Going into this offseason, everyone thought that the tight end position would be the biggest area of need for the New England Patriots. It appeared as if the Patriots heard these concerns loud and clear, signing Benjamin Watson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and signing undrafted free agent Andrew Beck out of Texas. Unfortunately, a few months later, this group looks significantly lighter. Watson will be serving a four-game suspension to start the season, and Seferian-Jenkins was recently released. The Patriots do have Matt LaCosse, who caught 24 passes for 250 yards with the Denver Broncos last season, but I do not think that anyone wants him taking first-team reps at this point, given where the Patriots hope to end up at the end of the season.
So what other options are out there? Could the Patriots trade for a player and fleece the opposition in the process? Well, not so fast.
The Patriots have been engaged in trade talks with the Minnesota Vikings since the rumors of Kyle Rudolph potentially being moved surfaced. Rudolph is in the final year of his deal with the Vikings and will be in for a big pay day once this season concludes. In 2018, Rudolph grabbed 64 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns. Now these aren't other-worldly numbers, but it would be a significant upgrade over anything the Patriots have on their roster right now. The only problem? The Vikings are rightfully asking for an arm and a leg for their star tight end. Adam Schefter has reported that the Vikings are looking for either a first round pick or an impact player, which just doesn't make sense for a team like the Patriots to give up, given his contract status.
If you look at the other areas of the Patriots offense, it is pretty clear that tight end is perhaps the only weak link on this team. While many believed that the wide receiving core was going to be mediocre at best to start the year, the Patriots were able to add Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, and N'Keal Harry to a group that already consisted of Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, and, if he can ever come back, Josh Gordon. At running back, the Patriots have perhaps one of the deepest groups in the entire NFL. In 2019, the Patriots will have the luxury of being able to roll out Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, and rookie Damien Harris. Could they perhaps use one of these running backs to grab a tight end? I guess time (and Bill Belichick) will tell us that.
And, of course, this article would not be complete without mentioning the potential return of one Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski has made it be known that he has no intentions of coming back to football, and at this point I truly believe him. He has taken a beating for his entire career and wants to move on in his life. However, what happens when November and December roll around and the Patriots are cruising to another AFC East title? Could a nice call from Belichick entice Gronkowski to lace them up for a few games for one more Super Bowl run? Now, I think all parties would be interested in that. But for now, let's put this rumor to bed.
At this point in their careers, I have complete trust in Belichick and Tom Brady. If they thought they needed an all-pro tight end in order to win another Super Bowl, they would have gotten one. Because the Patriots are so loaded offensively, perhaps they will be able to get away with rolling out a LaCosse or a Beck at tight end for long stretches in the upcoming season. As long as they can block well and pick up the offense quickly, they should be in a great position to repeat as Super Bowl champions.