Patriots Won't Sign TE Jordan Leggett; Will They Enter Camp Under 80?
Although it seemed like signing free-agent tight end Jordan Leggett was a done deal, the New England Patriots will not be adding the veteran to the roster, as ESPN's Field Yates reported Tuesday.
This deal came after Matt LaCosse's decision to opt out of this season due to concerns over COVID-19.
The Patriots have struggled at the tight end position after Rob Gronkowski's decision to leave the team back. LaCosse and Ryan Izzo combined for just two touchdowns and 245 yards last season. Their No. 1 tight end was Benjamin Watson - 38 - who had 17 receptions for 173 yards and then retired this offseason.
That means that if the team does not pursue another free agent the position will be left in the hands of rookies Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi, as they will likely play key roles this upcoming season.
Keene had 59 receptions for a total 748 yards and eight touchdowns over the course of three seasons at Virginia Tech. Asiasi posted a career-high 44 receptions for 641 yards and four touchdowns as a senior at UCLA in 2019. New England drafted Asiasi and Keene with back-to-back picks in the third round this year.
But the Patriots need more than just tight ends. They have the most opt-outs in the league, and currently only have 78 players on the roster. Head coach Bill Belichick said he wants to keep the roster at a maximum of 80, which gives them the option to add a couple more players.
If the team does decide to go for another free-agent tight end, keep an eye on someone like veteran Delanie Walker, who the Patriots reportedly have shown interest in this offseason.
Losing veteran tackle Marcus Cannon and guard Najee Toran to opt-outs presents some positions that need depth as well. The race for starting quarterback between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham is still on, but it will be important for both to have a strong offensive line. Stidham will need protection because he has little experience and will need more time in the pocket to dissect a defense, while Newton will need protection to prevent more injuries and give him the opportunity to run if needed.
The team could also pursue another wide receiver since Marqise Lee also opted out. There are several names that could wind up in a Patriots uniform from free agency, such as Chris Hogan, Tavon Austin or Taylor Gabriel.