Patriots by position: Tight end

January 20, 2010 - 6:32 pm

Over the next couple of weeks, as the Patriots offseason gets underway, we'€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position, looking back at 2009 and ahead to 2010. On Tuesday, we started with the running backs. Today, we put the tight end position in the spotlight: On the roster: Benjamin Watson, Chris Baker. (Robbie Agnone and Rob Myers are on the practice squad.) Stat standouts from 2009: Leading receivers: Watson, 29 catches for 404 yards and 5 TDs; Baker, 14 catches for 142 yards and 2 TDs. Best yards per catch average: Watson, 13.9. Best single game: Watson, six catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs vs. Buffalo on 9/14/09. 2009, in three sentences: One-dimensional. The subpar numbers posted by the New England tight ends were as much a reflection of their use as blockers instead of pass-catchers. For most of the season, their opportunities in the passing game were few and far between. By the numbers: Courtesy of the always awesome Gary From Chapel Hill, Watson'€™s career average reception of 12.6 yards per catch is the highest by a New England tight end since Russ Francis retired. (Francis had 15.3 yards per catch.) In addition, Watson'€™s career yards downfield at the catch (8.7) is highest by a tight end since they tracked the stat, which began in 1994 and includes receivers with a minimum of 160 receptions. Money quote: '€œI don'€™t know if I'€™ll be here or not. I'€™d hate to go out like that. But I had a good time here, and we'€™ll just see what happens.'€ '€”Watson, who became a free agent hours after the playoff loss to Baltimore. The skinny: The thought of Watson '€” a free agent '€” returning in 2010 seems highly unlikely. Barring a significant free agent signing or draft day pickup, that would leave Baker as the No. 1 option at tight end. He did well when called upon '€” when he was targeted, he was a reliable threat '€” but he'€™s still more of a blocker than a pass-catcher, so it wouldn'€™t be a surprise for them to go out and get another pair of hands at the position, either in free agency (Owen Daniels, Tony Scheffler and Bo Scaife could be available) or the draft.