Anytime you lose an All-Pro player the caliber of Rob Gronkowski there's going to be a huge void. But the Patriots are faced with that task as they are in the midst of their offseason program, and Bill Belichick is sorting through all the possibilities – at tight end and elsewhere.
The current depth chart lists Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Stephen Anderson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Andrew Beck, but multiple reports have indicated that Benjamin Watson has signed a one-year deal and will return for his second stint with New England.
For the sake of our weekly debate, we're including Watson in the mix. At 38 years old he's an experienced veteran who has been a durable and productive player in his stops in Cleveland, Baltimore and New Orleans since leaving the Patriots back in 2009.
We are not including any further potential additions at the position. Rumors have been circulating for weeks about a potential deal between the Patriots and Vikings that could bring Kyle Rudolph to town, but until that happens we can't assume it will.
Therefore, Watson joins the aforementioned list, and this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Who will emerge as the Patriots No. 1 tight end in 2019?
Patriots.com's Andy Hart says …
Obviously no one is going to fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski and asking anyone to be that kind of weapon is foolish. The Patriots will likely need contributions from different people in order to find suitable fill-ins as blockers and receivers in the offense. I feel Watson offers the most potential to do that, even at his age.
Watson has been a reliable presence both on and off the field for 15 NFL seasons and he comes with a comfort level with Tom Brady and the ability to step in immediately. He won't be a candidate to catch 70 balls for 1,200 yards like Gronk, but he should provide a steady presence as both a receiver and a blocker.
As long as expectations are managed and people understand that 30 or so catches with solid blocking would represent success, Watson will emerge as the top dog at tight end.
Patriots.com's Paul Perillo
This one is more of a projection because there's no way to predict whether or not a player is going to remain healthy. Seferian-Jenkins hasn't been able to very often during his career, which is a big part of the reason he was available to the Patriots in the first place.
I'm taking a leap of faith and predicting that Seferian-Jenkins will stay healthy, and that he will be productive. He has the hands and ability to be a factor as a receiver, which he was in 2017 with the Jets when he caught 50 passes. That was also the only season of his five-year career that he played more than 10 games.
Seferian-Jenkins will thrive in the structure in Foxborough and will be productive on the field playing with the best quarterback in football. Obviously the production isn't going to approach vintage seasons for Gronk, but he will be able to provide an outlet for Brady and will be competitive as a blocker as well.
As long as he's on the field, Seferian-Jenkins will be the No. 1 tight end.