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Part of a continuing series on how the Patriots fare, position by position. Click here to read more stories in the series.


With a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman at Tom Brady’s disposal, the Patriots have as destructive a 1-2 receiving punch as there is in the NFL.

After those two sure-handed stalwarts, there’s some dropoff at both the tight end and wide receiver positions.

Gronkowski is the platinum standard at tight end. He goes full-bore on every snap, whether he’s the primary receiver, a secondary option, or blocking a defender into submission. He’s one of the most energetic players on the field, whether it’s game day or just a walkthrough.

It’s the safest of bets the Patriots will pick up his club option March 9, keeping him under contract through 2019.

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Fellow tight end Scott Chandler (23 catches, 259 yards) never found a groove in his first season in New England and he won’t get another one. Due to make $3.05 million, he was released Wednesday.

Michael Williams was a find. The converted offensive tackle (he was a tight end at Alabama) arrived from Detroit and was a solid run blocker and pass protector. Any time Williams (three catches, 26 yards) chips in with a reception, it’s a bonus. He is signed through 2016.

Another tight end, rookie sixth-round pick A.J. Derby, spent the season on injured reserve. He will get a shot in camp.

If the Patriots want to add a veteran presence at the position, Antonio Gates and ex-Patriot Benjamin Watson are free agents. In addition, younger vet Coby Fleener is an option. All three are more pass catchers than blockers.

Draft options include Jerell Adams, Austin Hooper, Jake McGee, and Nick Vannett.

Edelman was on track for a 100-plus-reception season when he broke his foot against the Giants and was sidelined for the final seven regular-season games. He was sorely missed, and his value to this offense was driven home when he collected 17 receptions in the two playoff games.

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After Edelman, who is signed through 2017, the receiver picture is a little murky. Danny Amendola (2017), Matthew Slater (2016), Aaron Dobson (2016), Keshawn Martin (2016), Chris Harper (2016), and DeAndre Carter (2016) all are under contract, but more changes could be coming after Brandon LaFell was cut Wednesday.

Amendola (65 catches, 648 yards) had his best season as a Patriot but a balky knee hampered him over the final six weeks. His salary ($5 million) makes him a candidate for a second straight restructure or being replaced by a more economical option.

LaFell started the season on the PUP list, and when he returned, he struggled. He finished with 37 catches (and a ton of drops) for 515 yards and zero TDs.

Martin arrived from the Texans in September, and after initially being hampered by a hamstring injury, he became a solid contributor on offense and special teams, prompting the Patriots to extend him.

Dobson gave fans a reason for optimism with his seven-catch, 87-yard effort in Week 2 but was largely ineffective and ended up on injured reserve for the second straight season. He’s still on his rookie deal, however, so he’ll be back fighting for a roster spot.

After shining in camp and earning a spot, Harper had a nondescript rookie campaign except for his notable muffed punt in the regular-season loss at Denver. With a season under his belt, Harper could have a bigger impact in Year 2 — both on offense and special teams.

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Carter spent his time on the practice squad, and the diminutive receiver will get a chance to earn a spot.

Impending free agents Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson, and Josh Boyce spent the season on injured reserve. Of that trio, Tyms had the best chance to return and make an impact.

Tyms (6 feet 3 inches), who had the size and speed to be effective deep threat, was a fearless special teamer but he announced on Twitter he will not return.

If the Patriots were to overhaul the receiver group through free agency, some of the names to keep in mind are Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Marques Colston, with Percy Harvin a dark horse.

Some draft names to remember: Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper, Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, Rutgers’s Leonte Carroo, and UMass’s Tajae Sharpe.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeJimMcBride.