New England Patriots: Trimming the Fat at Training Camp -- Part One

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Oct 7, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Daniel Fells (86) celebrates a touchdown by running back Stevan Ridley (22) during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Lead Editor Joe Soriano profiled tight end Daniel Fells here at MusketFire.com, and he made a compelling case for his value to the team. One downfall with Fells is that his only value is playing behind starting tight end Rob Gronkowski as his backup and on the goal line and special teams.  He is not a receiving threat at all, and Fells is never going to line up split out and off the line of scrimmage as a “joker” tight end like Aaron Hernandez did in the offense.

 

Getting a lot of attention earlier in the OTAs and mini-camp was potential Gronkowski backup and 6’7”, 255 lb undrafted rookie free agent Zach Sudfeld. A product of Nevada, Sudfeld is competing directly Fells for the backup tight end position to Gronkowski that could spell doom for Fells. Although training camp and the preseason games will be a better judge of his abilities, the 24 year old tight end seems to have kicked the injury bug last year and graded very well against other tight ends picked in the draft.

 

With tight end Jake Ballard (if healthy) locked in as principal backup and likely to start until Gronkowski returns, the cost of a player third on the depth chart at that position looks to be closer to the minimum dollar contract signed by Sudfeld rather than $1.58 million cap hit for a player not expected to play a large role in the passing offense. Depending on the undrafted free agent to step in and start would seem foolish, but coach Bill Belichick already has Jake Ballard signed to start at the big tight end (or “Y” or Inline TE) position.  Since there is no real timetable available regarding Gronkowski’s return other than rumors and guesses, Fells may find himself looking for new work in the fall.

 

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