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Patriots thin numbers again in competition for No. 3 TE role

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The top two spots at tight end on the New England Patriots depth chart are solidified, with Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen. The third spot behind them is less certain, and for the second time in two weeks, the club thinned ranks by releasing one of the options.

Last week, it was Michael Williams let go. On Wednesday, it was Rob Housler (with a failed physical designation).

That leaves last year's primary No. 3 option, Matt Lengel, competing with trade acquisition James O'Shaughnessy and undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister.

There is also some crossover possibility with fullbacks James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski potentially in the No. 3 tight end spot, as there is no guarantee the Patriots will keep three tight ends on their initial 53-man roster. There's a strong possibility the team will carry six receivers, meaning something will have to give at another spot on the roster.

As for Housler, he entered the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, drafted high in the third round in 2011, but never fully emerged. He didn't play in 2016, yet the Patriots saw enough in a workout to sign him to a reserve/future contract in January. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he is viewed as more of a pass-catcher than in-line blocker.

Housler was let go after pulling his hamstring. Upon his recovery, a a return to the Patriots is not out of the question.

The Patriots now have two open spots on their 90-man roster.