Ever since the New England Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez after he was arrested for allegedly murdering Odin Lloyd in June 2013, the search has been on for more depth at tight end. Apparently, they are ready to take drastic measures to bring that search to an end.
On Tuesday, the Patriots traded Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tight end Tim Wright and a draft pick, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. ESPN's Adam Schefter later confirmed that the pick will be a fourth-rounder from Tampa Bay.
Wright entered the league as an undrafted free agent last season and immediately made his mark. He led all rookie tight ends in receptions with 54 and in receiving yards with 571. He also had five receiving touchdowns, ranking second among all rookie tight ends.
His pass-catching prowess is no coincidence; tight end is not his natural position. Former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano moved him to tight end after signing him as an undrafted free agent immediately after the 2013 NFL draft. It's no coincidence that he was signed by the Buccaneers, either, as Schiano was also his head coach when the two were together at Rutgers.
Wright has had an up-and-down preseason since Lovie Smith took over as head coach. At one point, Smith had said that the Buccaneers had "big plans" for Wright, according to PewterReport.com. Apparently, those plans did not take long to fizzle out, as Smith's tone quickly turned from hope to disappointment after a rough start at training camp with drops and troubles in the blocking game.
Smith had this to say, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
I'll just kind of jump on where he's been. He hasn't played as well as he should be playing. He's dropped some balls. If you've been watching him at practice, he's dropped balls. He's a big part of what we want to do with the two-receiver, two-tight end set. Tim hasn't blocked as well inside.
Once you're that H-back and you don't block, now they just say you're another receiver and teams start going nickel against you. But if they do that, you have to at least be a good pass catcher. And Tim is a good player, he just hasn't played as well as he needs to lately.
In that respect, Wright sounds similar to Hernandez. Neither were considered savvy blockers, but both offered upside in the passing game—despite some problems hanging onto the football.
If the Patriots plan to go back to the two-tight end offense, this could be a fruitful move. It will be tough for Wright to get assimilated into the Patriots offense in time for the season opener against the Miami Dolphins in 12 days.
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There was also a growing sense around the Patriots that the offense would be more predicated around three-receiver sets rather than the two-tight end set the Patriots had run for years with Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
But with only Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui as viable receiving options at tight end, the Patriots were wise to bolster their depth at the position. That being said, the expectations will certainly be high for Wright considering the talented player the Patriots gave up to land him.