Offseason Outlook: Eagles Tight Ends

Brent Celek scores in the first quarter.

This week, we’ll offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. We covered running backs Tuesday and wide receivers yesterday. Now onto tight ends.

PRESSING QUESTION: Will James Casey and Brent Celek be back?


Kapadia: Let's start with Celek. The Eagles can save over $4M by parting ways with the veteran tight end. But I don't see that happening.

Chip Kelly doesn't have a daughter. But if he did, and if he had to pick one Eagle to marry her, my guess is it'd be Celek. That's a convoluted way of saying Celek is one of Kelly's favorites. The head coach appreciates the veteran tight end's effort, his willingness to do the dirty work and his role in establishing a new culture at the NovaCare Complex.

The Eagles' run game counts on the tight ends to carry out some difficult blocking assignments. Celek is in a different league than Zach Ertz in that aspect. That's why he was on the field for 76.3 percent of the snaps this season. As a receiver, Celek's overall numbers were down, but he still had six touchdowns and averaged a career-best 15.7 yards per catch. At 29, there's no reason to part ways with him.

Casey might be a different story. He's due just under $4M in 2014 and played just 16.2 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps. Casey was contributing in the run game towards the end of the season and played on special teams. But his salary and his role (two-thirds of his snaps were as a run blocker, per Pro Football Focus) don't seem to match up. My guess is he won't be around next season.

McManus: I agree with you about Celek. It would be a major upset if he wasn't back.

Casey is an interesting one. We know how much Kelly values tight ends, and they could be more prominently featured in this offense going forward. I'm sure he'd prefer to have Casey on the roster. He contributes on special teams (He was second in ST tackles this past season) and is the type of selfless player that the head coach gravitates towards.

They're going to have to figure the money part out. That three-year, $12 million deal was inked before Ertz was drafted. Casey just doesn't have a big enough role to justify a $4 million base salary in my mind. (Two million of that base is guaranteed, though the deal does include offset language.) I can see Howie Roseman approaching Casey about a restructuring. Would Casey take a pay cut to stay with a team where he is the third option at his position? Not so sure.

PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5

* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.

Kapadia: I'll put the tight end position at a 1. Ertz had a promising rookie season and will compete with Celek for more playing time if he can prove his worth as a blocker. Those two will most likely account for the bulk of the TE snaps in 2014.

If the Eagles part ways with Casey, Ertz will get a chance to take those snaps too. For the third TE spot, they need a run-blocker. The guess is they can find someone to fill that role.

Of course, if a tight end falls to them in the draft, chances are they won't hesitate to pull the trigger. We saw that last year when they had already signed Casey but still drafted Ertz in the second round.

Overall, this isn't a need position, but there still will likely be some movement.

McManus: There is the issue of what to do with Casey, so put me down for a two.

I wonder if the wide receiver situation will affect their decision-making at all. For example, if they re-sign Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, they'll theoretically be in good shape at receiver (and will have committed good money to the position). If you're planning on playing DeSean Jackson, Cooper, Maclin, Celek and Ertz (plus maybe a draft pick), how is Casey ever going to see the field? On the other hand, if one or both receivers walk and the Eagles aren't totally comfortable about the level in which they replenished, Kelly might lean on his tight ends more, thereby increasing Casey's value.

The smart move, then, might be to hold onto Casey through free agency and the draft to see how everything shakes out.

  • sig

    Let Cooper walk, bring back Maclin, and draft a WR at some point in the draft. (don’t care where)

    There was a great article on http://mcnabborkolb.com/ that pointed out Cooper’s inability to beat man to man coverage. Let Ertz be more of a factor in the receiving game.

    I like what Cooper bring to the table just not as our number 2 WR.

    • Maggie

      Maybe the FO can use FA or the draft to bring in someone who can “compete” to become the #1 receiver. Doesn’t Chip say nobody’s position on the team is written in stone?

  • Token

    Celek isnt going anywhere.

    But Casey is almost certainly gone. They can do better at a much cheaper rate for a 3rd TE. Horrible signing. Guess he lowers the “batting average”.

