The tight end position was already a concern for the New England Patriots with the retirement of star Rob Gronkowski. That problem was exacerbated with Ben Watson being penalized with a four-game PED suspension to begin the 2019 season.
Depth at tight end is now even thinner with the Patriots deciding to release Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He was signed to a one-year contract in April and looked like a possible red zone target for quarterback Tom Brady.
The release comes as Seferian-Jenkins informed the team that he needed to take a one-month personal leave, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport. It’s possible that the Patriots are just clearing a roster spot for their upcoming training camp and will welcome him Seferian-Jenkins back when he’s ready. But depending on what matters need addressing, his stint with the Patriots may be very short-lived.
Seferian-Jenkins, 26, hasn’t been particularly durable, playing in only 43 games through five NFL seasons. He wasn’t necessarily expected to be a starter for New England, but was viewed as depth for the position along with Watson, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo and undrafted rookie Andrew Beck.
Gronkowski insists that he’s sticking to retirement despite simmering rumors of a comeback. Seferian-Jenkins’s release will add heat to those rumblings. This may also put more pressure on Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ front office to pursue a deal for a top-tier tight end like the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, which has also been rumored.
The tight end problem may also have an in-house solution. Sure, it’s minicamp and performance has to be viewed in that context. But the aforementioned Stephen Anderson was highlighted as a standout from team drills. The Patriots are very likely hoping that can be translated to practices and game play.