With the New England Patriots parting ways with tight end Aaron Hernandez following Wednesday's arrest on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, there are already those wondering if Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow, Hernandez's former teammate at the University of Florida, will be moved to tight end.
One should never say never about the possibility of a position change, especially when it comes to the Patriots, who have a history under Bill Belichick of taking advantage of the versatility of the players on the roster by using them at multiple positions. The Patriots used linebacker Mike Vrabel as a tight end in goal-line situations and he finished his career with 12 touchdown receptions, including two touchdown grabs in Super Bowls. When injuries hit the Patriots' secondary, wide receivers Troy Brown and Julian Edelman have played some defensive back.
It is entirely possible that the Patriots would ask or cajole Tebow into playing some tight end, but it's a move that the former Heisman Trophy winner has resisted up to this point in his career. Had Tebow been willing to play a position other than quarterback, he might have remained with the Denver Broncos or could have stepped up to play that position when the 2012 New York Jets spent most of the season playing without an injured Dustin Keller.
Even if Tebow is willing to make the switch, it is ridiculous to suggest that he could replace the level of on-field production Hernandez gave the Patriots over the last three seasons.
Hernandez was considered one of the top tight end recruits when he came out of high school, caught 111 passes for 1,382 yards with 12 touchdowns at Florida and has 210 receptions for 2,316 yards and 20 touchdowns in 44 regular and postseason games with the Patriots. Tebow has lined up a few times at tight end, but did not catch a pass in college and has not caught a single pass in the NFL. In fact, the only time Tebow was targeted with a pass in the NFL came against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 of the 2012 season. On a 3rd-and-3 play in the third quarter, Tebow lined up as a tight end off the right side of the line, motioned left and ran a short route towards the first down marker on the sideline. Quarterback Mark Sanchez's throw nearly clanged off the back of Tebow's helmet before falling incomplete.
Earlier this week, "Shutdown Corner" took a look at the receiving options that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have to work with at the start of the 2013 season. Rob Gronkowski will eventually return to the fold, but with Hernandez gone, the top in-house options at the tight end position behind No. 87 remain Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard, undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld and veteran backup Daniel Fells. Those players have experience playing the position, three have played it at the NFL level, and have played the position within New England's offensive system.
If the Patriots do look for veteran options outside the organization, they might look at David Thomas, a 2006 third-round pick by the Patriots who has spent the last three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Thomas, who was released by the Saints in February, dealt with multiple concussions in 2011 before returning to start seven games and catch a career-high four touchdown passes in 2012.
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