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February 12, 2013 @ 11:50 am
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Bucs May Have Need At TE: Five Potential Targets In Free Agency

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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With free agency less than one month away the Tampa Bay front office and coaching staff are busy scouting potential free agents to target on March 12 to help improve the Buccaneers. In this feature, PewterReport.com lists five players who are unrestricted free agents that the Buccaneers may consider signing.
The NFL free agency period opens in one month (March 12, 4 p.m.) and the Buccaneers could be looking to upgrade the tight end position this season.

Last season’s starter, Dallas Clark, is an unrestricted free agent, and while there is interest from the Buccaneers to re-sign the former Colts star, it isn’t clear if Clark wants to be back in Tampa Bay, or if he even wants to continue to play football.

Clark performed well last season – when given the opportunity. Questions have arisen if the tight end is even a focus of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s offense, or was it a case of too many other options Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Doug Martin) performing well?

Does it make sense to design a gameplan that features a tight end with limited big-play ability, especially when you have two playmakers in Jackson and Williams who combined to average 17 yards per catch in 2012?

If Sullivan doesn’t plan on featuring the tight end in 2013, the need to lure a veteran or even draft one drops dramatically. However, could the reason Clark didn’t have a great season rest on Clark himself? That was, and probably still is, part of the offseason evaluation process.

Clark finished 2012 with 47 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns, and Clark managed to stay healthy for the year, something that some wondered if possible when the season began.

Behind Clark last season was former Volunteer Luke Stocker, Nate Byham, Drake Dunsmore and Danny Nobles, none of which showed enough to make head coach Greg Schiano and Sullivan content and confident if Clark isn’t re-signed.

Stocker seemed to play better as the season went on, but still only finished with 16 catches for 165 yards and one TD, and Byham’s 2012 tally was just three receptions for 18 yards and a single score.

Stocker and Byham were primarily used as additional tackles in the running game, and both were good in that capacity.

Below are five tight ends that will be unrestricted free agents when contracts expire on March 12.

Martellus Bennett- New York Giants
If the Buccaneers are able to re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett, it could go a long way in helping recruiting his brother Martellus to Tampa Bay. Maybe the brothers give general manager Mark Dominik a “family package discount.” Although that is unlikely, both Bennett brothers have expressed a desire to play on the same team, so whichever team re-signs their player first, may have an inside track on getting the other brother.

Martellus Bennett has come a long way from his 2008 rookie season, where the HBO series Hard Knocks documented a sometimes lazy and unmotivated player. Bennett didn’t exactly light it up in Dallas, struggling with injuries during his Cowboys career, prompting Jerry Jones to allow Bennett to sign with the division-rival New York Giants.

Signing a one-year, $2.5-million contract last spring, Bennett finally seemed to blossom into what Dallas saw back in 2008, when the Cowboys took Bennett in the second round. Bennett started all 16 games for the Giants in 2012 and notched a career high with 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns.

Dustin Keller- New York Jets
The Jets, like several football teams, are purging their rosters as they attempt to get under the salary cap. Keller most likely will be one of those players who will be playing elsewhere in 2013. The Jets likely want to re-sign Keller, who is an unrestricted free agent, but according to reports out of New York, the scenario seems highly unlikely, given the mess with the Jets’ cap.

Keller is coming off a injury-plagued 2012 season, but when healthy, the former Purdue star put up good numbers. In only eight games Keller had 28 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns, which isn’t too far off Clark’s numbers for the Buccaneers in a full season. Keller, when healthy, can be a featured tight end as shown by his 2011 season where he led the Jets in receptions (65) for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Delanie Walker- San Francisco 49ers
Walker is an intriguing free agent for teams looking to upgrade the position. He has shown versatility since Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011, lining up at wide receiver, fullback, running back and right tackle, and he covers kickoffs.

Walker had a productive season in 2012, catching 21 passes for 344 yards (16.4 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Walker is an excellent blocker but has been overshadowed by Vernon Davis in San Francisco. Walker was recently quoted as saying he would like to stay in San Francisco and continue to play for Harbaugh, but it will obviously come down to money, and what Walker may be willing to accept.

Brandon Myers- Oakland Raiders

Myers had a breakout season last year in Oakland finishing fourth among all NFL tight ends in receptions (79) and yards (806). Oakland very much wants to re-sign the former Iowa star, but Myers may test the free agent market, knowing most likely he will never be as hot a prospect as he is currently.

Myers most likely caught the eyes of the Buccaneers brass last October when Tampa Bay beat the Raiders 42-32 with his eight-reception, two-touchdown afternoon. At age 27 Myers is in his prime and may be one of the most sought after tight ends this free agency period.

Jared Cook- Tennessee Titans
The Titans are interested in retaining the services of Cook, however, the coaching staff shakeup in Tennessee was disappointing to Cook who was close to a couple of the assistants who were let go after the 2012 season. Cook recently voiced his displeasure to the local media in Nashville. The relationship will take a lot patching up between Cook and head coach Mike Munchak. Of course the Titans could always franchise Cook, which is at a very affordable price, thought to be around $5 million.

Cook played in 13 games for the Titans in 2012 and had a fairly productive year, catching 44 balls for 523 yards and four touchdowns.

If Tampa Bay is interested in signing Cook, expect former Titans coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams to also be players when free agency next month.