    • anon

      Agree contract is crazy considering they went and took ertz in the first (tells me ck controlled draft). plus blocking TEs can be had around $1mm.

      • cheapmeat

        Sure, but Chip wants ‘versatile’ not ‘blocking.’

        That’s not to say that I think Casey fits, because he doesn’t.

    • Richard Colton

      JR mentioned the possibility of TE at #22 yesterday. How do you feel about that?

      • Token

        Thatd be brutal I guess. Tho Im not familiar with the TEs. Didnt even look at it as a possibility. If theres a sure fire Jimmy Graham…….

        • JofreyRice

          UNC’s Eric Ebron is basically a giant WR. I think they need a bigger guy in there. If Evans is gone, and they don’t think Allen Robinson–or some other guy–is worth the pick, I’d be cool with Ebron. Natural hands catcher, really fast–I’d bet he outperforms Evans in some of the speed categories–breaks tackles, high points the ball. Eventually, he could make a really nice tandem with the more traditional, Ertz–provided Ertz improves his blocking to the point where they trust him inline, but I think he could be a dynamic playmaker right away.

    • NickS1

      The return of Clay Harbor, maybe?

      • JofreyRice

        Letting Harbor go was Chip’s big mistake number one and was his Big Error, along with giving the ball to the Kid Foles, who has shown he has fear of the pass rush in every situation. Since his days at Arizona, the kid has been a zero, and nothing has change now that he has come in to the league to play quarterback for the Eagles in Phila. As a rookie he beat up on the Worst defenses, but things will be much different for the scared kid in year 2.

        Ask anyone around about who the better tight End would have been, Casey, who had been a mistake from the moment he stepped onto the field or Clay Harper, and they would have told you the truth which is what i’m saying. Any other such notion on blogs in Phila is pure fantasy.

        • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

          too early to go full dutch

          • cliff henny

            never go full Dutch

          • Joe from Easton

            I just laughed out loud in my office.

          • Richard Colton

            Clay Harper was my favorite part

        • NickS1

          this is outstanding. nicely done, sir.

    • cliff henny

      i get why they signed him. get why they signed everyone last year-allowed for bpa drafting. what bothers me is Howie trying to sell me this year’s FA signings should be like last years. i know i’m a homer, but i’d roughly say Feb 1, 2014 Eagles are about 2.5 times better (10 wins vs 4) and think i could take over for 3 months and improve team

      • Maggie

        It shouldn’t bother you that the General Manager of a professional sports team does not reveal every single thought in his head. Where does it say that any GM is required to tell anybody anything before the fact?

    • JofreyRice

      “pinata” approach to FA.

      • Token

        How do you think they approach it? Just say, we want to spend this much overall and then sign as many guys as possible with that money pot?

        I do think Howie is kinda blowing smoke that hes gonna continue with that method. Hes never been somebody to shy away from making a big move. Maybe the dream team really scarred him tho

        • JofreyRice

          I’m not sure. I think he was lucky to come through unscathed through the disaster of 2011 and 2012, and reading between the lines, it seems like that really affected his view–and the org’s stance–on Free Agency. They seem really really scared that they will get burned because of bad evaluations again–whether those evaluations are skill, character, whatever.

          Like I said, I’m hoping it’s a smokescreen.

          • cliff henny

            williams and Barwin’s contract werent that small. some of this mid-level talk from Howie is revisionist history. c-wills got 2yrs 10.5m and barwin got 2yrs 8m or more likely 3yrs 14m w/ the 2 getting 8m signing bonuses. take those 2 make 1, add in chungs money, that’s close byrd/ward deal. can still toss out similar deals that sop got for vet DL, fletch got sign vet cb, casey’s for oline. i’m going with smokescreen. math doesnt add up to sign 7 mid level guys again. they’re drafting to well, nowhere to put everyone.

          • JofreyRice

            So now that they’ve shown to be mid-level, he’s claiming they were targeting mid-level contributors all along? Pretty standard practice, I suppose.

          • Token

            The team needs difference makers. Its not that the draft last year was bad, but they are all contributors. Where is the difference maker in that class? I think Ertz is gonna be a solid player. But a difference maker TE? Im not sure about that.

