Patriots

Jared Cook reportedly signing with Saints; Which free-agent tight ends are left?

Jared Cook reportedly signing with Saints; Which free-agent tight ends are left?

If the New England Patriots want to acquire a legitimate insurance policy for Rob Gronkowski in free agency, their options are running out.

The New Orleans Saints are expected to sign free-agent tight end Jared Cook, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday morning.

Cook turns 32 in April but arguably was the best free agent tight end left on the market; he posted career highs in receptions (68), receiving yards (896) and touchdowns (6) for the Oakland Raiders in 2018 while making his first Pro Bowl.

Cook joins big names like Tyler Eifert, Jesse James and Tyler Kroft who have either re-signed with their clubs or joined new teams. So, who's still out there? Here's an updated look at the some of the top remaining free-agent tight ends still available:

- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (last team: Jaguars)
- James O'Shaughnessy (Jaguars)
- A.J. Derby (Dolphins)
- Jermaine Gresham (Cardinals)
- Neal Sterling (Jets)
- Maxx Williams (Ravens)
- Levine Toilolo (Lions)

Translation: It's slim pickings out there.

The Patriots did acquire a tight end in free agency, signing 26-year-old Matt LaCosse from the Denver Broncos. After Dwayne Allen's departure, though, LaCosse and Jacob Hollister don't inspire much confidence as New England's tight end depth chart behind Gronkowski, who hasn't even confirmed he's playing in 2019.

That would suggest the Patriots may seek tight end depth via trade or the 2019 NFL Draft, where several quality prospects could fall to Bill Belichick's club at No. 32 overall.

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NFL Rumors: Patriots, Cardinals haven't spoken about Josh Rosen trade

NFL Rumors: Patriots, Cardinals haven't spoken about Josh Rosen trade

It was an interesting theory, but for now, Josh Rosen-to-the-New England Patriots remains just that: a theory.

On the morning of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals have no deal in place to trade quarterback Josh Rosen and haven't even spoken to the Patriots about a possible deal, ESPN's Adam Schefter said Thursday morning on WEEI's "Mut & Callahan."

According to Schefter, the Cardinals have spoken to the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants about Rosen, but no deal is imminent.

Arizona has the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's first round, and many believe they'll use it to draft Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray. That would make Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft, a potential trade chip, and the Patriots reportedly were "very interested"  in acquiring the 22-year-old QB as they search for a successor for 41-year-old Tom Brady.

But as the draft approaches, doubt has emerged that the Cardinals would even trade Rosen, with a recent report suggesting they may not draft Murray and keep Rosen as their QB of the future.

Rosen would have been an intriguing option for the Patriots, but Bill Belichick and Co. have several other signal-callers to consider in this year's draft class -- Duke's Daniel Jones, West Virginia's Will Grier and Auburn's Jarrett Stidham, to name a few.

New England enters Thursday with 12 draft picks, including the No. 32 overall selection.

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Lombardi doesn't see a 'Day 1 starter' at QB in this draft

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File photo

Lombardi doesn't see a 'Day 1 starter' at QB in this draft

If anyone could provide insight into what Bill Belichick and the Patriots might be thinking on the eve of the NFL draft, it's Michael Lombardi. The former Pats staffer and Belichick confidant once dubbed "one of the smartest people I know" by the coach.

Lombardi joined Phil Perry this week on "The Next Pats Podcast" to look ahead to a draft he doesn't seem enamored with - particularly at quarterback for those thinking the heir to Tom Brady might be selected this weekend.

Lombardi was on Belichick's staff the last time that attempt was made - when Jimmy Garoppolo was drafted in 2014.

"Tom has defeated Father Time," Lombardi told Perry. "When we drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014, did anybody think Tom would last another five years?  Anybody who said yes, other than Tom, probably wasn't telling the truth. Tom's just remarkable..."

As for this draft class of QBs, Lombardi said: "I'm not sure there's a quarterback in this draft, [rumored No. 1 pick Kyler] Murray included, who doesn't have some kind of fault in them...I have a hard time looking at this draft and saying [of the QBs] this guy's a Day 1 starter or a Pro Bowl player. "

Lombardi echoed Belichick's comments at the coach's pre-draft meeting with the media about the difficulty involved in evaluating college passers because of the level of competition they're coming from.

"Nobody ever talks about the level of competition and that's really the challenge of evaluating college players," Lombardi said. "When you watch pro players it's easy because they're going against other pro players."

And what might the Pats be looking for tomorrow night with pick No. 32? Lombardi sees them leaning toward defense.

"I think the thing about the Patriots is they realize that they've got to get a good player at 32," he told Perry. "If it's a corner that they like, that can come in and play a role for them this year, I think they could pick the corner. If there happened to be a linebacker or a defensive end that could rush, they can do that. It's going to be what the player's skill set is, what he could do this year and what impact he could utilize within there. You know there's always the chance he [Belichick] could trade down for more second-round picks."

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