BOSTON (CBS) — A day after agreeing to deals with a number of free agents, Bill Belichick continued his mission on Tuesday. The Patriots have reportedly agreed to a deal with tight end Hunter Henry.
Adam Schefter broke the news on Tuesday, noting that — combined with Monday’s agreement with Jonnu Smith — the Patriots have gone out and signed the two best tight ends in the free-agent market.
And New England strikes again: The Patriots are signing former Chargers' TE Hunter Henry to a three-year, $37.5 million deal, including $25 million guaranteed, per source.
Free agency's top two tight ends, Henry and Jonnu Smith, wind up in New England.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2021
Henry, 26, has spent the first five years of his career with the Chargers, who drafted him with the 35th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s coming off a season with a career-high 60 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns. In 2019, he caught 55 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns in just 12 games played. As a rookie back in 2016, he caught eight touchdowns, which still stands as his career-high. He missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL. Henry played the 2020 season under the franchise tag.
The NFL’s “legal tampering window” opened on Monday, and the Patriots quickly got to work to agree to terms with former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith. That was anticipated to be the Patriots’ lone big move at the position, after drafting two tight ends in the third round last year. But Henry is a player that Belichick has admired for a long time, and he struck when the opportunity to sign him presented itself.
“Henry continues to be a complete and very, very good football player for them,” Belichick said in December, prior to the Patriots’ game against the Chargers. “Henry’s really been a great player. I’ve watched him pretty much his whole career. He started at Pulaski Academy down in Little Rock, played for Coach [Kevin] Kelly down there. He had a great career there, went to Arkansas and had a great career at Arkansas. Went to the Chargers and with [Virgil] Green out, he’s really played the Y role this year and showed good ability to block, catch. 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 their other good skill players. But, he’s done a good job for them in a running game, as well as the passing game.”
Deals cannot be made official until free agency begins on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, but the Patriots are clearly set to look like a brand new team in 2021.