With the expected signing of Michael Hoomanawanui (pending a physical), a natural question might be, "What are the Patriots thinking with all these tight ends?"
A few quick-hit thoughts:
1. In many ways, we can scratch the TE out in front of Aaron Hernandez's name on the roster. He's as much a receiver as a tight end.
2. With an offense that figures to have Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez on the field for the majority of snaps, a significant shift would be required if one of them were injured and there was no depth behind them (see: 2011, specifically the Super Bowl). Instead of going to a pure three-receiver attack in that potential injury situation -- as the club did last year when Hernandez was down -- the Patriots are better-positioned to stay with their base offense this year.
3. The claiming of injured tight end Jake Ballard (Giants) earlier this offseason was more of a move for the future (2013) than this year.
4. Visanthe Shiancoe's hamstring injury early in camp added another layer to the picture. He hasn't been available, and is now a candidate to land on injured reserve with the expected signing of Hoomanawanui.