Nothing like Super Bowl Sunday to evoke memories of the great Rob Gronkowski and the sizeable advantage that the New England Patriots once possessed as a result of the tight end's elite ability.
In four Super Bowl appearances as a Patriot, Gronkowski totaled 297 yards and three touchdowns on 23 receptions. He made multiple catches in every game.
Not only do the Patriots not have the next Gronk on the roster, they have only one tight end, a virtual unknown, under contract for next season. Former USFL product La'Michael Pettway, who joined the active roster on a two-year deal in late December. is the lone player under contract at the position for 2024.
Hunter Henry, Pharoah Brown and Mike Gesicki are all set to hit the free agent market.
Henry may not have lived up to the $37.5 million contract he reportedly received in 2021, but the talented pass-catcher was arguably the team's second-best offensive weapon behind running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Both players ended the season on Injured Reserve as the Patriots' offense (276.2) sank to 30th in the NFL.
Even if New England elects to re-sign Henry, who scored a team-leading six touchdowns in 14 games, the team will need to acquire at least two or three more tight ends prior to training camp.
Should they opt to go the free agent route, Noah Fant, Dalton Schultz and Gerald Everett are some of the better-known names available.
Schultz produced to the tune of 59 receptions, 635 yards and five touchdowns in 15 regular season games for the Houston Texans. Everett had 51 receptions for 411 yards and three touchdowns over 15 appearances for the Los Angeles Chargers. Fant, a former first-round draft pick, started all 17 games for the Seattle Seahawks, making 32 grabs for 414 yards.
Georgia's Brock Bowers appears as the consensus No. 1 tight end in the 2024 NFL Draft class. Although he may not last long, third overall may be a bit high to draft that position. New England may be able to trade down a few slots and still wind up with Bowers, who won back-to-back John Mackey Awards for being the nation’s top tight end.
Whether it's Henry, Bowers, a veteran free agent signing or all of the above, the Patriots will need to heavily address the tight end position this offseason.