The New England Patriots have just signed veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to a one-year deal due to the ankle injury sustained by Aaron Hernandez. The Pats star TE is expected to miss the rest of the month and could miss up to six weeks with his low ankle sprain injury.
Winslow was worked out by the Pats after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, later, the Seattle Seahawks this offseason. Winslow’s fallout with the Bucs stemmed from his unwillingness to buy into rookie coach Greg Schiano’s new system in Tampa. However, despite the health concerns that have plagued Winslow throughout his career, the former Cleveland Browns TE passed his physical with the Patriots after initial reports stated he failed it.
Those reports were somewhat based off of the assumption that Winslow was not signed because he failed his physical, even though the workout was never about signing him. It was about seeing if he is effective- and healthy- enough to play for the Patriots in the event of an injury to either Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski.
The Pats could have reactivated Visanthe Shiancoe from the injured reserve as well, as they did give him that designation. However, it doesn’t seem like he is ready for that event, so the Patriots will load up with another TE in the interim.
Much has been made of Winslow’s decline as a player, and a lot of the statistical studies that argued that he severely declined in 2011 are false and lack context. Josh Freeman constantly looked for Winslow when in trouble, because his outside receivers struggled and most struggling, young QBs over-target their TEs- especially when under pressure.
Winslow isn’t as good as he used to be, but he’s still at least an average receiving tight end in this league. Otherwise, why would the Patriots sign him? The Pats aren’t infallible, but they are easily one of the best teams in the NFL at evaluating players and making wise personnel decisions.
To read my full arguments against the misleading statistics on Winslow, please follow this link. I used to cover the Buccaneers as a staff writer, and the guys from the Pro Football Focus (Nathan Jahnke being one of them) mostly agreed with the piece.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.