Today’s preview focuses on the men required to be both effective as a blocker in the run game and dynamic as a threat in the passing game .
Here is a list of select tight ends who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. These players can re-sign with their current teams at any time and can begin to negotiate with other teams beginning on Saturday, March 8th.
Scott Chandler/TE/Bills (6’7, 260lbs) – It’s been a slow burn the in the National Football League for Chandler, as the six-year veteran out of Iowa didn’t really break onto the scene until he joined his fourth team in the Buffalo Bills. After being cut by the Cowboys late in the 2010 season, he signed immediately with the Buffalo Bills and has progressively improved year to year to become a solid receiving option. Despite only starting seven games of the 16 he played in, he put up career highs in receptions (53), and receiving yardage (655). (UPDATE 3/13: Scott Chandler has re-signed with the Buffalo Bills.)
Dallas Clark/TE/Ravens (6’3, 252lbs) – This is not the same man that once was Peyton Manning‘s secret weapon in Indianapolis, but the Baltimore Ravens got a lot out of 34 year-old Clark. While he didn’t start any games for Baltimore, Clark had a decent season by catching 31 balls for 343 yards and three touchdowns. At this point in his career, Clark isn’t the fleetest of foot, but could provide a team with a good pair of hands and veteran leadership in the twilight of his career.
Jeff Cumberland/TE/Jets (6’4, 260lbs) – Breaking onto the scene in 2012, Cumberland has quietly put in a productive two years with the Jets after barely seeing the field in his first two seasons in the league. Despite playing for a team that’s had major inconsistencies at the quarterback position, Cumberland has produced 54 catches, and 757 yards receiving, to go with seven touchdowns the past two years. While not as dynamic as his predecessor in New York as Dustin Keller was, Cumberland is a very dependable option in the passing game. (UPDATE 3/7: Cumberland has agreed to a contract to remain with the New York Jets.)
Fred Davis/TE/Redskins (6’4, 247lbs) – The six year veteran from USC was in the prime of his career two years ago, when he caught 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns, as he looked to be the successor to Chris Cooley in the nation’s capital. But off the field issues have plagued Davis since 2011, as he was suspended that year for four games by the NFL for violation of its substance abuse policy. He then lost more than half of his 2012 season to an Achilles injury, and he was basically non-existent in 2013, only starting in three games out the 10 he played and catching seven passes. He was also just recently violated the league’s substance-abuse policy a second time, and was arrested and charged with a DUI. He’ll have to apply for reinstatement from the league due to being suspended indefinitely for his latest violation of the league’s policy.
Ed Dickson/TE/Ravens (6’4, 255lbs) – With last season’s early injury to Dennis Pitta, (who was also slated to become a free agent until the Ravens signed him long term) Dickson was expected to have a bigger role in Baltimore’s offense. That didn’t exactly happen, as he only caught 25 balls for 273 yards. But he has shown flashes of promise in the passing game, and is a big target at 6’4, 255lbs for teams.
Jermichael Finley/TE/Packers (6’5, 247lbs) – After a scary spine injury that required Finley to get spinal fusion surgery, it’s not a guarantee that Finley is going to be able to continue his football career. However, if he does recover from the injury and is healthy enough to continue in the NFL, Finley could be the top tight end available in free agency. A major threat in the passing game, the Texas product has 223 catches, 20 touchdowns, and 2,785 receiving yards through six seasons in the NFL. He also played under Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin when Philbin was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
Garrett Graham/TE/Texans (6’3, 243lbs) – The line of athletic Houston Texans tight ends continues, as Graham has followed in the footsteps of guys like Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, and James Casey to become an intriguing free agent prospect. He’s a guy who makes his living getting vertical and running seam routes. He could be a deep threat for teams. In 13 games (11 starts) for the Texans, Graham caught 49 passes for 545 yards, and caught five TD passes. His breakout game came in Week 11 against Oakland, as Graham caught seven balls for 136 yards and a TD versus the Raiders. (UPDATE 3/13: Garrett Graham has re-signed with the Houston Texans)
Michael Hoomanawanui/TE/Patriots (6’4, 260lbs) – More known for his long last name rather than his production, Hoomanawanui filled in for New England when the Pats lost Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski last season. The four-year veteran had 12 catches for 136 yards last season, including a touchdown catch against the Dolphins last season. He’s more of a receiving tight end rather than a blocker. (UPDATE 3/10: Hoomanawanui has reportedly agreed to terms to remain with the Patriots)
Dustin Keller/TE/Dolphins (6’2, 255lbs) – The 2013 season looked to be a promising year for former Jets tight end Keller, as the former 1st round pick signed a one year deal with the Miami Dolphins in hopes of becoming an important weapon for Fins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately for Keller his season never got off the ground, as he suffered a ghastly injury in the Fins’s second preseason game against the Houston, shredding several ligaments and dislocating his right knee after getting decked by D.J. Swearinger. He’s given no indication that his football career is over, and if he returns healthy, he may be one of the most natural receiving options on the open market at the tight end position.
Brandon Myers/TE/Giants (6’3, 256lbs) – After a breakout campaign with the Oakland Raiders in 2012 in which he set career highs in catches (79), receiving yardage (806), and touchdowns (4), Myers joined the New York Giants hoping to replicate those same numbers. There was a bit of a drop-off in production, but he still put in a solid season for Big Blue with 47 catches, 522 yards, and he equaled his touchdown sum from 2012. Myers is more of a receiving tight end, while his fellow free agent from the G-Men in Bear Pascoe is more of a blocker. (UPDATE 3/11: Brandon Myers has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Bear Pascoe/TE/Giants (6’5, 265lbs) – Pascoe was the other tight end option in New York and despite his less than stellar statistics, he was a key part of the New York Giants offense last season. Pascoe served as more of a blocker in Big Blue’s scheme. He only had 12 catches for 81 yards last season, but it was enough to prove that he is versatile enough to be at least an average threat in the passing game.
Brandon Pettigrew/TE/Lions (6’5, 265lbs) – Often the forgotten option in the Detroit Lions’ high-powered offense, Pettigrew has quietly put together a nice NFL career. The Oklahoma State product has averaged over 55 catches a season, recording 16 touchdowns and racking up 2,828 yards in five seasons. His numbers have decreased the past two years, but taking into account the rise in Megatron’s stats, it’s safe to say the drop in production may not be all his fault. He can fill the role of a solid starting tight end on most teams. (UPDATE 3/14: Brandon Pettigrew has re-signed with the Detroit Lions.)
Andrew Quarless/TE/Packers (6’4, 252lbs) – Another sometimes forgotten receiving option on an NFC North team, the four year veteran out of Penn State had the best season of his young NFL career, capturing career highs in every meaningful receiving category. A dynamic and big target, Quarless caught 32 balls for 312 yards, and two scores. He played in all 16 games last season, and started in 10 contests. (UPDATE 3/13: Andrew Quarless has agreed to terms to remain with the Green Bay Packers.)
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