The tight end position is a major need for the New England Patriots heading into the 2021 season. The team tried to address the position in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they weren’t able to get much production out of a pair of third-round picks, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Asiasi and Keener had a combined 5 receptions for 55 yards and a TD in 2020. Primary starter Ryan Izzo wasn’t much better. He had 13 catches for 199 yards on the year. A total of 18 catches for 254 yards and one TD is a far cry from what New England is used to getting out of the tight end position. While there is a school of thought that suggests the Patriots should give Asiasi and Keene another year to develop before grabbing a player who is automatically elevated above them. However, the Patriots plan to compete in 2021 and they can’t risk having the tight end position be as dead in 2021 as it was in 2020.
That’s why Bill-Belichick-favorite Hunter Henry is expected to be a target for the Patriots in free agency.
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Henry Linked to Patriots
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots will have to open up their wallets if they want to sign Henry. Reiss wrote:
At tight end, it’s a similar picture to last offseason, with Hunter Henry (Chargers) the top target after playing on the franchise tag. Henry would be an upgrade for the Patriots, as he’s a true tight end in the sense he’s a factor as a blocker and pass-catcher. He could command close to a top-of-the-market deal, which is in the per-year-range of $14 million to 15 million.
The Patriots are projected to have just under $60 million in cap space available. Signing Henry would certainly each up a chunk of that, but when you consider how big of a factor he could be in the running and passing game, I’m not sure you’d find someone who’d say he wouldn’t be worth it.
Henry just turned 26 and finished up his fourth full season in the NFL. He played the 2020 season with the Los Angeles Chargers under the franchise. In 2020, Henry had a career-high 60 receptions, 613 yards, and 4 TDs. It’s also important to note how fond Belichick is of Henry. while it may not wind up being a factor in Henry’s free-agent recruitment.
Take a look at this quote from Belichick that happened prior to the Patriots’ Week 13 win over the Chargers.
“Henry continues to be a complete and very, very good football player for them Henry’s really been a great player. Watched him pretty much his whole career. … He started at Pulaski Academy down in Little Rock. Played for Coach Kelley. Had a great career down there. Went to Arkansas. Had a great career there. … … He runs a variety of routes. He’s come back off the injury and has been a very, very productive player for them along with all the other skill players. He’s done a good job for them in the running game as well as the passing game.”
If Henry does sign with the Patriots in 2021, his relationship with Belichick will be a major factor.
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