Patriots Named Trade Fit for Jets Tight End: ‘Size-Speed Combination’

Zack Kuntz

Getty The New England Patriots have been named a trade fit for a "size-speed combination" from the New York Jets.

Snatching a hidden gem from AFC East rivals the New York Jets and developing the player into a productive contributor would be worth a ton of bragging rights for the New England Patriots. If the prospect in question became a surprising force in a rebuilding passing game, then all the better.

The Patriots could make it happen if they traded for Jets’ tight end Zack Kuntz. He’s been named a trade candidate by Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, who listed the Pats among six teams, also including the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, as possible destinations.

Spielberger outlined why Kuntz may not be an ideal fit for the Jets’ scheme: “Nathaniel Hackett’s offense will ask its tight ends to block quite a bit, and that doesn’t appear to be Kuntz’s forte by any means.”

While 255-pound Kuntz may offer little as a blocker, Spielberger described him as a “size-speed combination did flash at times when he got open over the middle and turned upfield in a hurry after hauling in a reception. The Old Dominion product’s testing numbers were truly off the charts, and he’s an intriguing name to monitor if he can land somewhere else with the opportunity to fill out his 6-foot-8 frame and continue to develop.”

Kuntz possesses physical tools the Patriots could unleash in a passing game that needs to be more expansive this season. Tight ends will play a key role, with veterans Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry both able pass-catchers, but not offering the same size mismatch as the player the Jets selected in Round 7 of the 2023 NFL draft.

Late-Round Draft Pick an Exciting Prospect for Patriots

A tight end with move skills and speed after the catch is just what Patriots’ quarterback Mac Jones needs to help him make strides as a passer. Jones was hamstrung last season by a limited offense called by former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, but the Pats have spent the offseason retooling their signal-caller’s supporting cast.

Gesicki’s arrival from division rivals the Miami Dolphins in free agency was a big part of the overhaul. The 27-year-old showcased the potential to be a “red zone threat” during training camp, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry, but Gesicki also dealt with a shoulder injury this offseason.

It would help to have some cover for Gesicki, preferably a tight end who can also act as a move target all over the field. Fortunately, Kuntz has offered glimpses of his potential as a roving weapon during Jets camp.

Spielberger highlighted one connection between the former Old Dominion standout and Aaron Rodgers.

Meanwhile, Rodgers’ backup Zach Wilson found Kuntz in space after the latter had gone in motion, per footage captured Harrison Glaser of JetsTalk24/7.

Plays like these offer easy reads and quick throws for quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Kuntz’s height provides a big target against any covering defender.

All of those things will help Jones improve after he completed just 65.2 percent of his passes and averaged 6.8 yards per attempt last season, according to Pro Football Reference.

Part of Jones’ problem was the lack of involvement for tight ends in 2022’s offense.

Patriots Need Bigger Role for Tight Ends

Returning offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien needs to get tight ends more involved in the Jones-led passing game. Last season’s air attack connected with Henry and Jonnu Smith a mere 68 times from just 97 targets.

Improving those numbers won’t be a challenge with Gesicki and Henry in the lineup. Add in Kuntz and the Patriots will have enough resources to offset any lingering questions about the quality of their wide receiver group.

Head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t been shy about trading for unheralded players who need fresh opportunities this offseason. He’s already sent running back Pierre Strong Jr. to the Cleveland Browns for offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr., while NFL Insider Jordan Schultz reported the Pats dealt a sixth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for more O-line help, in the form of tackle Vederian Lowe.

Striking a deal for Kuntz would give a rebuilding Patriots’ roster another youngster with the potential to help at a key position.

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