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How do you replace Baker?

Posted by Albert Breer  March 4, 2010 09:25 PM

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Brandon.jpgJust finished up writing up all kinds of "Uncapped Season" stuff for our print product, and so I'm with you guys now as the clock ticks down to midnight. And since I posted here last, Monique passed along the news that Chris Baker has been released and that leaves the Patriots with, well, not a whole lot at tight end.

Now, I'm going to say something that might not be that popular -- I think New England could look for its blocking tight end before it really ramps up the search for a new pass-catcher at the position. Why? Well, crazy as it sounds, it might be harder to find the grunt at this spot.

It's getting harder and harder to find blocking tight ends in the college ranks and, in that vein, the top draftable guys this year (Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, Arizona's Rob Gronkowski) are those "move" types that line up all over the formation. So the Patriots could find that kind of player with one of their four picks in the first two rounds, or sniff around a guy like Greg Olsen on the trade market.

Guys like the one pictured there, 6-foot-2, 288-pound beast Brandon Manumaleuna, aren't all over the place, and since the Patriots have played the Chargers a bunch of late, they've seen plenty of him. He would be an upgrade over Baker as a blocker, and could key the re-making of the Patriot running game you saw starting late last year.

Now, there will be competition for him. Cam Cameron, who coached him in San Diego, would love to bring him to Baltimore. Mike Martz covets the blocking types at that position, had Manumaleuna in St. Louis, and needs a guy like this with Olsen's deficiencies in that area.

But it wouldn't be surprising if the Patriots kicked the tires on this one. If you're looking for other names at that position, you can check out Randy McMichael or Alge Crumpler as well.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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