As the free agency period slowly approaches, it is time to really dive into potential free agent targets for the Pats. Yes, the Scouting Combine has most of the NFL world’s attention, but we can’t forget about free agency, something that is arguably more important than the draft.
One of the biggest needs for the Patriots, is acquiring some talent at the tight end position. There are a lot of solid guys coming out of the college ranks (Amaro, Seferian-Jenkins, Niklas), but there are also a few guys already in the league that may be able to help New England in this area.
It has been rumored that the Ravens are trying really hard to lock up Dennis Pitta, and if that happens, then this whole topic becomes irrelevant. But if somehow Baltimore loses Pitta, I think think the Patriots should make a run at him. If Rob Gronkowski returns completely healthy, Pitta could become a decent backup to Gronk, and if New England decides to draft one of the younger tight ends, then even less pressure will be placed on Pitta. With that said, I am confident that if needed, Pitta could become a top target of Tom Brady. He missed most of the 2013 season, but his 2012 campaign was a good one. He caught 61 balls for 669 yards, as well as hauling in seven touchdowns. Pitta is a big dude, as he stands at 6’4, and weighs in at around 245 pounds. Like most tight ends, he presents his quarterback with a mismatch on just about every single play, and while he isn’t nearly as talented as a Gronkowski, he certainly knows how to ball.
According to ‘Advanced NFL Stats’, in 2012, Pitta was the eighth best tight end in the game. He was ranked eighth in ‘WPA’ (win probability added), and eighth in ‘EPA’ (expected points added). On top of this, including the playoffs, there was only one tight end that caught more touchdowns than Pitta, and that man was Rob Gronkowski.
I am not saying that Pitta should be signed to reproduce Gronk’s numbers, because that is not going to happen. But if Baltimore isn’t able to lock him up, I don’t see why New England can’t go after him. Hopefully he won’t demand a ton of money, and even if Bill Belichick and company decide to select a tight end in this year’s draft, this franchise proved from 2010-12, that having a lot of talented tight ends can lead you all the way to the Super Bowl.