Free agent Charles Clay is being counted on to bring some respectability back to the Arizona Cardinals’ tight end position
For quite some time now, the tight end has been an almost invisible component of the Arizona Cardinals’ scoring attack. No matter who’s been calling the plays, each individual who has manned that spot has contributed very little when it comes to receptions and points. Could a free agent that was added back in March make the position a viable part of the Cardinals for the first time in years?
Charles Clay’s track record indicates that he could very well put the tight end back on the map for the Cards. For most of his eight professional seasons, the veteran has been a consistent contributor for the two organizations he has played for. Clay is actually coming off of the least productive campaign of his career, but Arizona fully expects a bounce-back performance from the 30-year old in 2019.
Clay’s time in the league started back in 2011, when he was a sixth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins. In 16 appearances that year, the rookie hauled in 16 passes for 233 yards. Clay also managed to average a healthy 14.6 yards per catch, and was able to find the end zone three times.
Over the next three campaigns (2012-14), Clay racked up 145 receptions for 1,576 yards and 11 touchdowns for Miami. The University of Tulsa product’s contract expired in the spring of 2015, making him an unrestricted free agent. Not surprisingly, several NFL teams were waiting to bid for Clay’s services.
The Buffalo Bills emerged from the pack with a lucrative offer for the coveted Clay. The Dolphins were interested in keeping their employee, but there was a limit on what they would spend. The five-year, $38 million contract that Clay ultimately received from Buffalo was apparently a bit too rich for Miami’s blood.
Clay’s pass-catching success continued with the Bills. From 2015-18, the 6’3, 246 pounder tallied 178 catches for 1,822 yards and nine scores in 54 appearances (53 starts). Clay’s disappointing production this past fall (21 receptions,184 yards, zero touchdowns) would lead to his release, however.
On February 15th of this year, Buffalo officially parted ways with their starting tight end. Just four days later, the Cardinals’ front office pounced. General manager Steve Keim handed Clay a one-year “prove-it” deal, a contract that could net him up to $3.25 million and included a $350K signing bonus.
The tight end has been missing from the Cards gameplans for way too long. It’s time for the position to make a comeback in the desert. Perhaps the capable Clay will be the one who’ll make that happen for Arizona.