Tight Ends Who Should Get Starter Consideration
1) Owen Daniels/Houston Texans
Status: Restricted Free Agent
Possible Suitors: Houston Texans
Most Likely Destination: Houston Texans
Comments: Because Daniels has only four seasons of service, he'll be a restricted free agent.
Daniels quickly became a factor as a rookie back in 2006. The former fourth-round pick beat out veteran TE Jeb Putzier for the starting job that season and never looked back.
By all accounts, Daniels looks to be one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL and has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses over the past few seasons. However, he's coming off of a torn ACL from last season, so it's hard forecast at which level he will be tendered at.
Unless both sides can reach a long-term deal before March 5 when free agency begins, look for him to get at least a first-round tender, and probably a first and third. He made $2.792 million last season, and as long as they don't tender him at the lowest level, he'll be due a 10 percent raise. He would earn $3.168 million on the highest tender (first/third) and $3.071 million on just a first-round tender.
2) Ben Watson/New England Patriots
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Possible Suitors: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams
Comments: With the likelihood of an uncapped season coming up, Watson should find plenty of suitors, assuming he doesn't re-sign with the Patriots before the start of free agency on March 5.
The Cardinals only have one tight end currently under contract for 2010. They generally don't use the tight end much in their passing game, but if veteran WR Anquan Boldin is traded, they may decide to use the tight ends more. Watson certainly could give them a boost at that position.
Baltimore may be looking for a more athletic tight end than veteran Todd Heap. They like to use a lot of two-eight end sets as it is.
The Browns have decent depth at tight end, but may be looking for an athletic upgrade like Watson. Evan Moore showed flashes, but can't be called dependable at this point.
Detroit, because of the seriousness of TE Brandon Pettigrew's knee injury, might be looking to add another tight end. Watson is also more athletic than the versatile Pettigrew. They could form a very solid tandem.
The Chiefs, after trading away veteran TE Tony Gonzalez last year, generally have a bunch of backup types left at that position. Watson, who general manager Scott Pioli was instrumental in drafting when he was with the Patriots, could draw serious interest from Kansas City.
Miami has depth at tight end, but not a lot of talent. Adding Watson would really help QB Chad Henne find a reliable passing target over the middle.
The Rams seem poised to let veteran TE Randy McMichael walk, so they would be in the market for a veteran tight end.
Most Likely Destination: Open
Final Comments: Watson would be smart to pass on re-signing with the Patriots before free agency starts since the group of projected free agents tight end isn't very talented. He could command a nice deal, though he turns 30 in December. The Patriots don't have much depth at tight end, so re-signing Watson might be a smart move for them to make.
3) Bo Scaife/Tennessee Titans
Status: Restricted Free Agent
Possible Suitors: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans
Comments: Because Scaife has just five years of service, he'll be a restricted free agent in 2010 should a new CBA not be reached by March 5.
Scaife was Tennessee's "franchise" player last season at a salary of $4.462 million. If he's tendered other than the lowest level as a restricted free agent, they would owe him a 10 percent raise to $4.9082 million. It's possible that because they use a committee approach at the position, the Titans actually wind up not tendering him at all.
The 29-year old tight end would fit in well with the Cardinals because he's a solid blocker.
The Ravens could use a versatile tight end such as Scaife to help improve their passing game.
Buffalo would like to take a longer look at Shawn Nelson, but Scaife would be an immediate upgrade at the position.
The Browns have depth at tight end, but talent at that position is an issue. Veterans Robert Royal and Steve Heiden are decent, but Scaife would be seen as an upgrade.
It should be noted that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is familiar with Scaife from his time with the Titans. The Lions like to use a power running game on offense, so Scaife could help them form a nice tandem at that position with Pettigrew.
The Chiefs are very light on talent at tight end. Scaife would give QB Matt Cassel a badly needed second passing option.
Miami is yet another team who could use an upgrade at the tight end position. He also would fit in well because he's a solid blocker.
Should the Patriots let Watson walk, they'll probably be in the market for another veteran tight end to go along with Chris Baker.
The Rams will probably be looking to sign a veteran tight end if McMichael isn't brought back.
Most Likely Destination: Open
Final Comments: The Titans have two former third-round picks still on their roster (Jared Cook and Craig Stevens), so they may not make a strong push to re-sign Scaife.
Because of a weak free agency class at tight end, Scaife would be better off signing with another team.
Others Who Could Find Interest For Backup Purposes
Tony Scheffler/Denver Broncos/RFA - Scheffler has been known more for his 40-yard dash time during the 2006 NFL combine than his performance as an NFL player. He might be the fastest tight end in the league, but hasn't developed into an offensive factor through his first four years of his career due in part to injuries. He fits in as a second tight end, but still has upside.
Randy McMichael/St. Louis Rams/UFA - The 30-year old tight has seen a major drop in production in recent years, so it's questionable if he'll be able to find a starting job again. Even so, McMichael fits in well in a two-TE system.
Alge Crumpler/Tennessee Titans/UFA - Crumpler was once one of the top tight ends in the league, but at 32, he's seen his better days. He's been used mostly as a blocker the past few seasons with the Titans.
L.J. Smith/Baltimore Ravens/UFA - Smith was once an up-and-coming tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he never came close to reaching his potential due in part to a series of nagging injuries. He didn't fair much better with the Ravens and finished with only 2 catches in 12 games. Smith, who turns 30 in May, fits in as a No. 2 tight end.
Brandon Manumaleuna/San Diego Chargers/UFA - Manumaleuna has been one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. The mammoth blocker is like having an extra tackle on offense. He fits in best with a team that uses a power running game.
Alex Smith/Philadelphia Eagles/RFA - At one point, Smith was known as a solid pass catcher, but in recent seasons, he's become more of a factor as a blocker. Personnel evaluators say Smith has inconsistent hands, but he should find work as a second tight end.
Anthony Fasano/Miami Dolphins/RFA - Fasano started to come on two years ago, but his numbers dropped in 2009. He fits in as a solid second tight end. He's also a decent blocker.
Reggie Kelly/Cincinnati Bengals/UFA - Known for many years as one of the league's top blocking tight ends. Kelly fits in with a team that takes on a power rushing approach.
Jeff King/Carolina Panthers/RFA - King is somewhat of an underrated tight end. He's a solid blocker and has good hands. He just doesn't run as well as you would like. Still, he's a rock solid blocking tight end.
David Thomas/New Orleans Saints/RFA - Thomas was highly touted as a third-round pick of the Patriots coming out of the 2006 draft. He spent three injury-riddled seasons with the Patriots, so the team traded him to the Saints. Thomas did quite well in a reserve role last season. He could yield as high as a second-round tender from the team.
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