With Rob Gronkowski no longer in the plans for the remainder of the postseason, the Patriots have a decision to make with his roster spot. As it currently stands, Gronkowski remains on the active roster, and could in theory stay there if the Patriots decide there is not a player available who could boost their roster in his place.
But if the team does decide it would like to fill Gronkowski's spot, there are a couple of options of how they could do so.
Per the NFL's rulebook, playoff teams are permitted to sign a maximum of four free agents during the postseason, and up to two during any given week (link here). The Patriots have yet to make a transaction this postseason, meaning they have the full allotment of moves at their disposal.
And while Gronkowski's injury reduces the Patriots depth at tight end, veteran Daniel Fells was inactive last Sunday, meaning there is an in-house option to fill his spot on the game-day roster. While it's not out of the realm of possibilities for the Patriots to add a tight end this week, they do have three healthy players as it currently stands, meaning they could look to other positions to round out the roster as well.
As is the case at any point of the year, the Patriots have the option to either promote from within via their practice squad, or also to look externally to find a free agent signing.
A quick glance at either option:
Promoting from the practice squad: The Patriots have a full house on their practice squad with eight players, although no tight ends are among that group. In terms of players on the practice squad with active roster experience this season, fullback James Develin, defensive lineman Marcus Forston, and linebacker Jeff Tarpinian have all spent time on the 53-man squad. Given the Patriots' struggles in kickoff coverage last week, they may feel that adding a special teamer like Tarpinian or Develin would give the coverage units a spark. Other players on the Patriots practice squad include: wide receivers Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes, offensive lineman Colin Miller, safety Cyhl Quarles, and defensive lineman Tracy Robertson.
Signing a free agent from outside: At this juncture of the season, the number of difference-making free agents available is slim, but there are certainly players out there that the Patriots could turn to if desired. We'd venture to guess that a free-agent signing would come prior to practice on Wednesday, so as to acclimate that player to the playbook and game plan for Sunday. If the Patriots were to bring back a player who was on the roster earlier this season, it would seem possible that he could be signed later in the week.