Other Notable Free Agent Tight Ends

Tony Gonzalez
Anthony Fasano
Todd Heap
Dennis Pitta (restricted free agent)
Fred Davis
Ben Watson

Last modified on Saturday, 09 March 2013 03:15

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  • avatar

    I think the bennett brothers would be great at Tampa-Give that DE big money and his brother plays te in Tampa go bucs
  • avatar

    @Sneedy 16... Freeny was playing a wrong position last year as he's never played OLB before. Yes he is on the downward portion of his career but is still a good player who wants to play in a 4-3 and can be signed for cheap. Plus he is a true pro that can teach the young guys how to practice. I would rather put less money into him than to over pay Michael Bennett with a longer contract and that's what you'll need to do to get his brother. I don't understand why everyone wants another DT in the first round. What does a NT do? They plug up the run. We had the #1 run defense in the league and still couldn't stop teams. Our other DT made the probowl. Sure we need depth but it seems like a bit of a waste to go DT in the first. I'm not big on reaching for a second rate CB since Miller will already be off the board. OL is the second most important position on a team and we need an upgrade at RT that can eventually replace Penn. Dotson is a backup swing tackle at best.
  • avatar

    There are quality OT in the draft that can be had in the 2nd and 3rd round. Signing a one year player who is on the downward part of his career is better than sign a up and coming player? Dwight will not come as cheap as you think. DE like him will cost around 4-5 milliion a year just because of his name. I would prefer going after Paul Kurger or a younger player if Bennett leaves. Teach the players how to practice? That's what coaches are for. Dwight really only had his spin move and speed rush, but that was based off his speed (4.4 combine). You can't teach speed and the bucs Do not have small speed rushers for him to teach to. Dom likes to invest in the Dline, and I am sure he is don't with Colt castoffs. The Dline needs some depth, plus there are good free agent Oline out there. I see Dom either trading down or getting a D lineman.
  • avatar

    Freeny had hours worst year ever this year and still his sack total would have been tied for second on the Bucs this year... and he only played 14 games. To say one of the best pass rushers in the nfl for the last 8 years only had two moves is a bit ridiculous. I guess he made those two moves work really well. Aren't those two pass rush moves that Clayborne should learn as he is known for only bull rushing? Plus I think it would allow him to play the LE which is made for a power rusher and let Bowers split snaps with him and keep them both fresh. I'm not saying Freeny is an all star but he is a short term quality option that won't command a lot of guaranteed money and could teach the young guys what's up. ... both on and off the field. Look what Vjax is doing for M Williams. The top three OT are clearly better than the rest and it looks like there's a good chance one will drop to us. I just don't think there's value to take s DT or a second rate CB. I'd be fine with the DE from BYU or Oregon though.
  • avatar

    And look at Kruger's stats with Suggs and without. He's a product of his surroundings that's going to get overpaid.
  • avatar

    Dwight Freeny always had Robert Mathis.
  • avatar

    He had his worst year in 2007 with 3.5 sacks. Yes second on the Bucs. Bennett hasn't had any injury concerns since he has been here and he had 9 sacks with him and McCoy being the only legitimate pass rushers the Bucs had. Clayborne can really only play the right side or you forgot he has a cerebral palsy on his right side so rushing from his left he will not be as effective. Yes he made those two move work, but now OL has studied the moves and it only works on some Lineman. He has gone weeks without sacks. Average LT like Donald Penn has shut him down the last few years. If you watch the game films Clayborne does more that the bull rush since he has been in the NFL. Dip and rip (speed rush) is now part of his moves. Like I said before that is what coaches are for so, the bucs do not need a roster spot for a coach. I would prefer that the Bucs invest in youths instead of pull in a John Gruden (love him as a coach) and trying to use scraps of retread to make a team. VJax isn't a good example, he was still on the upswing of his career so he was a good investment, plus he got paid what he wanted so he is happy to work. Dallas Clark didn't improve Luke Stocker and the TE group was one of the weakest link on the offense. I'm not saying if a good LT drops to the 13th pick they shouldn't get him, but the Bucs needs to invest some time and money into the defense.
  • avatar

    @ rocketglass Dwight Freeny isn't coming to Tampa. We have enough injury issues with the Dline. Plus he is pass his prime and his sack total has been dropping every year. Oh and the Bucs will not draft a RT in the first round. Maybe a DL at best. I would go for Martellus Bennett due to the fact that he is one of the better blockers out there and who is also a threat at receiver at 6-5. I want a good blocker to help with run blocking for Doug Martin and a receiver for Freeman. Jared Cook and Dustin Keller are good receivers but are ok blockers. Brandon Myers had a great year, but I really don't know much about him.
  • avatar

    Delanie Walker to me has the most bang for your buck..Hes wicked versatile and is a great run blocker which fits into the Bucs scheme perfectly. I think Walker can be a special player as a number one TE and he has shown flashes of it with making big plays at crucial times. To me Myers is wicked overrated and Bennett is not bad but I dont think hes a "Schiano guy". I dont know much about Cook but he seems like he would be a decent fit as well. TE, CB, and WR depth in FA with CB, DT, and O-line depth in the draft and I think this team will have a great shot at the playoffs.
  • avatar

    Perhaps the Pewter Report boys can give us a little scouting report on what the Bucs brass thinks of our group of TE's.
  • avatar

    Jared Cook is a beast, I think adding him would be enormous. Like to have the Bennett brothers but I think we will have our hands full holding onto just Michael. There is a lot of talent on that list, I would be happy with any one of them. I don't want to see us have to draft a TE unless its late. Cook, Myers, or Walker in that order. We're getting one of them.
  • avatar

    Sign Keller and Dwight Freeney to a two or three year contract then focus on RT in rd 1 and CB in rounds 2 and 3. Maybe even trade one or both of our 4th rounders and our second to move back up to the bottom of rd 1 or top of rd 2 if Banks, Rhodes or Trufant slip.
  • avatar

    Good article Mark. A top-notch TE and speed 3rd WR would give the Bucs a truly (almost unstoppable) explosive offense. Any of the 5 TEs you mentioned would definitely be an upgrade...hope we can sign one of them.
  • avatar

    Good Article Scott; I like Walker and Myers the best.
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