Hunter Henry: A
When healthy, Henry is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He was 5th among tight ends in receptions per game last season and 8th in 2019. He profiles as an excellent red zone threat at 6’5”, 250 pounds, but since his rookie season, he’s failed to produce at an elite level. Since 2000, Rob Gronkowski is the only rookie tight end with more touchdowns than Henry. Coincidentally, like Gronkowski, the biggest problem with Henry is health. Over the course of his career, he’s suffered a number of serious injuries ranging from a lacerated kidney, to a torn ACL and a tibia plateau fracture. He’s missed a total of 25 games in his 5-year career. Thankfully, if Henry does get injured, the Patriots will still have another great tight end on their roster.
Jonnu Smith: A
Smith’s versatility is sure to be heavily utilized playing alongside Henry. “He’s just a really good tight end.” Belichick said of Smith in 2019. “Blocks well, runs well, they played him at tailback and he looked pretty good back there… Great after the catch, probably best in the league. I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”
Smith will likely line up all over the field for the Patriots. His athleticism allows him to play almost anywhere, including wide receiver and running back, which is perhaps the single most improbable trait as it pertained to New England’s interest in free agency.
The Agholor signing is a bit of a head scratcher. These are the 9 players who are set to make more than $13 million next season (the AAV the Patriots signed Agholor for) and under $17 million:
Every single one of those players had more receptions than Agholor last season. Landry and Godwin are the only ones who had less yards (and not by much). Godwin, having missed four games, would’ve certainly finished ahead of Agholor had he played all 16 games )as Agholor did). Agholor was also 12th in the league in drops and was one of only two players who ranked in the top-12 in that category with less than 50 receptions. All of that was in a career-year for the former first round pick.
Agholor may well be an upgrade for New England’s receiving core, but he’s been significantly overpaid for what he is as a player.
With George Kittle and Deebo Samuel dealing with injuries, Bourne was vaulted into a featured role in San Francisco’s passing game at times in 2020. While Bourne didn’t exactly set the world on fire, he did fairly well. He finished with 49 catches and 667 receiving yards while playing only ~62% of the offensive snaps. In New England, as a 3rd or 4th receiver, he should be a very serviceable option.
Matthew Judon: A-
Matthew Judon will provide the Patriots with the Kyle Van Noy replacement they lacked last season. However, the former Raven will do much more than just simply fill Van Noy’s shoes. Judon’s jaw-dropping speed is perfect for today’s game. He can keep up with the mobile quarterbacks who now lead many offenses around the NFL, something the Patriots have lacked in recent years. Judon will play a number of different roles for New England and has the ability to thrive in each. Whether he’s rushing the passer or spying the QB, his electrifying presence will strike fear into every offense the Patriots face.
Devon Godchaux: C+
Godchaux is coming off a torn biceps injury that limited him to just 5 games in 2020 under head coach Brian Flores, but he was a force in the previous two seasons. He finished with 10 tackles for a loss including six in 2018, which would’ve ranked tied for 2nd on the Patriots last season. If Godchaux can return to form, he should adequately replace Adam Butler.
Jalen Mills: C+
Another versatile player. Noticing a theme? Mills played all over the secondary for the Eagles last season and though he’s not a star by any means, his ability to serviceably fill in at every spot will be helpful as the Patriots prepare to take losses at the cornerback position this offseason. Whether Mills will stick around for all four years of his contract or not, the length of the deal suggests Bill Belichick believes in his ability as a high-end depth piece for years to come.
Anderson had a career-year with 7.0 sacks, seven tackles for a loss and four pass deflections in 2018, but has failed to repeat his stellar season over the last two years. He’s combined for just seven tackles for a loss total and 1.5 sacks in 2019 & 2020. On the brink of turning 30, Anderson is worth the flier the Patriots are taking on him. For only $2 million, he can at least be a solid depth piece with a small chance of being something more.
Photo: (Terrance Williams – AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill – AP Photo)