We looked at free agent wide receivers, but what about free agent tight ends?
The tight end position was one of the most publicized positions in football in 2011. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski led the league in touchdowns with 17. New Orleand Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was 4th on that list with 11 TDs. Gronkowski’s teammate Aaron Hernandez was another tight end who made headlines around the league. A dual tight end system? The Patriots were so successful because of it.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos used their tight ends primarily for blocking. Daniel Fells was the team’s leading tight end with 19 receptions for 256 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dante Rosario was second on the list with 7 receptions for 117 yards.
Yes, the Broncos weren’t considered a passing team, but most would agree that their tight ends were underutilized.
Let’s take a look at some of the tight ends who may become available in free agency.
Jake Ballard (RFA) – Ballard tore his ACL during the Super Bowl and is expected to start the season on the Giants physically unable to perform list. He had 38 catches for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2011.
Martellus Bennett – He was a low producer for the Cowboys last season with 17 receptions for 144 yards.
John Carlson – Missed the entire 2011 season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum. Had two 50+ reception seasons and 12 TDs to begin his NFL career then had 31 catches in 2010. This may be a a guy the Broncos could use as a receiving tight end assuming he stays healthy.
Fred Davis – Had the best season of his career in 2011 in Washington with 59 receptions for 796 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was suspended for four games after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but the Skins still would like to put the franchise tag on him.
Jermichael Finley – For franchise tagging purposes, Finley is trying to get the league to classify him as a wide receiver rather than a tight end which could mean an extra $4 million in his pocket. Finley had 55 receptions for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Packers last season.
Bo Scaife – Scaife was picked up by the Bengals, but was put on the IR to have a cervical fusion in September. His production has dropped in the last two years, but he’s still good for 30+ receptions.
Jeremy Shockey – He’s the Panthers biggest offseason priority.
Jacob Tamme – Tamme with Peyton Mannning? 67 receptions for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tamme in 2011? 19 receptions for 117 yards and 1 touchdown.
Along with Fells and Rosario, the Broncos have rookies Virgil Green and Julius Thomas waiting in the wings, but is it enough?