Arizona Cardinals Free Agent Preview: Jermaine Gresham

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Jermaine Gresham could come back to be the Cardinals tight end in 2017

In today’s NFL, having a tight end who can create mismatches and make plays is important. Having a guy who can catch passes, score touchdowns, and throw big blocks is extremely valuable. The Cardinals have to decide whether or not to see if Jermaine Gresham could be that guy in 2017.

A former first round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, Gresham seemed to have the traits to be a terrific NFL tight end. He had ideal size, and combined athleticism with good hands to make himself a top pick. Bengals fans were excited about his potential.

Gresham’s career didn’t quite play out as he expected. His numbers were solid, averaging 56 catches for 544 yards and 5 touchdowns in his five seasons in Cincinnati. However, he never really grew on fans, who waited for the true breakout that never came. Some of it may have been due to the Bengals and their inability to work him into the offense. He also seemed to struggle to get open at times, and had issues with putting the ball on the ground in big situations.

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In the 2015 off-season, Gresham moved on, and landed in Arizona. The Cardinals were coming off of a playoff season, but were desperate to improve at tight end. Playing on a one year contract, Gresham recorded just 18 receptions for 223 yards and a touchdown. Still, he was re-signed to another one year deal for 2016. In year two, his number jumped to 37/391/2.

The Cardinals go into this off-season with a decision to make at tight end. If Gresham is let go, that leaves Darren Fells and Troy Niklas. Fells is about to turn 31, and is best as a backup, while Niklas is younger, and a former second round selection, but missed most of 2016 with an injury, and who has eight career receptions in three seasons.

The NFL Draft would present other options for the Cardinals, but with big questions at some other positions on offense due to age, they might not be best served drafting a tight end early. A late round pick isn’t likely to make enough of a contribution.

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The best option might be to try to get Gresham back on another short-term deal. He might not want another one-year contract, but signing him for two or three years, at about his 2016 salary ($3.5 million) per season is fair. If the Cardinals want to bounce back, they need all weapons on deck, and Gresham looks like he will be their best option at tight end.