Hunter Henry, Patriots agree to three-year, $37.5M deal

Bill Belichick is back at it on the second day of the NFL's negotiating window.

The New England Patriots made another big splash in the free agency pool, adding tight end Hunter Henry on a three-year, $37.5 million deal, including $25 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports, per a source informed of the situation.

ESPN first reported the news.

Once again, 12 personnel will be in vogue in Foxborough.

The move to swipe Henry comes a day after the Pats agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with fellow tight end Jonnu Smith. Henry's $12.5 million average per season slots alongside Smith among tight ends -- George Kittle and Travis Kelce sit one and two.

The Pats nabbing the top two tight ends in free agency -- Smith was No. 16, Henry No. 17 on Gregg Rosenthal's Top 101 -- is a bold move by Belichick that immediately boosts New England's weaponry heading into 2021.

When healthy, Henry is a difference-making pass-catcher who can outrun linebackers and post up defensive backs. In 2020, he generated 613 yards on 60 receptions with four TDs in 14 games.

The two 26-year-olds are perfect complements. Henry is a classic in-line seam stretching tight end, while Smith is an ideal move-TE for today's offense. Neither is an award-winning blocker, but they are not inept either.

Belichick signing Henry and Smith are sure to conjure memories of the Pats pairing Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the 2010 NFL draft. The new duo isn't as talented as the throwback combo, but the idea of combining an in-line option with a move-type player remains the same.

The Patriots owned the worst TE room in the NFL last season. Belichick turned the script on its head within the first 24 hours of the negotiating window.

Pairing Smith and Henry upgrades a weapons-poor unit that sunk the offense last season and partly led to Cam Newton's struggles. Along with the additions of receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, the Pats' pass-catchers are worlds better than they were last season, and we haven't even hit the new league year or draft yet.

Adding two top-shelf tight ends allows the Patriots scheme flexibility while providing Newton, or whoever opens the season under center, targets who can win one-on-one matchups and shine in the red zone.

Last season, the Pats operated with one of the worst offensive units in the NFL. Newton took the brunt of the blame. Part of that criticism was fair as he admittedly misfired too often. Part of it was the lack of playmakers. Belichick stockpiling pass-catchers early in the offseason is an admission by the coach and GM that paying for upgrades was necessary to avoid another disappointing season.

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