After missing on Jared Cook, pickings are slim for Patriots at tight end originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com
PHOENIX -- The Saints haven't officially locked up Jared Cook just yet, but he is as good as gone to New Orleans and are thrilled to have nabbed him, from what I've heard here at the league's annual meetings Sunday.
The Patriots were interested in Cook and pursued him "aggressively," according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. Cook would've provided the Patriots with a more than capable receiving threat at the tight end spot -- someone who hauled in 68 catches on 99 targets for 896 yards (13.2 yards per catch) last season in a below-average passing offense. But, as Reiss writes, it seems as though New England's uncertain plans at tight end might've impacted Cook's decision.
Bill Belichick and his front office, of course, are in a bit of a jam at the moment at that position. Rob Gronkowski said after the Super Bowl that he'd need a little time to determine whether or not he'd be back for 2019. From what his agent Drew Rosenhaus has said multiple times, though, he's still thinking.
What can the Patriots do now? they signed Matt LaCosse earlier this offseason, but the options remaining in free agency are thin.
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Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 26: The 6-5, 262 pounder is an imposing physical presence and someone who has shown in the past that he can be a dual-threat type of player. He played just 220 snaps in five games last season due to injury -- he reportedly played through a core muscle injury before landing on IR -- catching 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown that came in Week 2 against the Patriots. In four career games against the Patriots, the former Jet has 13 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
AJ Derby, 27: The former Patriot, who was traded to the Broncos during the 2016 season, caught just three passes in four games for the Dolphins last year. A "move" tight end option coming off a foot injury, Jacob Hollister (who dealt with a hamstring issue much of last season) is probably the better option for that type of role at this point and already on the roster.
Erik Swoope, 26: Swoope was a headache for the Patriots last season when the Colts visited Gillette Stadium. He reeled in three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in Week 5, but he caught just five more passes the remainder of the season. He was claimed off of waivers by the Saints in December but reverted to Colts IR (knee) after failing his physical with New Orleans.
Richard Rodgers, 27: The St. John's Shrewsbury product spent his first four seasons in Green Bay, playing in all but one game in that span. He saw action in seven games with the Eagles in 2018, catching just one pass on one target in 42 offensive snaps. Rodgers would be a bigger-bodied tight end 6-4, 260 pounds.
Lance Kendricks, 31: If the Patriots want someone who's proven to be durable over the course of a long career . . . maybe Kendricks is a stop-gap option. In eight pro seasons, he's missed just three games. He caught 19 passes for 170 yards and a score in Green Bay last year. Jermaine Gresham, 30, might also fall into this category. He's missed 12 games in nine seasons.
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That's far from a murderers' row, but those are the bulk of the options at this point in free agency.
The draft looks like the better opportunity for impactful tight ends. Evaluators describe this year's class as a strong one at that spot, with two Iowa players -- TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant -- right at the top of the list.
Alabama's Irv Smith, who we mocked to the Patriots in our most recent seven-round draft, should be available to Belichick at No. 32. Enticing talents likely available later in the draft include San Diego State's Kahale Warring, San Jose State's Josh Oliver, LSU's Foster Moreau, UCLA's Caleb Wilson and West Virginia's Trevon Wesco.
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