Mediocrity at the Arizona Cardinals tight end position needs to come to a halt in 2017
Maybe one day the tight end position will become a staple of the Arizona Cardinals’ offense. Try as they may, the front office can’t seem to get it right. Could they finally obtain the remedy in 2017?
The club’s latest attempt at a solution, Jermaine Gresham, is scheduled to become a free agent in March. He led all Cards’ tight ends in 2016, hauling in 37 balls for 391 yards and two scores. Not an impressive stat line.
The other Arizona tight ends are nothing to write home about. Darren Fells is a restricted free agent who had a measly 14 receptions this past season, and didn’t reach the end zone until the final, meaningless game. Whether he’s tendered an offer this offseason is anybody’s guess.
General manager Steve Keim thought he had drafted a good one in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Injuries have derailed the career of Troy Niklas, limiting him to just eight catches in three campaigns. He’s under contract for one more season, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s sent packing before then.
Ifeanyi Momah is also signed until 2018. He’s a huge target with decent hands who also has been hampered by injuries. A torn ACL in 2015 and a broken wrist this past season landed him on injured reserve both years.
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Hakeem Valles rounds out the group. He’s also under contract for 2017 but his roster spot is anything but guaranteed.
As far as any upcoming free agents set to hit the market, Martellus Bennett is the cream of the crop. He tallied 701 receiving yards and reached the end zone seven times in ’16, all the while playing through injury. He’s most likely a luxury the Cards won’t be able to fit into their salary cap budget.
Jack Doyle is not a household name but is extremely talented. He caught 59 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns from Andrew Luck in ’16. He may be a perfect fit for Arizona, a tight end with a high ceiling who may be had for a reasonable rate.
Jared Cook is a player the Arizona defense knows well from his days as a St.Louis Ram. His regular-season numbers weren’t earth-shattering, 30 receptions for 377 yards and just one score for the Green Bay Packers. But an impressive playoff performance may drive up his salary demands this offseason.
Jordan Cameron is perhaps the most intriguing of all the potential free agent tight ends. But four concussions in four years has put his career in limbo. His best performance came in 2013, when he snagged 80 balls for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, numbers that would have Cards’ fans doing somersaults.
Vernon Davis is a 33-year old who showed he had gas remaining in his tank in ’16. He caught 44 passes for 583 yards and two scores as a BACKUP tight end for the Washington Redskins. As long as the Cards don’t decide to go into a rebuilding mode for 2017, a one or two-year deal for Davis would make sense.
Bringing back Gresham is still an option. Although his final stats didn’t look special, most of his numbers came in the second half of ’16. If he could perform in that way for all 16 games, he may prove to be just what Arizona needs at the position.
Arizona’s tight end position has been underwhelming for long enough. It’s time Keim gets the problem rectified. The Cards’ offense would be much more potent if he could.