Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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The 2011 Tight End Market

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This is the fourth and final part in our 2011 Offseason Market Analysis for offensive skill-position free agents and trade candidates.

For the other position breakdowns, click here:

The Quarterback Market
The Running Back Market
The Wide Receiver Market

Let's start with tight ends certain to be available once transactions are allowed.

Surefire Tight End Free Agents

1. Bo Scaife, Titans

Scouting Report: After posting career highs of 58 receptions and 561 yards in 2008, Scaife's receiving numbers dropped off for the second straight year. He managed just 36 receptions for 318 yards while being exposed as one of the league's worst run-blocking tight ends. Scaife is no longer a threat after the catch, and he adds nothing to the red-zone offense. His Titans career speaks more about being in the right place at the right time than it does about his talent level. Seeing his name atop this list is a dead giveaway about the lack of quality on the tight-end market this offseason.

Availability: Scaife has been overpaid as the Titans' franchise player for two year. A college roommate of Vince Young, Scaife was finally sent to the pine late last season, so the Titans could get a long look at the more talented Jared Cook. The Titans will make no effort to bring Scaife back this summer. The Bills, with little bankable depth at the position, could have interest.

Prediction: Bills

2. Daniel Graham, Broncos

Scouting Report: Graham has always been more blocker than receiver, but his contributions in the passing game reached new lows last year. Only three NFL tight ends played more than Graham's 982 snaps, and yet he managed just 1.1 receptions per game, 9.25 yards per game, and 8.2 yards per catch. His best bet may be to go the Alge Crumpler route, bulking up as an extra lineman in jumbo packages.

Availability: The new Denver regime cut ties with Graham in early March, saving more than $5 million for the 2011 season. He won't be in demand at age 32, but Seattle makes sense as a landing spot. The Seahawks recruited Graham hard in 2007, and new offensive line coach Tom Cable was on the staff at Colorado when Graham starred for the Buffaloes.

Prediction: Seahawks

3. Randy McMichael, Chargers

Scouting Report: One of the most dangerous tight ends in the league from 2002-2006, McMichael hasn't exhibited after-the-catch ability since a broken tibia and ligament damage in 2008. He did show nice hands as a late-season fill-in for Antonio Gates, but McMichael is stretched as anything more than an emergency option. His body can't hold up to the pounding of 16 games at age 32.

Availability: McMichael's contract with the Chargers expired after the season, sending him to the open market. His best bet is to re-sign in San Diego as Gates insurance.

Prediction: Chargers

Other surefire free agent tight ends: Chris Baker, Ben Patrick, Donald Lee, Desmond Clark, Reggie Kelly,Jonathan Stupar, Greg Estandia

Three- to Five-Year Restricted Free Agents

1. Zach Miller, Raiders

Scouting Report: Easily the top tight end available and one of the premier all-around talents at his position, Miller has been the Raiders' top receiving threat since he entered the league in 2007. Last season was a mixed bag, as Miller's production dropped by six receptions and 120 yards. He garnered rave reviews for his toughness, though, playing through a painful bout of plantar fasciitis that sapped his effectiveness from Halloween through Thanksgiving. Now healthy and not yet 26 years old, Miller is the ideal candidate for a long-term commitment.

Availability: Miller drew a first- and third-round RFA tender from Oakland. As a veteran of four years, his freedom is dependant on the specifics of the next labor agreement. Miller was optimistic after long-term talks with the Raiders in early March, but he switched agents in April -- perhaps a sign that he intends to go where the money takes him should he hit the open market. Owner Al Davis is aggressive in keeping his toys, so it's a good bet that he'll top any offer Miller receives.

Prediction: Raiders

2. Kevin Boss, Giants

Scouting Report: Consistent from year-to-year but highly inconsistent from week-to-week, Boss fought through injuries to clear 500 yards again in 2010. One of the league's premier blocking tight ends when healthy, Boss' role in the passing game tends to hinge on the availability of the Giants' top receivers. He's a prime red-zone target regardless. Coming off post-season arthroscopic hip surgery, Boss was able to participate in Camp Eli in early May. He expects to be 100 percent by training camp.

Availability: Like the majority of his free agent teammates, Boss drew a second-round tender from the Giants. As a four-year veteran, his freedom hinges on labor outcome. The Giants are expected to bring him back as the starter regardless.

Prediction: Giants


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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