The Patriots are still exploring options at tight end to complement Gronkowski. (USA TODAY Images)
The Patriots have questions at the tight end position heading into the 2014 season, and while there is still a chance they could draft someone during next week’s NFL Draft, it appears they’re still exploring free agent options.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Miami free agent tight end Dustin Keller is visiting on Wednesday, which could potentially be a solid upgrade to a group that suffered quite a bit last season thanks to the absence of former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and charged with murder too late in the process (he was arrested on June 26, 2013) for New England to find an adequate free agent replacement.
With Rob Gronkowski coming off of a serious knee injury, New England has just Michael Hoomanawanui on the depth chart in terms of players with any real NFL experience. Adding Keller could end up being a coup for the Patriots, as they’ll potentially be able to sign him for a relatively low price tag since Keller is coming off of a brutal dislocation of his right knee during the preseason last year with the Dolphins, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL, which forced him to miss the entire regular season.
Keller’s agent Eugene Parker recently said his client is “good to go”, although it’s still a bit of a risk since there will obviously be some questions about whether or not he can come back and play at a relatively high level. However, if the Patriots like what they hear and he passes the medical evaluations, the cost to land him should make it one worth taking.
The Patriots certainly have enough questions right now at that position and already struck out with another tight end coming off of a knee injury after things didn’t work out with Jake Ballard, who they stole in 2012 following a waiver claim from the New York Giants. Ballard never seemed to gain confidence in the knee during camp last year, and was released before last season.
For now the odds are pretty good that we’ll see at least one tight end selected during next week’s NFL Draft. The only question will be whether or not another veteran lands here to start building up additional competition heading into training camp, but Keller could certainly be an intriguing addition should he end up signing here.