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2024 Free Agent Forecast: Tight Ends

The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2024’s free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we’ll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today, we analyze the tight ends. 

Patriots tight end Hunter Henry
Patriots tight end Hunter Henry

Patriots Free Agents: Mike Gesicki (UFA), Pharaoh Brown (UFA)

Notable External Free Agents: Noah Fant, Gerald Everett, Adam Trautman, Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, Robert Tonyan, Irv Smith, Drew Sample

Positional Analysis: The Patriots were heading into a free agency window without any proven commodities at tight end under contract, but New England made a major move to retain a key member of the offense before the league year begins.

On Friday, the Patriots reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with starting tight end Hunter Henry. The 29-year-old, who ranks fifth among tight ends in receiving touchdowns since joining the Patriots in 2021 (17), gives the Pats a reliable starting option.

Former head coach Bill Belichick didn't plan ahead when he had Henry on an expiring contract, signed Gesicki to a one-year deal, and passed on a stacked tight ends class in the 2023 draft. Frankly, the decision to punt on the 2023 tight end class that featured contributors Sam LaPorta, Dalton Kincaid, Tucker Kraft, Michael Mayer, and Luke Musgrave was a major misstep.

Unfortunately, the Patriots cannot go back in time to stay a year ahead at tight end. However, retaining Henry was a good first step to having a proven talent on the roster who can hold down the position for 2024. Now, the Patriots could turn their focus to adding a more explosive pass-catcher and/or a sturdy run-blocker to pair with Henry's chain-moving, red-zone prowess.

Henry is a very steady target for quarterbacks, but he isn't known as a big-play threat. In new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt's offense, tight ends such as Cleveland's David Njoku have produced big plays off AVP's play-action schemes in particular. To find that skill set, the Patriots have a few options in the free-agent market before they get to the draft.

Patriots tight end Pharaoh Brown
Patriots tight end Pharaoh Brown

If the Patriots want more explosive movers in the open field, former first-rounder Noah Fant's production has dipped in the last three seasons. However, there's no denying his breakaway speed and natural abilities as a ball carrier. Then, there's Chargers tight end Gerald Everett, one of the best YAC merchants at the position, with running back-like skill as a ball carrier. Everett has averaged more than five yards after the catch per reception in five straight seasons.

With Van Pelt now running the Patriots offense, former Browns tight ends Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant are also free agents worth mentioning. Hooper had 84 catches, 780 yards, and seven touchdowns for the Browns from 2020-21, while Cleveland drafted Bryant in the fourth round in 2020. Bryant didn't have eye-popping production for the Browns, but Van Pelt used his versatility from different alignments with snaps in line, out of the slot, in the backfield, and out wide last season.

With only so many draft assets, the Patriots could restock at tight end without unlimited resources to add that to their list of needs in April. Plus, it's often difficult for young tight ends to make an immediate impact as rookies. For those reasons, it would behoove the Pats to address tight end in free agency. 

The Patriots already made a solid move to re-sign Henry before the veteran tight end hit the open market, so now it's about adding complementary skill sets to the Pats captain this offseason.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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