Patriots Rumors: This Player Not Expected To Be Surprise Cut

Hunter Henry regressed this season but caught nine touchdown passes in 2021


Mar 6, 2023

The Patriots could clear more than $10 million in salary cap space by releasing Hunter Henry this offseason, but they reportedly have no plans to cut ties with the veteran tight end.

With NFL free agency set to open next Wednesday, New England is not expected to release Henry, according to a report Sunday from The Score’s Jordan Schultz.

“The team values him as a player and as a leader,” Schultz tweeted, “while new (offensive coordinator) Bill O’Brien plans to better maximize his pass-catching ability.”

While there would be a financial benefit to cutting Henry, such a move never made much sense. Though the 28-year-old is coming off the worst statistical season of his career (41 catches, 509 yards, two touchdowns in 17 games), he was one of the Patriots’ top passing-game weapons in 2021 (50-603-9) and has been far more productive than position mate Jonnu Smith.

The Patriots signed Henry and Smith to big-money contracts worth $12.5 million per year apiece ahead of the 2021 season. Smith, who’s caught just one touchdown in 30 games for New England, restructured his deal last year, and its new structure all but guarantees he’ll be on the team in 2023, as releasing him would trigger a massive dead-money charge.

New England must hope O’Brien, who’s operated highly successful two-tight end offenses in the past, can get the most out of its high-priced pair. Previous play-caller Matt Patricia struggled to do so, with quarterback Mac Jones hinting on multiple occasions that he did not believe the Patriots were utilizing their tight ends correctly.

Smith and Henry are set to carry the second- and third-highest salary cap hits, respectively, of any NFL tight ends for the upcoming season, trailing only San Francisco’s George Kittle. It would not be surprising to see the Patriots sign Henry to a contract extension that would lower his 2023 cap number.

With only practice squadders Matt Sokol and Scotty Washington rounding out their depth chart, the Patriots also should be looking to bolster their tight end group through the draft. Their lack of foresight at the position burned them following Rob Gronkowski’s departure in 2019, and this year’s tight end class is considered deep and impressive.

Thumbnail photo via Scott Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images
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