Patriots Free Agency: Nine Tight Ends New England Could Target


March 13, 2020

The Los Angeles Chargers on Friday placed the franchise tag on Hunter Henry, yanking one of the top soon-to-be free agent tight ends off the market.

Henry would have been an enticing target for the tight end-needy New England Patriots had he reached free agency. And while a trade remains theoretically possible, New England most likely will need to look elsewhere to fill that roster hole.

So, who’s out there? Here are a few free agent options who could pique the Patriots’ interest (ages listed are as of the start of the 2020 season):

Austin Hooper
Age: 25
2019 team: Atlanta Falcons
2019 stats: 75 catches, 787 yards, six touchdowns in 13 games
Pro Football Focus rank: Eighth

With Hunter no longer available, Hooper becomes the clear No. 1 tight end in this year’s free agent class, and he’ll be paid as such. This likely will push him out of the Patriots’ price range — if he wasn’t already.

Eric Ebron
Age: 27
2019 team: Indianapolis Colts
2019 stats: 31 catches, 375 yards, three touchdowns in 11 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 16th

Ebron’s numbers dipped this season, and he isn’t the type of blocker New England typically targets at the tight end position. He is a talented receiver, though, and he enjoyed a career year (66-750-13) while catching passes from Andrew Luck in 2018.

Delanie Walker
Age: 36
2019 team: Tennessee Titans
2019 stats: 21 catches, 215 yards, two touchdowns in seven games
Pro Football Focus rank: N/A

The Titans released Walker on Friday after he appeared in just two games over the last two seasons. His age and injury history make him a risky option, but he was a productive pass-catcher as recently as 2017, when he earned the third of his three consecutive Pro Bowl selections.

Tyler Eifert
Age: 29
2019 team: Cincinnati Bengals
2019 stats: 43 catches, 436 yards, three touchdowns in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 27th

Oft-injured since he entered the NFL in 2013, Eifert just played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career. Like Walker, he isn’t a sure thing, but he still has upside and should be relatively affordable.

More Patriots: Examining Potential Tom Brady Replacements

Marcedes Lewis
Age: 36
2019 team: Green Bay Packers
2019 stats: 15 catches, 156 yards, one touchdown in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 15th

Lewis won’t bring much in the passing game — he hasn’t surpassed 350 receiving yards in a season since 2014 — but he’s one of the NFL’s better blocking tight ends.

Jimmy Graham
Age: 33
2019 team: Green Bay Packers
2019 stats: 38 catches, 447 yards, three touchdowns in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 52nd

The Packers cut Graham earlier this week after two disappointing seasons. His 2019 catch and yardage totals were his lowest since his rookie year in 2010.

Nick Vannett
Age: 27
2019 team: Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers
2019 stats: 17 catches, 166 yards, zero touchdowns in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 65th

Vannett served as Vance McDonald’s No. 2 after being traded to Pittsburgh in late September. The best season to date for the 2016 third-round pick came in 2018, when he posted a 29-269-3 line for Seattle

Jason Witten
Age: 38
2019 team: Dallas Cowboys
2019 stats: 63 catches, 529 yards, four touchdowns in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 43rd

The former “Monday Night Football” color man played in every game and posted respectable stats in his return to the gridiron. He’s said he wants to play in 2020 and likely is done in Dallas.

MyCole Pruitt
Age: 28
2019 team: Tennessee Titans
2019 stats: six catches, 90 yards, one touchdown in 16 games
Pro Football Focus rank: 25th

Primarily deployed as a blocker, Pruitt has caught 27 passes since entering the NFL in 2015. The Titans were his fifth team during that span.

More Patriots: Pass-Catchers New England Could Target In Trade Market

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images
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