Patriots’ Rumored Target Defines His Free-Agency Priorities

Getty Hunter Henry

If the New England Patriots want to sign free-agent tight end Hunter Henry this offseason, as many suspect, the team may need to show him more than just the money.

The 26-year-old tight end who has played the first five years of his career with the Los Angeles Chargers organization made it clear, the basis of his decision in free agency goes deeper than money.

Henry told SiriusXM NFL:

I would be lying to you if I wasn’t just, like, ‘I’m not even gonna look at the money’ or anything like that. That’s part of it. That’s part of our jobs and everything, but I don’t think it’s all about that. I want to play somewhere there’s a good quarterback. That’s huge for our position. It makes things a lot easier … Playing with a good quarterback always makes things better. You gotta look at both. You gotta look at some of the financial stuff, but not dive too deep into it that you go chasing it because I also want to play with a good quarterback.

Many would suggest Henry’s priorities will leave the Patriots on the outside looking in unless they sign or trade for a veteran quarterback who meets Henry’s standards. You also have to wonder if other free agents will feel the same way. 

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The QB Options

The only quarterbacks the Patriots have under contract for the 2021 season are Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala. Neither man shakes out as the type of player who will be a magnet for top free-agent options.

If the Patriots can swing a trade to land a star like the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson or the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan, that would be a different story. Both Watson and Ryan have the kind of reputations and resumes that would lure tight ends like Henry and some of the top wide receivers available.

Even if the Patriots go a tier down and wind up in a reunion with the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo or complete a trade that brings them the Las Vegas Raiders’ Marcus Mariota, Hunter, and other free agents might be more inclined to sign with New England.

Cam Newton is a different story. There are likely players in the league who still believe in Newton, and others may not. It’s unclear which side of the fence Henry would sit in this scenario.


Henry Has to Stay Healthy

While he is entitled to his standards for a team looking to sign him, Henry must manage to stay on the field a little more consistently over the next few years. 

Henry missed two games in 2020, four in 2019, and he sat out the entire 2018 season after he tore his ACL. The four games he missed in 2019 were due to a knee fracture. Durability will be a concern for anyone who decides to take a chance on Henry.

If healthy, he could give the Patriots they are sorely lacking: a tight end who excels and both pass- receiving and blocking. Henry is a complete tight end who is coming off a season that saw him haul in a career-high 60 receptions while also tallying 613 yards (another career-high) and four touchdowns.

If the Patriots had gotten that sort of production from the tight end spot, they might not be on the prowl for one this offseason.

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