After the abrupt retirement of tight end Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots have yet to fill the void left by the nine-year NFL veteran. As of now, the Patriots have Matt LaCosse at the top of their depth chart at tight end, ahead of Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck, and Ryan Izzo. The four tight ends have combined career receptions of 63 while Gronkowski tallied 47 in 13 games last season. The Patriots tried to solve their tight end woes by signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and luring veteran Ben Watson out of retirement and into signing a one-year deal.

However, the Patriots cut Seferian-Jenkins to allow him to address some personal issues while Watson was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season due to violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The Patriots recently traded with the Detroit Lions for Michael Roberts, but the deal was shelved after he failed his physical.

Patriots in a tight spot at tight end

After that, the Patriots stood pat and never lifted a finger to address their tight end woes. Rumors are persistent that Gronkowski might return at some point in the 2019 season to help the Patriots’ playoff push, but until that happens, the tight end situation puts New England in a tight spot and could affect their AFC East reign and a shot at a seventh Super Bowl trophy.

However, Jeremy Bergman of believes that until Tom Brady’s arm falls well out of its socket, there’s no guarantee that the Patriots’ AFC East dominance will end. In his preview of the AFC East, Bergman said that while their detractors hope that the Patriots might fall off every year, “we eventually rediscover that to even entertain the thought was a fool's errand.” While Bergman admits that there are warning signs, particularly the departure of some key players and important members of Bill Belichick’s coaching staff, there’s no guarantee that the Patriots will be dethroned in the AFC East.

Since Brady assumed the Patriots starting job in 2001, New England has lorded it over the AFC East, winning the division 16 of 18 times, including 10 straight.

Brady raring to enter 20th NFL season

Brady is entering his 20th NFL season, a huge achievement in itself for a player who was taken No. 199 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

However, Brady is aiming for more than just longevity as he will go for his seventh Super Bowl ring. If he wins a seventh ring, he will take a two-title lead on any other pro football player, cementing his status as the greatest quarterback of all time. With this on the line, Mike Reiss of ESPN said it’s no wonder that Brady is raring to play in the 2019 NFL season. In his column, Reiss said Brady could report to training camp earlier as expected. Veterans are required to report on July 24, but Brady could arrive at camp earlier, according to Reiss. According to his sources, Reiss said those close to Brady described the 41-year-old quarterback as “being as excited as ever” for his 20th NFL season.