Zach Ertz is expected to take the "next step" next year for the Eagles, but who will be joining the tight end ranks? (Image Courtesy of BetAmerica.com).
Over the next couple of weeks, Eagledelphia will be addressing the Eagles free agents needs while evaluating producing a position-by-position analysis.
The today’s area to be addressed: Tight End.
It was an interesting year for the Eagles tight ends. The Eagles signed James Casey away from the Houston Texans and drafted Zach Ertz in the second round, with dedicated veteran Brent Celek in tow, watching it happen. Celek quickly found a new role within Chip Kelly’s offense. Still a starter, Celek’s statistics had dropped off significantly, as he only caught 32 passes, his lowest total since his sophomore campaign. The veteran was able to snare six touchdown passes, but his new role now included more blocking and mentoring Ertz.
Ertz, the highly touted rookie from Stanford, came to the Eagles with high hopes and big aspirations. The rookie started his first NFL season slowly, but quickly became a big piece of the puzzle. He finished the year with 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. The rookie even caught the then go-ahead touchdown pass in the Eagles lone playoff game versus the New Orleans Saints. Expectations loom large for Ertz in his sophomore campaign.
Casey, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent, receiving a three year-12 million-dollar contract, failed to impress in his initial season with the Birds. The veteran tight end played just 168 snaps, catching just three passes for 31 yards. The former Houston Texan could be asked to restructure his deal one year after signing it, or he could become a cap casualty.
Casey, however, is not the only Eagle tight end who could become a casualty. Celek’s contract calls for him to make just over four million dollars, and with his diminishing role in the offense, could also be a restructure candidate. The only certainty within the Eagles tight end ranks is the return of Ertz, who will be counted on to play in all situations.
The Eagles likewise could be in the market to not only draft another tight end, but also sign one or more. The crop of tight ends is one of the NFL’s strongest positions in free agency, led by Saints All-Pro Jimmy Graham (spoiler alert: not going to happen). Below are a list of free agents that could pique the Eagles interest.
1. Ed Dickson. The former third-round pick is an Oregon alumnus, which could draw Chip Kelly’s attention. Dickson had a breakout sophomore season where he caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns, but has been unable to capture that magic again, as he has managed only 46 receptions for 498 yards and one touchdown the last two seasons.
2. Andrew Quarless. Not known for his blocking, the former Penn Stater stepped in when Jermichael Finley went down for the season with a neck injury. With an unsettled quarterback position, Quarless caught 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns, while starting ten games. The tight end is a big target, standing 6’4” and weighing in at 252 pounds.
3. Scott Chandler. The seven-year veteran has increased his productivity every year he has been in the league. Chandler is a big target who stands 6’7”, is a red zone target, and is also a decent blocker.
Keep an eye on: Dustin Keller. The former New York Jet spent last year with the Miami Dolphins, but did not play snap due to an injury where he dislocated his knee as well as tore every ligament within the knee. The former first round pick from Purdue is a strong pass catcher and could be a compliment to a pass-first offense, as long as he proves healthy.
Hal Greenblatt covers the Eagles for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter: @HMGreenblatt