The New England Patriots struck out last week in their effort to sign Jared Cook, the top tight end available in NFL free agency.

Or did they?

Though Cook, who is coming off a career year with the Oakland Raiders, reportedly is close to signing with the New Orleans Saints, the sides had yet to put pen to paper on an official contract as of Sunday afternoon, as NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and others pointed out.

ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss reported earlier Sunday that Cook opted not to join the Super Bowl LIII champs despite an “aggressive” sales pitch because of uncertainty over what his role in the Patriots’ offense would look like.

“Rob Gronkowski’s uncertain status seems to have played a significant part in Cook’s thinking, as there is clearer path to a top role on the tight-end depth chart in New Orleans,” Reiss wrote.

That situation changed drastically Sunday afternoon when Gronkowski announced his retirement, leaving the Patriots with Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse as their only tight ends. Cook, who set career highs with 68 catches for 896 yards and six touchdowns in 2018, immediately would become the No. 1 option on New England’s depth chart.

Landing Cook at this stage would require convincing him to bail on talks with the Saints — a move the Patriots unsuccessfully attempted with slot receiver Adam Humphries and the Tennessee Titans earlier this month — but New England has a dire need for tight end help and a dwindling list of options at the position.

Outside of the soon-to-be 32-year-old Cook, the top available veteran tight end likely is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who’s never topped 400 receiving yards in his five-year NFL career. The Patriots also could look to address this need through the 2019 NFL Draft, which boasts a wealth of highly regarded tight end prospects.

Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images