The New England Patriots just keep on adding free agents.
Their most recent signing was that of former Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, who agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million pact with the Pats early on Tuesday morning, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Arkansas alumnus is coming off of a career year as he meshed well with Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert last season to the tune of a career-high 60 grabs for 613 yards and a quartet of touchdowns.
Henry, 26, will be joining a group of pass-catchers that has been seeing some wholesale changes over the past two days. On Monday, New England threw two-year, $26 million and three-year, $22.5 million deals to wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, respectively.
That pair of signings was encouraging considering the dearth of talent and pedigree the Patriots’ receiving corps offered last season. With slot god Julian Edelman returning from injury next season, this could turn out to be a decent little receiver trio for quarterback Cam Newton.
Doubtless the main focus of the passing attack will be at the tight end position, however, where they’ve committed $87.5 million over the next four seasons to Henry and former Tennessee Titans standout Jonnu Smith in the past two days.
Since his early Patriots days when he drafted tight ends Daniel Graham and Ben Watson in the first rounds of the 2002 and 2004 NFL Drafts, respectively, head coach Bill Belichick’s affinity for 12 personnel aka two tight end offensive sets has been clear and evident.
That preference really came to the forefront when Rob Gronkowski combined with Aaron Hernandez to devastating effect for a couple of years in the early 2010s. But since Gronk’s departure in 2018, the Patriots have had the fewest receptions, yards, and touchdowns from their tight end corps—something had to give.
Over the past two days the Patriots have paid $137.5 million in guaranteed money to incoming free agents as they rebuild their roster. Despite some solid moves, they remain with big +450 NFL odds (888sport) to win their division, the AFC East.
Henry has been a solid contributor for the Chargers when he’s been on the field over the past five years, but he has also picked up a reputation as a bit injury prone. He missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, four games for a tibial fracture in 2019, and the last two games of the 2020 season with COVID.
Belichik said in December that he’d been following Henry’s career since he was a little high-schooler playing football in Little Rock, Arkansas, so this signing could have been forecasted.
Henry has 196 grabs for 2,322 receiving yards and 21 touchdown catches in 55 career regular season games in the NFL.