New England Patriots: 2 big positives at tight end in 2023

Mike Gesicki, New England Patriots tight end
Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins
Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The New England Patriots enter their 2023 training camp later this month, and they have serious questions at certain positions. Among those in solid shape, however, is the tight end.

Unlike at some positions, the team took concrete actions in the offseason to address the tight end position.

First, they traded the costly and ineffective Jonnu Smith to Atlanta. The draft pick return was only a seventh-round pick, but the deal made perfect sense.

Smith's production was minimal, and he made big money ($11.7M salary). It was a serious drag on the salary cap. His trade was one of the best off-season moves by the oft-uninspiring New England Patriots' personnel operation.

In addition, the good news was the team replaced Smith with a better option.

Let's take a look at the tight end position and assign a grade before training camp.

The New England Patriots return a solid tight end option

Returning to the New England Patriots in 2023 is the solid but unspectacular Hunter Henry. Henry is a bonafide NFL tight end, but his production won't remind anyone much of Rob Gronkowski.

Nevertheless, Henry has done an adequate job in his two years with the Patriots. Henry caught 50 for 603 yards in 2021 with nine touchdowns but followed that productive year with only 41 catches for 509 yards and two TDs in 2022.

Henry is a legitimate NFL tight end on the unit as the team enters training camp.

Just don't expect miracles, as the player will likely deliver 45-50 catches with about five touchdowns this season. It is what it is, good but not great.

While expectations perhaps far outweighed what Henry could deliver when he was signed as a free agent in the 2021 offseason, he's certainly not a negative on an offense that still has significant question marks.

Perhaps the presence of the new offensive coordinator, Bill O'Brien, can unleash more of Henry's ability. It's possible, but don't expect too much.

Conversely, an off-season free-agent signing has the potential to deliver even better production. Let's take a look at him.

The New England Patriots signed Mike Gesicki from Miami

The New England Patriots went big in free agency to replace Jonnu Smith, signing top tight end Mike Gesicki.

Making the signing even sweeter was that it was "addition by subtraction" as the Pats pilfered Gesicki from division rivals, the Miami Dolphins.

Gesicki is a talented pass-catcher and will immediately provide a big red-zone target for quarterback Mac Jones. At 6'6" tall and 250 pounds, he should be just what the doctor ordered to help the anemic 2022 New England Patriots offense up its production.

While Gesicki only latched onto 32 passes for 362 yards and five TDS in 2022, his output in 2021 was 73 catches for 780 yards and two TDs. The Pats hope to see more of the 2021 version this season and will likely get it.

Gesicki was one of this space's favorite additions this offseason, along with Juju Smith-Schuster and undrafted free-agent quarterback Malik Cunningham of Louisville. The expectations here are high for Gesicki. Look for a season of about 60 catches and a half dozen TDs to meet those expectations.

Evaluation and grade of New England Patriots tight end unit

The New England Patriots like their tight ends, and the team's offenses flourished for years with multiple tight end sets. Hunter Henry is more of a traditional tight end, and Mike Gesicki will be more of an H-back, pass-catching type. That's a solid tandem.

The tight end position is one of the strengths of the offense and the entire team. Along with the edge position, it is arguably a top-two unit on the team. Yet, a potentially serious issue looms.

That issue is depth. Behind Henry and Gesicki, there is little depth at all. Other roster TEs are Anthony Firkser, Johnny Lumpkin, Scotty Washington, and Matt Sokol, hardly household names. Injuries will happen, and who the third tight end is when they do is a significant question.

The team eschewed drafting any tight ends among their 12 picks in the 2023 NFL draft. That was a huge omission that will likely cost them in 2023.

With all this in mind, the position starting is still solid and warrants a grade of B+/B. As noted, the lack of depth is a major issue. Had the team drafted a promising young tight end in any round up to the fifth, the grade would have been a solid A.

What grade would you give the New England Patriots tight ends? We'd like to hear.