- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Patriots are on the verge of signing tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to their 53-man roster, according to a source, a move that further highlights how the team has prioritized the position this year.
Hoomanawanui entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Rams in 2010. He played under current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the Rams last year.
Hoomanawanui (6-4, 263) was released by the Rams on Sunday and landed on the Redskins practice squad. The former Illinois target totaled 20 catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games with the Rams over the last two seasons.
The deal is contingent on Hoomanawanui passing a physical. The Patriots would then make a corresponding roster move, likely with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe heading to injured reserve, sources say. It's possible Shiancoe could be placed on the new short-term IR, making him eligible to return later in the season.
The expected signing of Hoomanawanui shines a brighter spotlight on how the Patriots have aggressively stocked the position this year, from signing Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to extensions, while also claiming Jake Ballard on waivers, and signing free-agents Daniel Fells and Shiancoe.
The Patriots' base offense features two tight ends, and without depth behind Gronkowski and Hernandez in 2011, the team had little insurance in the event of injury. That showed up in the Super Bowl when Gronkowski was less than 100 percent.
The Patriots kept four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster this year, which is a high total.