappointment. Long story short, he is no lock to make the team in 2022.
Contract status: Under contract through the 2024 season. Smith has a salary cap hit of $13.75 million in 2022.
2021 review: The Patriots’ free agency bonanza was opened when Jonnu Smith joined the club on a four-year, $50 million contract. As opposed to fellow big-name signing Hunter Henry, however, Smith has had a more quiet first year in the system.
Appearing in 17 out of 18 games and being on the field for 547 of a possible 1,169 offensive snaps, Smith was primarily used as an in-line blocker. He did fare well in that role, but his receiving output was limited. When all was said and done, he had caught just 28 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown. Smith also gained 40 additional yards on nine carries.
2022 preview: Due to the structure of his contract, Smith is not going anywhere in 2022. However, the Patriots will need to find a way to get him more involved in their passing game. Having a blocking tight end occupy $13.75 million of salary cap space is just not smart business, and something the team’s offensive staff needs to address moving forward.