Who's Out There? - Tight Ends

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For nine years, tight end Todd Heap has given Baltimore one of the top tight ends in the league. But behind him has been somewhat of a question mark. Heading into this offseason, the Ravens are hoping to find their No. 2.

The Ravens attempted to add another vertical threat last year, but the one-year L.J. Smith experiment didn't pan out as hoped. Smith battled injuries early on in the season and played in 12 games, catching just two passes. Smith is now an unrestricted free agent.

Converted linebacker Edgar Jones was used nearly exclusively on special teams this season, but the Ravens also have monstrous 6-foot-6 tight end Quinn Sypniewski, who could be back next season after spending all of 2009 on Injured Reserve. Jones and Sypniewski are under contract.

Heap had his best season since 2006 catching the ball, notching six touchdowns and 593 yards receiving. Heap, 29, has two years left on his reportedly $30 million, six-year deal, but the Ravens could be in search for an eventual heir apparent.

So without further adieu, let's see who's out there and their chances of landing with the Ravens.

NOTE: Under the rules of this year's collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens allowed to sign just one unrestricted free agent to a salary of $5.5 (estimated) million or higher. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in a one-year contract with the following years limited to a 30 percent increase. Besides that, the Ravensare not allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent unless one of theirs signs with another team. And the first year salary of the unrestricted free agent signed cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
Restricted; 6-3, 247; 4 years
2009 Stats: 40 receptions, 519 yards, 5 touchdowns
Daniels was on his way to another Pro Bowl season when he seriously injured his knee eight games into the season. He's a top-tier receiving tight end with great route-running skills and good hands. He excels on crossing routes and has enough speed to stretch the field. But don't be surprised if the Texans tender Daniels and either franchise him or sign him long-term. Either way, Daniels will command big bucks.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Playmaker; Downside – Cost)

Ben Watson, New England Patriots
Unrestricted; 6-3, 253; 5 years
2009 Stats: 29 receptions, 404 yards, 5 touchdowns
Watson has been a reliable receiving option in New England, but has been somewhat lost in a sea of offensive weapons. He is a top-tier athlete with above-average receiving skills. Watson has good speed and quickness, and is strong enough to catch the ball in traffic and pick up yards afterwards. He's an adequate blocker. Watson has struggled somewhat with drops and there were injury concerns before he played in all 16 games in 2009. He has said he "doesn't know," if he wants to return to New England.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Playmaker; Downside – Cost, Blocking)

Bo Scaife, Tennessee Titans
Restricted; 6-3, 249; 5 years
2009 Stats: 45 receptions, 440 yards, 1 touchdown
Scaife had a slight drop in production this past season partly because he missed two games. Still, he has great athleticism and hands and was one of Vince Young and Kerry Collins' favorite targets. He can extend to make catches and finds holes in coverage well. He's not a great blocker, however. Scaife was franchised last year but may not be this year considering he has competition in rookie Jared Cook.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Pass-catching; Downside – Cost, Blocking)

Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos
Restricted; 6-5, 250; 4 years
2009 Stats: 31 receptions, 416 yards, 2 touchdowns
Scheffler could be let go or traded after Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels benched him – along with wide receiver Brandon Marshall – for Denver's final regular season game for an apparent attitude problem. Scheffler saw a diminished role in his first season under McDaniels, but had proven himself as a viable receiving option in years past. He had 49 catches and five touchdowns in 2007. Scheffler is an adequate blocker who has enough speed to stretch the field.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Pass-catching; Downside – Character Issues)

Randy McMichael, St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted; 6-3, 247; 8 years
2009 Stats: 34 receptions, 332 yards, 1 touchdown
McMichael was a big-time pass-catching tight end early in his career with the Dolphins, but he hasn't been the same since he left Miami. McMichael hasn't caught 40 balls in any of his three seasons with the Rams and is set to turn 31 this offseason. He isn't as explosive as he once was, but he still runs good routes and is tough over the middle of the field. McMichael has said he would like to return to St. Louis, however.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Experience; Downside – Age)

Alge Crumpler, Tennessee Titans
Unrestricted; 6-2, 262; 9 years
2009 Stats: 27 receptions, 222 yards, 1 touchdown
Crumpler is somewhat similar to McMichael. He's a natural pass-catching tight end but injuries and age have somewhat chipped away at his ability to be a major downfield threat. Crumpler still has something left in the tank, however, and is an above-average blocker. The 32-year-old averaged a career-worst 8.2 yards per catch and didn't have a reception over Tennessee's final three games. He likely won't be back as the Titans already have one free agent tight end in Bo Scaife and are looking to give backup Jared Cook more time.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Experience; Downside – Age)

Brandon Manumaleuna, San Diego Chargers
Unrestricted; 6-2, 295; 9 years
2009 Stats: 5 receptions, 13 yards, 0 touchdowns
Manumaleuna is bigger than a lot of linebackers he faces and can hold his own even against defensive ends. He's not a guy who will stretch the field in the passing game, but he can be relied on with short to intermediate routes. The Ravens have usually looked for somebody to bolster the passing game, but if Baltimore doesn't bring back restricted free agent Chris Chester (a college tight end turned lineman) this could make sense.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Blocking; Downside – Pass catching)

Other Players to Watch:

  • Anthony Becht, Arizona Cardinals, Unrestricted
  • Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, Restricted
  • Casey Fitzsimmons, Detroit Lions, Unrestricted
  • Reggie Kelly, Cincinnati Bengals, Unrestricted
  • Jeff King, Carolina Panthers, Restricted
  • David Martin, Miami Dolphins, Unrestricted
  • Alex Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, Restricted
  • David Thomas, New Orleans Saints, Restricted
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