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The Patriots Take Another Big Step in the Right Direction by Re-Signing Hunter Henry

When you're looking over a roster that just produced the worst offensive output your franchise has seen in 30 years, a cynical man might look at it and say everyone is expendable. That you might as well just bring in the demo team to level it, and rebuild from the ground up. 

Speaking personally, I'm close to being psychically damaged enough to have considered that. But no. That would be acting strictly out of frustration. What this rebuild calls for is a measured, unemotional, analytic response. To which I've applied my legendary rational, Spock-like logic. 

So when I listed my priorities when it comes to the Patriots current group of free agents I ranked them in order:

  • 1. RT Michael Onwenu
  • 2. S Kyle Dugger
  • 3. TE Hunter Henry

Talks are underway with Onwenu, who fired his agent and is negotiating on his own, for what that's worth. Dugger has received the Transition tag, in hopes of getting a long term deal done, so he's staying. And now Henry is here for the long haul. 

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Here's what I wrote last month:

Let's not put to fine a point on this. Henry hasn't exactly been a major superweapon that upsets the balance of power in the AFC and leaves defensive coordinators reaching for the anti-depressants. But he has been capable. A fairly dependable dual-threat tight end who's a reliable blocker, and a possession receiver with good hands who's productive in the red zone. His production has also declined each season he's been in New England, as has the offense writ large. That to me makes him sort of a depreciated asset who can be had for reasonable money. At least one would think. The counter-factual on that is this is a trash year for free agent tight ends. It's more or less Henry and Dalton Schultz and a bunch of droids. So it's possible that some team just looking for a third or fourth option and can afford to overpay would outbid the Pats. Add to the fact that he came to Foxboro and immediately bonded with Mac Jones, who's now a pariah and didn't even dress for the last game, might be incentive enough for him to look for a more stable environment at the age of 29. 

Instead, Henry has opted to stick around the unstable environment and be here to help this franchise turn itself around. And that is reason to celebrate. 

Giphy Images.

For several reasons, most of them listed by Patriots.com:

After joining the Patriots as a free agent in 2021, the 29-year-old has averaged 47 catches for 542 yards and six touchdowns in his three seasons with the Patriots. Henry has proven to be a reliable chain-mover and red-zone threat, stabilizing a position that was in flux post-Rob Gronkowski. 

Over the last three seasons, Henry is tied for fifth among tight ends with 17 receiving touchdowns. The Pats tight end also ranked tenth with a 75.2 receiving grade against man coverage last season, serving as one of the Pats more efficient man-coverage beaters, with 14 catches against man coverage in 2023, ranking tied for ninth in that category at the position. 

Along with his on-field production, Henry was voted a team captain for the 2023 season as he blossomed into a locker-room leader. Teammates rave about his consistency and work ethic behind the scenes, where he often sets an example by putting in extra time to work on his craft. With head coach Jerod Mayo aiming to establish his culture, Henry is a core player for the Patriots who can help guide them. 

And it should be lost on no one that Henry was one of the few positives in a situation that skewed way toward the negative last season. Had he not missed the last two games to injury, he probably would've led the team in receptions. As it was, he led them with six touchdowns and was second in yards only to Demario Douglas. Reached double digits in YPR. And in Pro Football Focus grades, he ranked 15th among all tight ends in receiving, 15th in blocking, and 14th overall. In total, he's one of those solid, dependable veterans you want to keep around to give you a base you can build upon. 

I'd still love to see them draft and develop a tight end in the middle rounds. But being realistic, in order to get someone who's going to be really productive that low in the draft - and not just a blocking, third tackle-type - you generally have to be willing to select one of those guys who's dropped because he's a little on the homicidal side. And that we do not want. A more realistic, though expensive, plan might be taking a run at Schultz or Fant. Or perhaps the next tier of free agents like Gerald Everett, Adam Trautman or Austin Hooper. Most likely they'll look to bring back a Mike Gesicki as a cheaper alternative, hoping he can be more productive under Alex Van Pelt than he was Bill O'Brien. 

Regardless, this is yet another positive move in an offseason that's going to need a ton more if we're going to get anywhere. 

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