- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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First installment in a multi-part Patriots series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 11.
Position: Tight end
Level of need: High
Why Chandler fits: The Patriots know him well from having faced the Bills twice a season, and Chandler has had some of his best games against them. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Chandler runs well and could work at both the "F" (more receiver-like) and "Y" (more in-line blocker) positions, which is valuable versatility even though he isn't dominant in either area.
Why Graham fits: More of an H-back type, the 6-foot-3, 243-pound Graham catches the ball well and could provide another "move" option alongside D.J. Williams.
Why Hoomanawanui fits: He played 54.3 percent of the offensive snaps for the Patriots in 2013, knows the system and proved to be dependable in maximizing his skill set. He doesn't threaten as much in the passing game but has excellent hands and has shown a knack for coming down with the football in tight windows. Competitive blocker.
Other names of note: Jeff Cumberland (Jets), Ed Dickson (Ravens), Jermichael Finley (Packers), Dustin Keller (Dolphins), Jeron Mastrud (Raiders), Matthew Mulligan (Patriots), Brandon Myers (Giants), Brandon Pettigrew (Lions)
Franchise tag: Jimmy Graham (Saints)
Market conditions: The Ravens' reported five-year, $28.5 million extension with Dennis Pitta gives a feel for what a solid player at the position might command. Other than the Saints' Graham, who figures to be well north of that, we'd be surprised if any other free agents hit that number. The Lions' Pettigrew might not be too far behind. With the draft filled with only a few top-end prospects, teams with a need at the position could move quickly.
Questions to answer at the position: When will Rob Gronkowski be healthy? When Gronkowski does return to the field, how long will he stay there? Can D.J. Williams develop into a potential top option as a "move" tight end? Would the Patriots draft a tight end in the first round?