This week continues the 2019 NFL free agency preview of available players, cut candidates, and landing spots, here is a look at the tight end position around the NFL landscape:
2019 FREE AGENTS
This is a weak free agent class overall for tight ends. Jared Cook is enjoying a career year on a struggling Raiders offense and should find another starting opportunity as a stopgap in 2019. Eifert could easily be in a lower tier due to yet another injury and being on a short string in 2018 for the Bengals, which ended with more durability questions. Eifert is high-variance with upside but also running out of chances.
POTENTIAL Stopgap STARTERS
In terms of building their dynasty profile, C.J. Uzomah and Jesse James are the most intriguing from their early career flashes. Watson and Kendricks have some pedigree to be viable for another season or two with Heuerman, Swaim, and Kroft lower upside profiles if securing future opportunity.
This trio includes wildcards with physical upside but will another team view them as a starting option? Harris has been simmering behind Travis Kelce but progressing well. Thomas has a lauded size and movement combination but still has awkward moments without much time at the tight end position compared to traditional prospects and NFL veterans. Seals-Jones is the odds-on favorite of the trio to find 1A/B work in 2019 but is more of a pass-centric option with minimal in-line and blocking usage in Arizona.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($6.6 million cap hit, $1.9 million dead cap)
- Ed Dickson ($4.5 million cap hit, $1.7 million dead cap)
- Cameron Brate ($7 million cap hit, $0 million dead cap)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ed Dickson are as good as gone with little left in the tank and marginal appeal as anything but a veteran presence backup. Brate has no dead cap left in 2019, but his recent new contract was a surprise after the Round 1 investment in O.J. Howard, who is returning from injury next season. Brate could be restructured, cut loose, or retained.
- Jordan Reed ($9.7 million cap hit, $3.6 million dead cap)
- Charles Clay ($9 million cap hit, $4.5 million dead cap)
Both have enough dead cap to consider retaining by the current franchise. Reed is hurt again in 2018 and his production has sagged from earlier in his career as well. Washington's turnstile at quarterback has not helped, but Reed also looks to have lost a step and not worth the near-$10 million he is due in 2019. Clay has eroded from his middling career peak a few years ago and is a veteran stopgap at best for an NFL depth chart going forward.
2019 tight endS LANDING SPOTS
This tier includes depth charts with starting tight end vacancies for 2019. The Cowboys added Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup at wide receiver over the past 12 months but a tight end would complete the skill position picture for the offense. The Bengals have their top trio of Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, and C.J. Uzomah all free agents. The Jaguars and Raiders (Jared Cook a free agent) have overt openings. The Cardinals control the exclusive rights to Ricky Seals-Jones, but the positional convert has underwhelmed this season and heeded snaps to lagging veteran Jermaine Gresham. The Bills have kicked the tires on positional converts Logan Thomas and Jason Croom in 2018 and Charles Clay has been a placeholder veteran in recent seasons and coming off an injury this season. The Lions' tight end production has been a black hole this year and with wide receiver questions as well they need passing game help in the offseason. The Seahawks saw a flash from Day 3 Will Dissly in the opening weeks before an injury, but they have little else as reasons for optimism heading into 2019.
This subset includes intriguing landing spots and, at a minimum, TE2 openings with upward mobility in the short term. Dan Arnold has flashed as a positional convert in New Orleans but the Saints could be in the higher tier with Ben Watson a free agent if the Saints view Arnold as more of an ancillary piece. The Patriots will have annual Rob Gronkowski questions going forward with longevity and having a suitable replacement in-house either as a veteran or a developmental prospect. Mike Gesicki has been a disappointment in Miami as a rookie. He will get a leash for the next year or two but Miami has little else on the depth chart with starting upside. The Texans spent little capital on tight end and could be in the market for a bigger picture fix if the older prospect Jordan Akins or Jordan Thomas are not in their long-term starting plans. Jesse James is a free agent for Pittsburgh and with Vance McDonald's injury history the Steelers need to bolster the position in the offseason.
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