In the third of a five-part series, CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran takes a look at potential free agents New England might have interest in. Today: tight ends.
You got the best in the business at the top of the depth chart in Rob Gronkowski, then there’s a significant drop-off. Not only is there no competent backup on the roster for Gronk, there’s no complementary tight end in the house either. Aaron Hernandez was the high end of that type of player. Tim Wright was a lower-level example. Now that Scott Chandler’s been released, it’s just converted tackle Michael Williams and last year’s draftee A.J. Derby.
Lardarius Green, 26, Chargers. He’s got 77 catches in four seasons with the Chargers after coming to the league as a fourth-rounder from Louisiana-Lafayette. Marooned behind Antonio Gates, the 6-6, 237-pounder hasn’t yet shown if he’s a top-tier guy or a complement. Someone will pay him as a top-tier guy is my guess and the Patriots probably wouldn’t be that team.
Jermaine Gresham, 28, Cardinals. A former first-rounder whose early-career production tapered off in Cincy as a confluence of drops and questionable effort doomed him. Arizona didn’t give him much boost in his one season there – 18 catches for 223 yards. Has all the makings of a summertime, take-a-flyer-on-him signing as Fred Davis was last season.
Coby Fleener, 27, Colts. Andrew Luck’s college tight end at Stanford, he has had good success in Indy over four seasons with 157 catches and 15 touchdowns in the past three seasons. That production is going to attract him some attention. The problem with Fleener is he’s a little soft. Doesn’t break tackles, hasn’t played in harsh elements, etc. Still, his 19 catches for 272 yards and four scores against the Pats in four games may make them intrigued. He’s not that different from Chandler, though.
Larry Donnell, 27, Giants. A restricted free agent coming off a neck injury, he’d be a great target if there was certainty about his health. The $1.671M tender placed on him as an RFA means the Giants have the right to match any offers. At 6-5, 270 with 73 catches in his past 20 games, he’s got upside if healthy. Top big an “if” to gamble on.
Zach Miller, 31, Bears. An H-back-type at 6-4, 233, Miller had his first legitimately productive NFL season in Chicago with 34 catches last year. He made 45 from 2009-11 in Jacksonville. Injuries kept him from making any impact in the subsequent three seasons. A very good athlete with great hands, is he worth a flier?
Ben Watson, 35, Saints. The former Patriots first-rounder is on record wanting to return to New Orleans where he had his best statistical season in 2015.