Patriots Claim Former Michigan State Product

Getty Matt Sokol

The New England Patriots added to their tight end group on Wednesday by claiming former Michigan State Spartans standout and Los Angeles Charger Matt Sokol off the waiver wire from the Detroit Lions.

Sokol, 26, stands 6-foot-6 and is listed at 260 pounds. He went undrafted in 2019 after spending four years in East Lansing with the Spartans. Sokol never put up huge numbers as a receiver, with his best season coming as a junior in 2017 when he had 21 receptions for 200 yards and 2 TDs.

After spending the 2019 offseason on the practice squads of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chargers, followed a similar path in 2020 with L.A. and the Lions. He got into the only two contests of his career with the Chargers that season but spent the 2021 campaign on the Lions’ practice squad.

His path crossed with former Lions head coach and current Patriots assistant Matt Patricia. The connection between the two may have laid the foundation for this signing. Despite Sokol’s limited experience in the NFL, the Patriots’ brass saw enough to claim him off waivers.


Who Do the Patriots Have at Tight End?

The tight end room is a bit crowded for New England after they claimed Sokol. Hunter Henry and last year’s major disappointment, Jonnu Smith still figure to get the bulk of the snaps at the position.

There’s also a pair of third-round picks from the 2020 NFL Draft, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. Neither man has made an impact in the NFL. Asiasi has played in just 10 games in two seasons. He has two receptions for 39 yards and a TD. There were hopes he could emerge as a third tight end in 2021, but that didn’t happen as he was only active for two games.

Keene spent 2021 on injured reserve and his rookie season was barely more impacting than Asiasi’s first campaign. Keene has 3 receptions for 13 yards as he hopes to secure a roster spot in 2022.

Sokol figures to fall in just behind that group unless he can make a huge impression at training camp and perhaps in the preseason. There’s also the chance someone gets injured, or in the case of Asiasi and Keene, perhaps released.

More than anything, the Patriots need more from Smith. The Patriots signed him to a 4-year, $50 million deal and expected him to play a major role on offense.

Instead, he struggled to stay healthy playing in 16 games but starting just 11. He was banged up, but active much of the season. When he was on the field, he wasn’t very productive.

Smith finished the season with 28 receptions for 294 yards and 1 TD. That was well beneath the expectations set for a player making an average of $12.5 million per season.


What are Sokol’s Chances of Sticking with the Team?

At this very early stage, you’d have to consider Sokol’s chances of making the team pretty slim. He has had very little experience in the league and the Patriots already have four tight ends. With the team going without a traditional fullback this season, there is even more reason to believe each of those additional blocking responsibilities in the run game should be handled by tight ends.

If an injury occurs, things could change, but for now, Sokol’s presence is likely just to get the roster up to 90 players while we transition closer to training camp.

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