Update: Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. ET
Schefter tweeted on Tuesday:
And now, TE Kellen Winslow officially has signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 18, 2012
--- End of Update ---
The New England Patriots have signed tight end Kellen Winslow to a one-year contract, according to James Walker of ESPN. Winslow will replace Aaron Hernandez, who is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
Winslow has huge shoes to fill in the Patriots offense. Hernandez developed into a key cog of the passing game last season, making 79 catches for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns. He had six catches in Week 1 before getting injured early in Week 2.
The timetable for his return remains fluid. Walker reports Hernandez will likely miss at least a month, but the team hasn't announced anything concrete. Signing Winslow would seem to suggest it will indeed be a while before he returns.
Winslow was released by the Seattle Seahawks prior to the regular season. He spent the past three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and illustrated he can still be a productive member of an offense despite a bothersome knee.
He caught 218 passes for nearly 2,400 yards and 12 touchdowns in his three years with Tampa Bay, catching no fewer than 66 balls in any season and playing in all 48 games.
Winslow will have to get up to speed quickly in an offense that relies heavily on strong play from the tight end position. Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots a major advantage over opposing defenses, and the transition to Winslow for the time being must be seamless.
Tom Brady is an equal-opportunity quarterback. He's going to throw the ball to whichever player is open out of the spread offense, so Winslow has the potential to put up some big numbers if his knee injury doesn't stop him from separating from linebackers.
At the very least, the veteran tight end should ensure the Patriots offense can get back on track after a shockingly poor performance against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
It should be noted that there are conflicting reports on the agreement, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network states that, while Winslow is visiting with the Patriots, no official deal has been reached yet. The two sides are still meeting.
Kellen Winslow is in New England to meet with the Patriots this morning. No deal has been signed yet.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 18, 2012
If the deal falls through or never gets completed for whatever reason, it still seems likely the Patriots will sign another tight end quickly to fill the Hernandez void for as long as he's unable to play.