Back to the future: Remember tight ends?

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Jul. 29—Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were both waiting their turns to face the media after Day 1 of Patriots training camp.

They were standing about 10 feet from each other, both waving to their families (social distance rules are in effect, even for families).

Henry's wife and her sister were opposite him while Smith's wife, infant daughter and two very active toddler sons were waving to "daddy."

Smith, realizing their families had never met, introduced his wife and kids to Henry and his wife.

It was a nice, cute, bonding training camp sight.

The previous two-plus hours, though, were even nicer for Patriots fans who made the trek to Foxboro.

They were among the biggest splashes of Belichick's Armegeddon during the first 24 hours of free agency on March 16.

That was the day Belichick emulated a drunken sailor on leave, guaranteeing $137.5 million to linebacker Matthew Judon ($32M), receivers Nelson Agholor ($16M) and Kendrick Bourne ($5.75M), defensive tackle Davon Godchaux ($9M), safety Jalen Mills ($9M), defensive end Deatrich Wise ($10M) and tight ends Smith ($31.5M) and Henry ($25M).

The fact that Belichick went after a tight end was not a surprise. The fact that he was looking for a top-flight tight end was not a surprise.

The fact that he signed the best two available was a shock.

Remember, Belichick spent the last four seasons, especially the last two post-Gronk, with the worst tight end production in the NFL. Last season, the Patriots tight end "room" totaled 18 receptions and no touchdowns.

And now, well, we get the best tight end room probably in the NFL.

"Boston T-E Party, Boston Tea Party. Let's bring it back," said Smith, showing off keen marketing skills. "Hell of a player, hell of a tight end, hell of a man. You know, we're gonna do great things together."

Henry said one of the reasons he signed with the Patriots, beyond the incredible contract offer, was the fact that this offense has a history of using two tight ends with Josh McDaniels.

That's a bit of a reach being it's been Gronk and a bunch of no-names since 2012, which was Aaron Hernandez's last year when they combined for 106 receptions and 16 TDs. In fact, their best year as a tandem was 2011, when Gronk had 90 receptions, 1,327 yards and 17 TDs while Hernandez had 79 receptions, 910 yards and 7 TDs.

The point is that Smith and Henry, in their own rights, would be No. 1 tight ends on more than half the other NFL teams.

The fact that Smith signed first and Henry decided to join the cause was a little intriguing.

"I was fired up once I heard the call that the Patriots were interested," said Henry. "We talked about (having two potent offensive tight ends), and addressed the issue. This offense is built for tight ends. We're completely different players from the guys in the past. We will not try to be those guys, but be ourselves."

One thing you noticed in just one day of camp is that when the ball touched Smith's or Henry's hands, it was caught.

It was also noticed that the Patriots have a lot better players than they did a year ago, on both sides of the ball.

"This organization has collectively went out and got guys they felt would help to continue to win championships and they chose me as one of those guys," said Smith.

"So I know the expectations that I have and they have in me," he added, "and I'm trying to exceed them."

Of course, this won't be easy, particularly at the practices. This duo has a history of playing against the Patriots defenses.

"This defense gives you so many different looks," said Henry. "You have to put your thinking cap on. There is a lot of thinking out there."

Well, speaking of thinking, a lot of New Englanders think this duo at tight end could do a lot of damage.

"It's fun to have a new group, to start a new journey with a new group," said Henry. "This is going to be fun."

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.