            Im hoping to come away with a couple this off season.

          • anon

            That’s what i’m saying.

          • JofreyRice

            Yeah, not in on the Ertz love-fest. I know he had a healthy YPC average, He’s really more a chain mover TE, than a dynamic receiving threat, IMO. Just doesn’t force missed tackles, doesn’t look great in contested situations. I see him as a Kevin Boss type, at best–which is solid, don’t get me wrong.

          • cliff henny

            you can argue they werent correct players. but yeah, Howie’s soundbites are tough to defend. he’s full of it when acting like Eagles didnt spend. other way that seems to be spinning ’13 FA is they didnt target specific guys. just had big list of mid-level guys, made series of offers, filled out rosters. bring in 8, can have better average, like it doesnt matter which succeeds and which fails. that’s just utter garbage. no one is signed and not expected to contribute. can believe he hasnt been called out on this. barwin, williams and casey were targeted, made great offers, and probably beat out others teams.

          • anon

            Well, i doubt they got into a bidding war. I know Williams came here b/c BAL wasn’t bringing him back and he wanted a paycheck (he said as much), not even close to top of the market. Casey wanted to be more than a FB, he failed — he was 3rd TE then and 3rd TE now. Think Barwin was the only legit guy we signed, he wasn’t getting paid b/c he’s not a pass rusher, and he’s still not a pass rusher.

            I think everyone exceeded their expectations so Howie looks good, but i think if the D was ugly they were ready to move past these guys after 2 years.

          • cliff henny

            where did i write bidding war? think eagles offered them 10m and 8m without a other offers or knowledge of market? highly unlikely. c-williams got right in-line with what the other top FA cbs recieved. smith in KC got 3yrs 18-who stinks- with 11m guaranteed. plus, Balt could bring anyone back, they were releasing, not signing. so, your memory of williams is off. and just below you are worried about moving on from casey, now he’s not a good signing…make up you mind.

          • anon

            yeah it’s really ability to evaluate talent to fit the system. i’m guessing he had no control over position coaches — like i wonder if he ok’ed the moving castillo to D coordinator, and bringing in all the wide 9 guys (i guess he wasn’t GM but he was in the room).

          • JofreyRice

            Looking back at that, what an incredible mess. I wonder how many guys turned them down before they panicked and put Castillo there? Certainly Spagnuolo. Did they even reach out to Rob Ryan? Ugh. So frustrating. Hiring a prickly veteran D-Line coach before the D-Coordinator? Reid made Nero look like Churchill.

          • Maggie

            I do believe that Tom Gamble and several new scouts were bought on board for some reason? Like better player evaluation?

  • borntosuffer

    If they don’t have a major upgrade at receiver or TE and they don’t need the cap money elsewhere, I could easily see Casey staying another year at his current rate. He’s versatile and, as much as I hate to hear it, just a chinstrap away from getting a lot of snaps.

    • Richard Colton

      yeah, it’s not like Casey didn’t pan out – he just wasn’t as good as the rookie. That falls under “good problem to have.”

      • cliff henny

        i’d like to extend celek maybe another yr or 2, reduce his pay/cap number. 4m, for mostly blocking TE is expensive. issue then is, say Celek is now on 3 yrs /7.5m (make 3rd yr no dead), cant pay his back-up 4m. so, casey either gets paycut or more on-draft mid round guy. off-set language helps.

    • macadood

      “just a chinstrap away from getting a lot of snaps.”

      agreed though, he is good to have in case something happens to celek or ertz. plus good special teams contributor. I think he stays and more likely that Cooper or Maclin go.

  • Tom W

    Get me Colt … 5th round if need be ..

    another former duck is up for free agency coming off a bad year … the other te from the ravens. young, tall .. dunno if he would come here for a year at vet minimum w little market for his services.

    • cliff henny

      he really sounds like a headache. 4th/5th guys that look good are lynch out of Georgia and cj fied-guy out of iowa.

      • Tom W

        Talent wise colt blows those two away and he was recruited and coached by chip. If chip doesn’t want him so be it, but those 2 guys are more so big blocking tes w hands. Colt is a special talent who would probably go in second round this yr if he wasn’t busted for coke and left school by his own decision.

        • cliff henny

          leaving school was a huge mistake. at least if he stayed with team, NFL teams might think someone was watching over him. who knows what he’s been doing last 4-5 months. he could have piles of bolivian marching powder in every room. TEs take a yr. see what Ertz brings. we know kelly want dynamic hands TE, and from Vick soundbites Ertz could be that guy.
          .
          cj looks like he has tennis racket heads for hands.

          • GEAGLE

            Hoping jay Glazier gets his hands on Colt these next few months

      • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

        I like Crockett Gilmore, Colo. St. Kid can play, more of a receiving option but still. Should go later. The Iowa Consonant Killer looks great too, dunno if he makes it past the 3rd.

        • cliff henny

          CJ looks like 4th/5th guy to me. he’s not the explosive down field type that goes early. good problem to have, worrying over who will replace celek as blocking TE in a yr or 2. on nfl difficulties, well south of olb pass rusher or versatile safety. i just look at cap numbers on casey and celek. if they’re on team and moves we want them to make arent due to cap, i’ll be pissed

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

            I’ll gladly take a 6’7″ guy with good hands in the 5th. Heck, trade the 4th for a another 5th and 6th, or 5th/4th next year, and grab Fiedorowicz/Lynch the OLB/SJB or Desir. Bunch of talented projects that could play a big role in a year or two.

          • cliff henny

            sjb got a sr bowl bump. lot of boards he went from 5th to 3rd.

          • GEAGLE

            Love Fiedorowicz!!…I’d be kind of dissapointed if we didn’t land him or Lyeria…both are tremendous blockers and dangerous in the passing game..

          • Mitchell

            This is why I like the Soap trade up. There is plenty of nice projects in the 5th this year. So excited.

        • Richard Colton

          With the 17th pick in the first round, the Dallas Cowboys select…

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

            An OG!

    • JofreyRice

      Co-sign. If Chip trusts him, and takes him in the 4th/5th, I’m on board. Pretty nice talent, and familiar with parts of the offense.

  • cliff henny

    tell you what, if FO brings back casey and celek and signs Allen over Ward/Byrd (assuming 5yrs/40m 25m guar is about the contract) and claims it due to cap space…i will lose my sh!t. sign a safety, cooper, get jax happy (again!), peters gets corrected…kelly you can have whatever TEs deemed daughter marrying worthy.

  • Jarrod

    What about Emil? He’s still on the roster right? Similar to Casey?

    I feel a bit bad for Casey. Clearly came to Philly so he could have a larger role in the offense. Then gets beat out by a rookie who missed most of the off-season.

    I say cut bait. We have Celek and Ertz. If Emil isn’t good enough to be TE3 then we can find one for less than $4m. Casey will get picked up and we’ll recoup a good chunk of the $2m dead money. Use that money on a safety!!

    • cliff henny

      Right! there’s zero reasons Eagles cant sign a safety. cut Casey, 4m to 1m dead(assume 1m get re-cooped), cut Benn 1m, cut Avant 3.9 to 700k dead, and to appease the Roman colosseum masses, thumbs down to chung 3.25 1m dead. that 9.25 cleared. sign an F’N safety. still 20+under.

      • anon

        so you’d dump half your depth to sign on guy?

        • cliff henny

          what? 90% of board wants chung hung-plus he’s being replaced by FA. benn didnt play. casey was 4m no show for 90% of season, and 3rd string TE that can easily be replaced in draft, plus being overpaid, and Avant is great guy but replacable by another draft pick and overpaid.
          .
          does NFL have a WAR like baseball?
          .
          so, yes, i’d move on from each and every one of these guys to get pro bowl safety.

          • anon

            My point was that when you drop people you’ve generally got to replace them with something.

          • pjcostello

            Yes, true — and Cliff’s point is that you can replace a blocking TE who played 10% of the snaps for less than $4m, and so on.

  • PaoliBulldog

    Based on the money he got and the comments the Eagles made after signing him, I’d say Casey was their biggest FA disappointment. He barely got on the field in the first half of the season. Three catches all season? Yuck. (Smart guy, though.)