The New England Patriots have reportedly shown interest in three-time Pro-Bowl tight end Delanie Walker. Several outlets have reported the Patriots are one of the multiple teams that have kicked the tires on the chances of the 36-year-old signing with them as a free agent.
The tweet below is from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:
Why are the Patriots in the Market for a Tight End?
Heading into the offseason, the tight end position was an obvious need for the Patriots. As a unit, it ranked the lowest as a position group on the team. Matt LaCosse was the starter in 2019, and per Pro Football Focus, he had the lowest grade of any starter the Patriots had last year.
Ben Watson also retired which created even more uncertainty. To address this issue, the Patriots selected Devin Asiasi out of UCLA and Dalton Keene from Virginia Tech–both in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. They also added undrafted free agents Jake Burt and Rashod Berry.
While Asiasi and Keene are obvious talent upgrades over LaCosse and his backup from 2019 Ryan Izzo, the veteran’s presence was still valuable because of their experience at such a crucial position. Matters became more complicated when LaCosse became the eighth Patriot to opt-out of the upcoming season due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point, the Patriots have only Asiasi, Keene, Izzo, Burt, and Berry (who might not even be a tight end when it’s all said and done) at tight end. There are a lot of bodies at the position, but only one of them has ever played a down in the NFL.
That’s less than ideal for any team, especially one like the Patriots who have depended on the tight end heavily in the past.
Why Delanie Walker?
From an accomplishment standpoint, few tight ends have put up the kinds of numbers that Walker has in his career over the past 10 years. In his 14-year career, Walker has 504 receptions for 5,888 yards and 36 touchdowns. Besides the obvious concerns with age and declining skills, there are other worries about durability.
Walker suffered season-ending ankle injuries each of the last two seasons. After missing just 8 games in 11 years, Walker has played in a grand total of contests the last two seasons combined. How healthy he is now will have a lot to do with whether he is signed by the Patriots, or any other team. He’s at an age where if he cannot find a team this offseason, he might be faced with the reality of retirement.
If the Patriots and Walker can agree, and he can remain healthy, he could immediately become the team’s starting tight end.
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