Draft King Analysis|
January 16, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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What an exciting two days of NFL playoff games we had this past weekend. Playoff games are so much fun to watch and it is so disappointing in contrast that I-A/FBS college football doesn't have a playoff system in place. It's a real shame that college football fans are deprived of what would be such an exciting postseason. Perhaps someday...
Alex Smith is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Even if the 49ers lose to the Giants, would the 49ers let Smith hit unrestricted free agency? Might they use their franchise tag on him if need be? If I had written that on here this time last year, people would have laughed at me about it. Now? Suddenly a subtle mention from someone I follow on Twitter who remarked about how Seattle showed interest in Smith in the 2011 off-season seems to perhaps have potential implications for the forthcoming free agent market.
Pete Carroll is staring at back-to-back 7-9 seasons. It's hard to believe that the Seahawks won't make a move in the free agent quarterback market and/or target one of the top prospects in the draft. If Carroll posts three straight losing seasons, his job might be in trouble. Does Seattle think that Alex Smith has made "the leap" this year and could help them succeed in 2012? And how much of Smith's success is dependent on him having Jim Harbaugh as his head coach?
One reality with the draft that often goes overlooked is the value in patience. A general manager and/or coach-with-influence who feels that their time is limited can place an undue amount of value on a current-year draft pick compared with a future draft pick. It's kind of like Hue Jackson in Oakland: shoot for the moon if you get the opportunity. Win and it was a brilliant move. Lose and you go out and someone else (in Jackson's case, new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie) has to deal with it.
Here's a look at some of the top tight ends who are pending unrestricted free agents for the upcoming NFL off-season.
Jermichael Finley, Packers (DOB: 3/26/1987)
If Green Bay isn't able to sign Finley to a new deal before the franchise tag deadline arrives, he seems like a very probable candidate for the tag. That reality is why backup QB Matt Flynn seems likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent candidate. Green Bay can't afford to lose Finley and would seem unlikely to do so just to squat on Flynn's rights in an attempt to extract compensation from him in a trade.
Finley pulled in 55 receptions for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2011. With this turning into a playoffs loaded with impressive tight end play (e.g. New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, San Francisco's Vernon Davis, Gronk and Aaron Hernandez in New England), a playmaking tight end like Finley could be very tempting if he hits the open market.
|As Chiefs CB Travis Daniels learned, Packers TE Jermichael Finley is both strong and fast. (Icon SMI)|
There's good reason that Carolina locked down TE Greg Olsen and Jacksonville inked a new deal with TE Marcedes Lewis in the preseason and that the Titans signed impending free agent TE Craig Stevens to a four-year, $15 million contract on Friday; it's a position that will continue to be in demand, particularly for tight ends with the size to block effectively and the hands to also haul in completions.
Fred Davis, Redskins (DOB: 1/15/1986)
Davis had a strong 2011 season for Washington, posting 796 receiving yards in the 12 games he played in for the Redskins. Only Jabar Gaffney (996) had more receiving yards in the 2011 season for the team than Davis, but it appears that Davis will be able to test his value on the open market with four years of NFL experience under his belt. It seems doubtful that the Redskins would use the franchise tag on him, though there are indications that the team would like to bring him back for 2012... provided, of course, that they can agree to a new contract.
John Carlson, Seahawks (DOB: 5/12/1984)
A giant wild card, Carlson missed all of 2011 due to a labrum injury in his right shoulder. After the lockout ended in July 2011, Seattle signed former Raiders tight end Zach Miller to a five-year, $34 million contract (with $17M guaranteed). And, while Miller's stats were down considerably from his 2010 output in Oakland, it would seem most likely that Carlson will be playing elsewhere in 2012. Seattle likely wouldn't be inclined to use its franchise tag on Carlson even if they didn't need it for pending free agent RB Marshawn Lynch.
Scott Chandler, Bills (DOB: 7/23/1985)
|Bills TE Scott Chandler had only one NFL catch prior to 2011. (Icon SMI)|
After bouncing around from the Chargers to the Giants to the Cowboys to the Bills, Chandler had by far his best NFL season in 2011, pulling in 389 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Chandler is huge even by tight end standards (listed at 6'7" 263 pounds) and the Bills reportedly want him back for 2012, at least if they can do so "at the right price" according to Bills GM Buddy Nix. What constitutes the right price remains to be seen. Chandler earned $1.2 million from Buffalo this past season.
One another thing to keep in mind is that Chandler suffered a knee injury in Buffalo's Week 17 loss at New England. An MRI revealed no structural damage, and it's not believed that Chandler suffered any long-term damage in that game.
I would tell you which knee Chandler hurt, but that information doesn't appear to be out there. I've scoured sports websites, Bills message boards, Twitter, Google, NFL.com, and other sites, but no one seems to know which knee he hurt. This is one of my top sports writer pet peeves, someone not indicating which arm, leg, knee, etc. is injured, as if someone only has one knee or one shoulder.
Kellen Davis, Bears (DOB: 10/11/1985)
A four-year veteran out of Michigan State, Davis pulled in five touchdowns for the Bears in 2011. He has great size (6'7" 262) and might draw attention from teams looking for a solid blocker with good hands who could provide a nice target in red zone situations.
Jacob Tamme, Colts (DOB: 3/15/1985)
One year ago, there might have been teams clamoring for Tamme with him coming off of a 67 reception, 631 yard, four receiving TD season in 2010. But in 2011, without the luxury of having Peyton Manning as his quarterback, Tamme's numbers fell considerably: 19 receptions for 177 yards and just one touchdown.
The Colts also have Dallas Clark at tight end under contract through 2013, but he turns 33 in June and injuries have limited his output in each of the past two seasons.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings (DOB: 6/18/1980)
Shiancoe had a monster 2009 season, scoring 11 TDs, but he has failed to match that double-digit touchdown effort over the past two years, where he scored just five TDs combined. Shiancoe turns 32 this summer, which might be a factor teams take into consideration as they look through the rather limited choices on the tight end free agent market.
Joel Dreessen, Texans (DOB: 7/26/1982)
With six TD receptions in 2011, Dreessen is coming off a career-high in touchdowns scored in one season. Dreessen is a bit smaller than the modern NFL tight end prototype at 6'4" 245 pounds, though his ability to both be a red zone threat and also to serve as a long-snapper might make him appealing to teams looking to gain maximum value from their free agent signings.
Jeremy Shockey, Panthers (DOB: 8/18/1980)
With ten years of NFL wear-and-tear, Shockey isn't expect to receive a big offer in free agency, that despite him being probably the most recognizable name to the general public on this list. Greg Olsen served as the primary tight end for Carolina in 2011, and while Shockey scored more touchdowns (four) with the Panthers in 2011 than he had in any season since 2006, I wouldn't anticipate big money going his way -- not with him turning 32 before the regular season begins. As always, time waits for no man.
Martellus Bennett, Cowboys (DOB: 3/10/1987)
The 6'6" 267 Bennett is not expected to return to Dallas after a rather disappointing 2011 season. With the success that Saints TE Jimmy Graham has had, and the fact that he is almost the same size at Bennett (6'7" 265), it's possible that Bennett may receive more offers than some NFL pundits anticipate. Remember, the NFL is a copycat league. And while Bennett's production has been minimal in Dallas, there might be some decision-makers who believe that Bennett could develop into an elite tight end talent in their organization.