BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots went out this offseason and stocked up on help on the defensive side of the ball, but so far they have neglected to add depth at the tight end position.
A slew of injuries have held All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski to just 18 games over the last two seasons, and it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to return this season from ACL surgery. That leaves the Patriots with just Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams for veteran tight ends and rookies Justin Jones and Asa Watson on the depth chart. They also signed first-year tight end Kyle Auffray on Monday.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense were at its best when they had a two tight end set in 2010 and 2011. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe joined The Adam Jones Show on Monday night, and said while the Patriots don’t need to employ a two-tight end set to be successful on offense, it was a position they needed to address this offseason given Gronk’s injury history.
“I don’t think they have to be a two tight end team in the sense they were when Aaron Hernandez was still on the roster and very productive. That was more of a product of the situation that they had. They don’t always have to have two tight ends on the field at the same time; you can have an extra running back, three wide receivers and one tight end. But it was always important to me for the Patriots to get a tight end this offseason, whether through the draft or free agency, and they haven’t done that,” said Howe. “After Gronk last season, Patriots tight ends had 14 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Teams were ignoring (Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan).
“(They need) insurance for Gronk in case he can’t play 16 games, which coming off the surgery and two seasons he had, clearly it’s something they have to be cautious of,” said Howe.
Howe also said adding a tight end this offseason could play a major role in the near future for New England.
“You also have to look ahead after the 2015 season when Gronk’s option and the second half of his contract kicks in. They have to pay $10 million to activate that second part of the deal, which is a huge chunk of change. If Gronk has another year where he’s hurt, or he’s healthy this year and gets hurt next year, you start to wonder if it’s worth paying that money to keep him around,” he said. “That’s a huge decision they have to make, and they didn’t really set themselves up with that type of insurance in case they do want to part with Gronkowski.
“I know I’m getting far ahead of myself here, but having quality insurance for him (is important), and that’s why I thought getting a tight was one of the two most important things for them to do this offseason, and they haven’t done it yet.”
Howe also talks about comments made by Pats’ QB Tom Brady on Monday, and the chances of the NFL Draft being held in Boston. Listen below: