It appears that the Patriots were entertaining the idea of cutting Logan Mankins outright at some point due to his sizeable contract. But they got some return Tuesday, in the form of a future fourth round draft pick from Tampa Bay and second-year tight end Tim Wright.
The undrafted Wright was the definition of an overachiever in his rookie season, outperforming tight ends who were actually selected in the 2013 draft. Wright’s 54 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns were more than Washington’s Jordan Reed (45 catches, 499 yards, three TDs), Cincy’s Tyler Eifert (39 catches, 445 yards, two TDs) and Philly’s Zach Ertz (36 catches, 469 yards, four touchdowns).
Though Tampa Bay ultimately gave up on Wright (they brought in free agent tight end Brandon Myers and drafted tight end Austin-Seferian Jenkins), new Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith at least claimed he was impressed by Wright’s versatility.
“Tim gives us a lot of flexibility,” Smith told the Tampa Tribune in early August. “The trend in the league now seems to be to line your tight end up out wide, and with Tim in there, we can do that.
“So you’ll see him split out [wide] from time to time and we can also line him up just like you would a true tight end,” Smith added. “We can even line him up in the backfield. There’s a lot we can do with him.”
Wright’s versatility has to make Patriots head coach Bill Belichick salivate as New England has been missing that type of shifty player at tight end since Aaron Hernandez was sent to jail. Interestingly, Smith says that Wright can line up in the backfield (he was credited with one carry for two yards last year) and the Patriots would often put Hernandez in the backfield as a running threat. You’ll recall the 2011 playoff game against the Broncos in which Hernandez ran the ball five times for 61 yards.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS