Eagles Offseason Outlook: Tight End
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. We have covered the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs so far. Now it’s onto the tight ends.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
All four of the tight ends from last year’s squad – Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey and Trey Burton – are under contract.
Having said that, we could still see some turnover at this position.
Celek played 69 percent of the snaps last year and finished with 32 catches for 340 yards and a touchdown. Celek was very good as a run blocker, and it’s no secret that Chip Kelly thinks the world of him.
Ertz is one of the best receiving options on the team, having finished with 58 grabs for 702 yards. The feeling here is that he was underutilized (50 percent of the snaps) in 2014.
Casey played just 14 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, but was a big special-teams contributor with 13 tackles, second to only Chris Maragos.
And Trey Burton was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent. He played just six snaps on offense, but was an excellent special-teamer all season long.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
Celek is 30 years old and certainly does not provide the same threat as a receiver that he once did. But it’s impossible to overstate how much Kelly loves him. This is still a run-based offense, and Celek is the best blocking tight end on the roster. He carries a $5 million cap hit, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. In other words, I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
Many (including yours truly) thought Ertz would take a bigger chunk out of Celek’s snaps last year. Ertz will have to continue to improve his run blocking to earn Kelly’s trust. But his role should continue to expand in his third season.
Casey is a fascinating case. Paying a guy $4 million to play 14 percent of the snaps seems like a poor use of resources. But this is a guy Kelly hand-picked when he was hired, and Casey has been valuable as a special-teams player.
In the end, I think they’ll decide that Burton can bump up the depth chart and replace Casey at a much cheaper price. The only caveat here would be if Kelly makes significant changes in the run game that expand Casey’s role as a blocker.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top-1o free-agent options, per Rotoworld:
1. Julius Thomas
2. Jordan Cameron
3. Charles Clay
4. Jermaine Gresham
5. Niles Paul
6. Rob Housler
7. Virgil Green
8. Owen Daniels
9. Lance Kendricks
10. Tony Moeaki
Ertz told T-Mac in the fall that Jimmy Graham probably wouldn’t play a ton of snaps in this offense. He may have been speaking from a place of frustration, but his point was a fair one: At TE, if you can’t block, you can’t play a lot of snaps for Kelly.
I don’t see them bringing in a big name like Thomas. A “move” tight end like Cameron could interest them, but I just don’t see them investing resources into this position during free agency.
The guess here is they’ll go into 2015 with Celek/Ertz/Burton and draft a fourth tight end or go with a lesser-known free agent.