New England Patriots: Tight End Free Agency Preview

Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) reacts as he leaves the field following the win against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) reacts as he leaves the field following the win against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

With free agency just a few days away. Here is a complete preview of the tight end position for the New England Patriots.

The 4th positional grouping we will be looking at in free agency is the tight end position. This preview will look into the available free agents and short list a few players that may fit the New England Patriots scheme.

As stated in the other previews, (which you can see by following the links: Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Fullbacks) we aren’t taking into account the upcoming draft. Basically we are answering the question “If the Patriots could only fill their roster with Free Agents, who would they be?”

Of all the Patriots free agency previews so far, this one is the most intriguing, will Bennett re-sign? What will they do with the other three tight end’s whose contracts are expiring? Will they pick up a big name in free agency? Let’s get right into it.

Tight End’s under contract

Tight End’s not under contract

The tight end story in New England has been a case of Rob Gronkowski and whoever else for the last few years. Not since Aaron Hernandez have the Patriots had a long-term backup at the position. Guys like Martellus Bennett, Alge Crumpler, Michael Hoomanawanui , Daniel Fells and Tim Wright were all signed to back up Gronk but none really made their long-term mark.

Bennett has already said he will test the free agency market which was originally reported by Ian Rapoport, which you can read about in an article from our very own Nick Ziegler here. None of the remaining Tight-End’s, Lengel, Scruggs or Williams really strike fear into the hearts of opponents and will in all likelihood won’t be retained. Even if one or all of them stick around, they will be fighting for a roster spot.  I think that if Rob Housler can re-produce his early career form from Arizona, then he might be able to fill one of the vacant spots, albeit as the 3rd option.

The Patriots should be looking for somebody a bit more permanent. Three of the four guys below are going to be either 26 or 27 by the time the season starts and could be inline for an expensive, multi-year contract depending on how the league feels about them.

Free Agent Tight End’s

  • Gavin Escobar

    • A 2nd round pick in 2013, Escobar was touted to be the replacement to Jason Witten when he was first drafted. The problem for Escobar was that Witten has endured. With descending production since his rookie season, he has yet to have a double-digit catch season. So why would the Pats want him? Well, of his 30 catches, eight have been for TD’s and his lack of production has been more misuse, than not being able to play. With physical measurables similar to Gronk he could be an interesting foil as a 3rd man on the roster with a high ceiling as a potential replacement for Bennett.
  • Ryan Griffin

    • Drafted in the same year as Escobar, (6th round), Griffin has had a lot more success than his fellow draftee. One catch shy of a 100, half of which came last season, he picked a great time to become a major factor in the Texans offense. Griffin will be looking for money and is currently the 1B option to the 1A of C.J. Fiedorowicz for the Texans. This will mean that a move to be a clear number two with the Patriots might not suit him. If the Patriots could work out a long-term deal with Griffin he would be an outstanding addition. Just remember who has been throwing him the ball the last few years; Schaub, Keenum, Yates, Savage, Fitzpatrick, Mallett, Hoyer, Weeden and Osweiler. Hardly a who’s who of competent quarterback play.
  • Mychal Rivera

    • Rivera did his best work in the first two years of his career, since then his numbers have slowly declined. Rivera could represent good value for the Patriots as he hasn’t been that productive of late but at 26 he should be in his physical prime. At 245lbs he might add an extra dimension to the passing game as a smaller quicker option to Gronkowski. His signing would then lead to the signing of a more pure block-first tight-end as a 3rd option.
  • Jacob Tamme

    • I have always been a fan of Tamme who is the quintessential backup tight end. Throughout his career he has been a guy that is available, (only missed 6 games in 8 seasons before last year). He has a habit of making plays in key situations too. A slight knock on Tamme is that he has always had a good quarterback to throw him the ball, in Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan. The flip-side to that is, one of the best QB’s of all time (Manning) saw fit to bring him from Indianapolis to Denver when he moved, (don’t think for a second that was coincidental).  If he signs look for a back-ended, two-year deal just in case father time takes Tamme in his first season.

Next: 5 Reasons Why Pats Can Repeat as Champs


The Texans will want to hold on to Griffin, but the others should be available once Free Agency starts up. The safe option would be Tamme, but at age 31, are his best years behind him? That leaves us with Escobar and Rivera. Rivera is the more talented player right now, but Escobar offers that intrigue of a talent unrealized in Dallas.  I’ll go for the Pats to take Escobar so he can join Gronkowski and Housler with Nick Caley in the tight end’s room and maybe finally realize the talent that had the Cowboys draft him so highly in 2013.