Potential Free Agent Targets: TEs
A couple of weeks back when it was safe to say that no one in their right mind was thinking about free agents I did a piece on free agent wide receivers the Seahawks might be interested in. This week I’m examining a new position group but revisiting the same theme. Russell Wilson’s game will only be helped by having more weapons for him to throw the ball to and getting him the weapons he needs should be a priority for the Seahawks front office. Regardless on your thoughts on Zach Miller (a guy who has Seahawks fans really feeling conflicted after his big playoff performance) the Seahawks could definitely use another tight end to threaten defenses down the seam and give Wilson a safety valve who can reliably haul in the short passes. This 2013 free agent TE class has some very intriguing names and a fair amount of talent if Seattle is interested. In no particular order:
Tony Gonzalez: This soon to be 37 year old is still an impressive force in the passing game as he demonstrated in the NFC divisional round, hauling in a very difficult TD pass to help Atlanta top the Seahawks. He had 930 yards and 8 touchdowns last year which is more than respectable for the greatest TE to ever play the position. It’s unclear if he’ll play again and if he does I would expect a return to Atlanta, even though Seattle is probably better situated to win that Super Bowl he so desperately craves. Don’t dare to dream on Mr. Gonzalez.
Jared Cook: Jared Cook has always struck me as an underutilized play in Tennessee’s offense as he always seems to be open but only gets the ball occasionally. To be fair I probably haven’t seen enough Titans games for that judgment to be definitive, but it is the impression I get. The 6-4 235 tight end is very quick and can stretch the field when given the opportunity. I’m inclined to believe his best football is ahead of him as he turns 26 this year and has never played with a particularly good quarterback (I’m sorry decline phase Matt Hasselbeck, you know I love you). Cook is slightly undersized for the position and not much of a blocker so he has to be utilized carefully, perhaps in the ‘move’ tight end or joker role, whatever you want to call it. I think he has potential to be an excellent value coming off a season where he had a fairly pedestrian 523 yards receiving. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll get paid, but not to an absolutely crazy extent and if the Seahawks are in the market for a tight end the young and athletic Cook would be an interesting and exciting fit.
Dustin Keller: Coming into his age 29 season Keller is an established veteran who can be a very solid starter at TE. At 6-2 248 he is a little stouter than your prototypical tight end but he is still primarily a pass catcher. Keller’s receiving yardage totals climbed from 522 in 2009 to 687 in 2010 and 815 in 2011 before plummeting to 317 last year. This can largely be forgiven as injury and the Jets’ pathetic quarterback play were the obvious culprits. He has a longer track record as a reliable receiver but nothing truly jumps off the page at you. Keller has never had more than 5 touchdowns in a season and has only 17 in 72 career games, perhaps showing the red zone limitations of a shorter TE. He also has never averaged more than 12.5 yards receiving in a season, which is absolutely fine for a TE but not indicative of explosive athleticism like Jared Cook’s 15.5 in 2011 or 13.1 career average. Keller can start for somebody but I don’t think he’s a great fit in Seattle where he would be more of a steady target than a true weapon. Add that to the fact signing Keller is buying you mainly years in his 30’s and I’d take a pass.
Fred Davis: A USC alum going into his 6th year, Davis is a pretty exciting talent. The 27 year old is coming off a season in which he only played in 7 games due to injury. He was expected to excel last year but didn’t really mess with RGIII averaging 46.4 yards a game as opposed to the 66.3 he put up during his breakout year in 2011. That year Davis broke out for 796 yards and 13.5 yards per reception in 12 games. Those totals alone would have been excellent for virtually any tight end, but considering he missed four games they are truly impressive. He was on pace for 78 receptions for 1061 yards, a total that would have made Mr. Davis much more of a household name. As it sits now, Davis’s talent is undeniable, but he has only produced at an elite level in one season and he is also a fairly major injury risk. Additionally, Davis has not found the end zone with any regularity (12 career TD’s) and doesn’t offer a ton as a blocker despite his fairly solid 6-3 250 frame. He is clearly a risk, but a tantalizing risk at that. Whether Seattle should consider signing Fred Davis will really depend on the market. If Davis wants to be paid like the elite tight end he appeared to be in 2011, there are probably too many red flags for that to be a sensible deal. However, if injury risks and the lack of a consistent track record drive down Davis’s price, Seattle should consider scooping him up because he is a 27 year old with the ceiling of a 1,000 yard tight end. Guys like that don’t often become available.
Martellus Bennett: This former 2nd round pick is known as a bit of an oddball but he is also an absolute specimen physically. Standing at 6-7 248 Bennett is a mountain of a man who finally got his opportunity to start with the Giants last year. Still only 25, turning 26 in March, Bennett spent four years in Dallas as Jason Witten’s backup before getting his chance. As a 2nd tight end Bennett had more blocking assignments and was unable to spread his wings as a receiver, averaging only 211.5 yards per season with the Cowboys. Last year Bennett posted 55 catches for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns, numbers that were solid but far from astounding. Bennett doesn’t have incredible speed but he has a big wingspan and his hands are improving from earlier in his career when drops were a huge problem. A solid TE like Bennett in his prime make sense as a replacement for Miller if the plan is to cut him outright but as a complimentary piece I don’t see what he can do that Miller can’t,except maybe use his ridiculous height in the red zone. I would be surprised but not altogether disappointed if Seattle went in this direction.
Brandon Myers: Myers is a bit of a bizarre case because he produced absolutely nothing in his first three years in the NFL before breaking out last year. The former 6th round pick out of Iowa turns 28 this year and looks to build on a 2012 where he had 801 yards receiving adding to the total of 250 he had accumulated in his career to that point. Myers lacks crazy athleticism but he can clearly catch the ball, something that Carson Palmer realized last year. Myers isn’t the worst guy to have around but ultimately he’s a fairly unremarkable player and I’d rather not overpay for a guy who doesn’t have a big time track record or a big time ceiling. Pass.
There is starter quality talent available but whether the Seahawks are interested will largely be determined by their intentions regarding Zach Miller. I think guys who offer something a little different than Miller like Jared Cook or Fred Davis could be fits because they could be either a compliment or a replacement. No one here is a surefire stud but there are some options worth considering.
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