In the week leading up to the start of the new NFL year, the Patriots appeared to be in danger of losing both of their top tight ends in free agency.

While New England let one of them walk, the franchise reportedly retained the other. And the Patriots were right to do so.

Last Friday, NFL Media reported the Patriots agreed to terms with Hunter Henry on a three-year contract worth up to $30 million. It marked the second deal in New England for the veteran tight end, who inked a three-year, $37.5 million deal in March 2021 amid the franchise’s uncharacteristic spending spree.

From a production standpoint, keeping Henry in the mix made sense for the Patriots. The 2016 second-round pick collected 17 receiving touchdowns in his first three seasons with the team — including a career-high nine in 2021 — and averaged 510 receiving yards per campaign over that span. Henry also made significant strides as a blocker across his first New England contract and established himself as one of the team’s best leaders, highlighted by a 2023 captaincy.

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Considering all Henry brings to the table, it’s easy to understand why the Patriots were keen on keeping him in Foxboro, Mass. But perhaps equally — if not more — important was the message it sent at One Patriot Place.

By bringing Henry back for a second tour of duty in New England, the organization’s new regime made it clear that it would look out for its own if deserved. It certainly was the case for the 29-year-old, who stiff-armed previous injury concerns and only missed three games over his first three Patriots seasons. Henry did all that was asked of him from 2021 through 2023, did it well and was recognized fairly. That helps establish a precedent for a new regime that’s following in the footsteps of Bill Belichick, a brilliant coach who was often cold and unforgiving as a de facto general manager.

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New England opted for a similar approach with Kendrick Bourne, a fellow 2021 signee who reportedly was awarded a new three-year deal even after tearing his ACL last fall. Those moves helped establish a new culture in New England, which lost virtually all of its attractiveness as an NFL destination once Tom Brady left town.

Is Henry a needle-mover as it relates to the Patriots’ playoff aspirations moving forward? Maybe not. But his reported new deal figures to have a greater impact on the franchise than when the tight end brings to the football field.

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Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images