Patriots: 3 star tight ends NE can sign in free agency

Chargers TE Hunter Henry (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Chargers TE Hunter Henry (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Chargers TE Hunter Henry (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

1. Hunter Henry

Hunter Henry continues to be one of the most overlooked tight ends in the NFL, and a prime free agent opportunity for the Patriots.

We would honestly have no qualms if the Patriots signed either one of Hunter Henry or Smith, so don’t read too much into where they ranked on our list. However, what did give the former a slight edge in the debate lies in the fact that Pro Football Focus has him graded as the better blocker throughout his career.

We all know how much the Patriots champion tight ends being able to handle their business both catching passes and in the trenches, so Henry really comes to mind as a perfect fit — not to mention that Belichick admitted earlier in the year to keeping a close eye on him from his days at Arkansas.

"“I’ve watched him pretty much his whole career,” Belichick told reporters ahead of the Patriots’ Week 13 matchup vs the Chargers.” He started at Pulaski Academy down in Little Rock, played for Coach (Kevin) Kelly down there. He had a great career there, went to Arkansas and had a great career at Arkansas He’s come back off the injury and has been a very, very productive player for them, along with all their other good skill players. But, he’s done a good job for them in a running game, as well as the passing game."

If that quote doesn’t convince you that Henry should be the Patriots’ priority at tight end this offseason, then nothing will. Over his first four seasons (he missed 2018 with a torn ACL), the former second-round pick has averaged 49 receptions for 580 yards and 5.2 touchdowns, to go with a respectable 69% catch rate. His stats might not indicate it, but he’s as sure-handed as any tight end in the league, and the Patriots would reap the benefits of signing him in short order.