Even though they just signed tight end Tyler Higbee to a contract extension in September, the Los Angeles Rams shouldn’t let an opportunity to get better at the position slip by them in March free agency. And that opportunity is none other than Hunter Henry, a tight end who has managed to put up good numbers for an awful Patriots team this season.
It’s no secret that the Rams will have a large amount of money to spend in free agency this upcoming offseason as they look to re-load the roster. General manager Les Snead will do his best to pinpoint targets that fit what the Rams are looking for and who could help them take that next step in their rebuild.
One position that he will most certainly target is the edge rusher position. There are a lot of big names projected to become free agents this offseason. That list includes Josh Allen, Brian Burns, and Josh Uche.
Outside of edge rusher, however, the Rams will need to decide where they want to allocate the rest of their resources. One of those places could be at the tight end position and there is one player who makes too much sense — that player being New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry.
Henry showed a flash of what he is able to do as a receiver when he is featured in the offense. On Thursday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Henry had three receptions for 40 yards with two touchdowns. He also played a key role on third as the “pick player” to open up Zeke Elliott in the flat and give him space to score.
Hunter Henry had two TDs but also created the first score of the game with the pick/screen on #38. pic.twitter.com/L6PRxdea9V— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) December 8, 2023
Ever since the Rams opted not to re-sign Gerald Everett, they have lacked a solid number two tight end option behind Tyler Higbee. Everett had 41 receptions for 407 yards in his final season with the Rams. Tight ends not named Tyler Higbee have a combined 19 receptions for 236 yards in the almost three years since.
It’s fair to note that the Rams did just sign Higbee to an extension, but it’s also worth noting a few other details as well. The elephant in the room is that while Higbee is dealing with injuries this season, he hasn't necessarily been playing well. He’s had key drops and missed blocks in sometimes critical situations.
Despite playing no fewer than 87 percent of the team’s offensive snaps all season, over the past two weeks that number has dropped for Higbee. The Rams have been rotating their tight ends more, resulting in a 75 percent and 67 percent workload for Higbee. Meanwhile, Hunter Long played 22 and 33 percent of the team’s offensive snaps during that time period and Davis Allen played 13 percent of the snaps in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
This isn’t even necessarily because the Rams are playing heavier personnel. Over the past two weeks, Sean McVay’s offense has still run 95 percent of its plays out of 11 personnel. Simply put, the Rams are taking some workload off of Higbee.
Something to keep in mind as well is that Brycen Hopkins is a free agent after this year and both Hunter Long and Davis Allen are still relative unknowns. Despite acquiring Long last offseason in the Jalen Ramsey trade, the Rams were in conversations to trade up into the first-round of last year’s draft with the idea of taking tight end Dalton Kincaid.
With the direction that the Rams offense is heading, it’s clear that McVay feels like he needs another thread at tight end outside of Higbee. The Rams offense is being built with some of the same ideas from 2017 and 2018. In those seasons, the Rams had a tight end rotation that featured both Higbee and Everett. Due to the lack of trustworthy tight end depth on the roster, the offense has primarily featured just one tight end in Higbee.
Thought the #Patriots most well-blocked runs came on two long trap carries to Trent Brown's side and a pair of duo reps behind Mike Onwenu, Pharaoh Brown, Hunter Henry, and JuJu in Q4 pic.twitter.com/QGLJm2wyiZ— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) December 8, 2023
The final piece in all this is who the Rams hired as their tight ends coach last offseason. McVay brought in Nick Caley from the New England Patriots. Caley coached Henry for two seasons with the Patriots. In those two seasons, Henry had 91 catches for 1112 yards and 11 TDs. His best season came in 2020 as he had 50 receptions for 603 yards and nine touchdowns.
At 29 years old, Henry also fits the Rams current team-build. They could sign him for two years which would tie him to the Rams in 2024 and 2025 when Los Angeles is looking to make a final push for a championship with the current core group. His market value according to Spotrac is two year for around $14M.
We’ll have to wait until March to see who the Rams end up signing as free agents. However, with Hunter Henry’s connection to Caley and the team’s need for a second tight end behind Higbee, the Patriots tight end may be a perfect fit.