NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Tight End has been the position of conversation in New England ever since the team invested two relatively high picks in the 2010 NFL Draft selecting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Tight End continues to be a big topic of discussion, as the Patriots made headlines this morning when they released youngster Tim Wright.
It may have caught some people as a surprise this morning as the Patriots moved on from 25 year old Tim Wright. The former Rutgers’ product was acquired in the Logan Mankins trade last season, and caught six touchdowns last year for the Patriots. The move was first reported by FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo.
Wright had some nice moments during his tenure with the Patriots, most notably in Week 12 vs Detroit when Wright caught five passes resulting in two touchdowns. He was considered a work in progress all season, considering his late arrival to the team in the pre-season.
Personally, I was surprised at first just because cutting a young, talented player before mini-camp even opens up isn’t exactly normal. Obviously the coaches have seen enough to come to the conclusion that Wright wasn’t going to be a contributor in the crowded tight end depth chart in 2015.
The Logan Mankins/Tim Wright trade will be revisited much this week and will likely be talked down upon. After all, the only visible immediate piece of the trade (Wright) has already been shipped away less than a year after the trade.
In fact however, Tim Wright was ultimately the third most valuable piece in the trade for the Patriots. The most valuable, in my opinion, was the $6.25M+ in cap relief that the Patriots received. The offensive line missed Mankins early on, but overall proved steady as the year went on. The $6.25M in cap space gave the necessary cap space to build another Super Bowl Champion.
One could say “But Revis and Browner were already on the team when Mankins was traded!”, and you would be correct. However, I would assume moving Mankins was already on the minds of the Patriots when the Revis signing, in particular, was made.
The second most important piece was the 2015 4th round pick, which resulted in Arkansas DE Trey Flowers. Flowers was one of the best values in the draft in my mind, whom I judged as a second round talent. He figures to play in the defensive front rotation immediately, and hopefully for the Patriots can someday develop into an every down contributor.
These two pieces – alone – were worth it for the Patriots in the Logan Mankins trade. Throwing in Tim Wright was just a bonus.
I would have liked to see Wright at least this upcoming year, but it is easy to see why the Patriots moved on from him.
The Patriots inked former Buffalo tight end and Patriots’ kryptonite Scott Chandler, to a two-year $5.3M contract. Chandler, along with Gronkowski, have received extensive looks on the outside this offseason so far and looks to play a big role in the offense next season.
In an ‘under the radar thanks to deflategate’ move, the team also signed former Redskins’ tight end Fred Davis. Davis was suspended last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and had a minimal impact in 2014. However, he has proven to be a playmaker amidst shaky quarterback play in Washington and could prove to be a nice surprise in 2015.
The Patriots looked to bolster their crowded tight end depth chart in the draft as well, selecting Arkansas TE A.J. Derby #202 overall. Derby, a favorite of the NEPD crew, has a real chance to make the final 53 man roster now with Wright’s departure. The former college quarterback showed the ability at times to stretch the seam at Arkansas, as well as impressive run after the catch ability for a man his size. He is certainly a work in progress, but has shown the attributes needed to be a successful tight end in the NFL.
Another former Arkansas Razorback, Jake Bequette, has also found himself in the tight end chatter. He was a 2012 3rd round selection, and has yet to prove his worth on the defensive line. Considering the makeover that has taken place this offseason on the defensive front, tight end could be Bequette’s last chance to prove himself in New England. At 6’5 265 lbs, Bequette moves well for his size and could be an intriguing option if he can complete the transition. A situation worth following, in my opinion.
Of course, you can’t forget about veteran Michael Hoomanawanui. ‘The Hooman’ as he has been known in Foxboro has been a productive veteran who knows his role and does his job. His worth is in the blocking game, but has obvious limitations in the passing game as have been evident ever since his arrival. Even after the Wright release, I don’t think Hoomanawanui will be on the 53 man roster again this season, but that remains to be seen.
The final name on the depth chart for now is rookie undrafted free agent Jimmay Mundine from Kansas. Mundine is smaller than the other tight ends on the roster (6’2 240lbs) and isn’t a great blocker. He may end up playing a variety of roles in camp and is probably competing for a practice squad spot somewhere at best.
Since the unexpected departure of #81 a few years ago, tight end depth has been an issue in New England. However through Free Agency and the draft itself, New England has revamped their tight end unit and will house both the best tight end in the game (Rob Gronkowski) and one of the deepest tight end units in the game as well in 2015. All that’s left is to figure out who the exact names will be on the 53 man roster.