It’s fair to say that Rob Gronkowski is not coming back. Given that Benjamin Watson will be suspended for the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots still have a gaping hole at the Tight End position with the regular season a mere two months away.
Here are some options the Patriots can consider to fill this void. Whether they be a natural Tight End or a big Wide Receiver, all of the players on this list would fill in just fine.
Demaryius Thomas is a Wide Receiver that is bulky enough to fill in at the Tight End position. He is big enough to hold his own against a Linebacker and quick enough to outrun a Defensive Back. Thomas is a solid temporary solution until Benjamin Watson returns from his suspension in Week Five.
Dez Bryant is another big Wide Receiver that the Patriots could use to fill in until Watson returns. In fact, the addition of Bryant makes sense even with Watson. Like Rob Gronkowski, Bryant is a big body that naturally causes mismatches. He would be the most physically gifted Wide Receiver the Patriots have had since Randy Moss if he’s healthy. A little bit of work on his blocking and he would be perfect.
BRING BACK AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS:
Last month the Patriots released Austin Seferian-Jenkins due to “personal issues”. Thomas and Bryant have the potential to be great, but Tight End isn’t their natural position. If he feels physically and mentally healthy enough come September, the Patriots should definitely welcome him back as he is easily the most talented Tight End on this list. He is a big bodied underrated pass catcher. He’s not as dynamic as Gronk, but Tom Brady would easily be able to use him in the same manner.
Just three seasons removed from a breakout 50 catch campaign with the Los Angeles Rams, Lance Kendricks is a considerable option. Kendricks is a Tight End that catches passes like a Wide Receiver. He stands out as a potential small money move that pays big dividends (moves that the Patriots are known for).
The Patriots would have everything to gain and nothing to lose by bringing back old friend Michael Hoomanawanui. Hoomanawanui spent four years with the Patriots and won a Super Bowl with the team in 2014. He would come to New England with a knowledge of the Patriots offense that is deeper than any other player on this list. If they choose to add a Tight End, the Patriots would likely prefer to keep him even after Watson’s suspension, and that’s where Hoomanawanui’s experience makes sense. He should fit right in upon arrival. If Josh Gordon gets reinstated in time for the regular season, this move makes perfect sense because it allows the Patriots to shift towards blocking Tight Ends as opposed to primarily pass catchers. Although Brady is familiar enough with Hoomanawanui to use him as a pass catcher when needed.