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Analysis: Pats still waiting for a tight end

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The Patriots added four players on Friday night. They also executed four trades. What they didn’t do was add a tight end, which many fans believed was one of the first items on tap for the team heading into the weekend.

Whether Bill Belichick adds one on Saturday – or perhaps a veteran sometime in the future – remains to be seen. But for the time being the Patriots remain thin at a position they feel is vital to their offense after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. There are bodies in the fold, led by Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but it would seem to be in the team’s best interest to add a young, athletic body to the mix.

At this point that will have to wait.

“The same as we do every year. We look at what is up there and look at our options,” player personnel director Nick Caserio said when asked if he was comfortable with the tight end depth chart. “We want who fits our team best.

“We’re comfortable with the players on our team, otherwise they wouldn’t be here.”

There were a few options for Caserio and Belichick too choose from when the day began. Six tight ends were selected Friday night, two in the second round and four in the third. Among those were a couple of interesting names including Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger and San Diego State’s Kahale Warring.

Sternberger went two picks before New England, to Green Bay with the 11th pick of the third round. Then Warring was available a pick ahead of New England later in the round, only to get the call from Houston with the 22nd pick. Earlier, in the second round, Alabama’s Irv Smith went to Minnesota, which also could have an impact on the Patriots.

Warring is a pass-catcher with some athleticism to his game. Watching him get open consistently made it easy to envision him operating in the Patriots offense in a move tight end role. Perhaps the Patriots had no interest in him, and the fact that they chose to move around the board four times during the night would indicate that there weren’t many players they felt strongly enough about to ensure they got them.

Therefore, the Patriots were unable to get Warring. However, the Vikings selection of Smith might open the door for another option. Minnesota’s veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph is entering the final year of his contract and is due more than $7 million for the tight-against-the-cap Vikings. With Smith representing a younger and cheaper option, it could lead GM Rick Spielman to pick up the phone and present an offer to the Patriots.

The wheeling and dealing left New England with three fourth-round picks as well as four in the seventh round. Shipping a pick (one of the fourths possibly) to Minnesota for Rudolph could provide a stop-gap measure for Belichick to add to Seferian-Jenkins and a variety of youngsters including Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jacob Hollister and Matt LaCosse. There have also been reports indicating the Patriots might be interested in luring Benjamin Watson out of retirement for a return of one of their 2004 first-round picks.

That group looks a lot better with a proven commodity like Rudolph, who caught 64 passes for 654 yards and four touchdowns in Minnesota a year ago.

The good news is the Patriots came away with some solid players who may help right away, led by Vanderbilt corner JoeJuan Williams. But for the time being, tight end continues to be an area of concern.

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