The Los Angeles Chargers reportedly just made it more difficult for the New England Patriots to potentially acquire free-agent tight end Hunter Henry.
The Chargers placed their franchise tag on Henry, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Friday. Barring a retraction of the tag, the Patriots now would have to trade for Henry. He likely would cost a first- or second-round pick to acquire.
Henry was one of the top free-agent tight ends on the open market. He joined Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper atop that list.
Henry, who was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, caught 55 passes for 652 yards with five touchdowns in 2019 after missing the entire 2018 regular season with a torn ACL. He has 136 catches for 1,709 yards with 17 touchdowns since getting drafted out of Arkansas.
The Patriots are in the market for a tight end after getting limited production out of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo in 2019. They could trade for a tight end, sign a player like Hooper or Eric Ebron and/or select one in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The top tight end trade candidates are Evan Engram, David Njoku and O.J. Howard. Some of the top tight ends in the draft are Cole Kmet, Adam Trautman, Harrison Bryant, Thaddeus Moss and Albert Okwuegbunam.