The New England Patriots wasted little time in filling the void created when tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s loss to Arizona. And the replacement is someone they are at least familiar with: Kellen Winslow Jr.
The Patriots have agreed to a one-year contract with former Pro Bowler who was in New England’s camp last month. The team did not sign him at the time, electing to keep the tight ends already on their roster. But Hernandez could be out up to six weeks, and Winslow made sense as the more-than-capable fill in.
Winslow’s agent tweeted congratulations to Winslow later Tuesday morning, although no official confirmation has come from the team yet.
The tweet from Denise White, CEO of EAG Sports Management, read: “Congrats to our client @KellenWinslowJr for signing with the Patriots!!!”
Winslow brings many of the same skills as Hernandez, and more. He’s an athletic tight end with good hands. This also allows New England to continue to run its vaunted two-tight end sets, with Winslow projected to team up with Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots did not want to shelve a large portion of their offensive playbook until Hernandez returned. Winslow can fill that void and allow quarterback Tom Brady to run the successful two-tight end sets that led New England to the Super Bowl last season. The Patriots’ offense struggled without the formation on Sunday and didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.
Winslow caught 75 passes for 763 yards and two touchdowns last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s averaged 73 receptions for 792.3 yards the past three seasons.
He was released by the Seahawks earlier this month. The team originally acquired him in a trade with Tampa Bay in May.
Winslow’s base salary of $3.3 million for the 2012 season would have been guaranteed if he had been on the roster for the season opener.