Patriots Free Agency Rumors: Dustin Keller, Jermichael Finley Options After NFL Draft, Bill Belichick Seeks Rob Gronkowski Backup as Tight End Health Questioned

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May 12, 2014 10:56 AM EDT
Rob Gronkowski
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski makes a touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers.(Photo : Rueters) "

The New England Patriots draft always has that "we are smarter than you" feel to it. Bill Belichick and company always appear to have a master plan and the bigger picture in mind, so no draft pick is ever questioned. However, New England had one need for 2014 that they failed to meet after the NFL Draft. After losing Aaron Hernandez and dealing with two-straight seasons of Rob Gronkowski injuries, the Patriots still opted to not take a tight end in any of the seven rounds, which means a free agent could be in the future.

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Outside of Eric Ebron and Troy Niklas, the tight end group in the NFL Draft was relatively weak. There was not a home run in the bunch unlike the wide receiver group. So the Patriots opted to ignore the need altogether. The Boston Herald reported the Patriots did sign Tyler Beck, Asa Watson and Justin Jones as un-drafted free agents, but even those three do not fill the whole that still remains on the roster. Beck is more of a fullback than a tight end. Watson is more of a big wide receiver as is Jones who pairs up more with slot receivers. So what do the Patriots do to add depth behind Gronkowski?

There is still plenty of doubt regarding just how ready Gronkowski is to start the 2014 season. The tight end himself admitted that he was in no rush to get back on the field and would rather be fully healthy instead. Gronkowski has not had any setbacks in his recovery, but that still leaves the Patriots shorthanded outside of Michael Hoomanawanui.

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Patriots are still keeping a close eye on veteran tight end Dustin Keller. Recovering from his own season-ending injury, Keller has declared himself healthy and ready to play. His agent echoed those words noting he has completed rehab after tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL at the start of last season. Keller has already visited the Patriots, but the team wanted to hold off until after the NFL Draft. Now he has come back into the picture.

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Patriots will likely ink either Keller or Jermichael Finley to a one-year deal before OTAs and training camp begin. While Keller is reportedly healthy, Finley is not, but would be the better option if he gets better. Finley is still waiting for doctors to clear him after a scary career-threatening neck injury. However, in terms of talent he would be better than Keller.

The Patriots are aware that injuries can kill success. A lack of depth at the tight end and wide receiver positions made quarterback Tom Brady work extra harder. They will not make that mistake again and are preparing to load up on options prior to the season officially starting.

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