The tight end position has become a game of the haves and the have-nots. With a handful of fantasy superstars at the position, fantasy owners are looking towards NFL free agency to fill a need on their roster as NFL teams fill a need on theirs. In this article @itsmickyd will break down the free agent market at the position and the teams in need of a tight end
In a 12-team league, only a quarter of the teams will have a superstar tight end. Without the likes of Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, or George Kittle an owner will always be looking for a backup option or an upgrade. Many of the great fantasy options at the position are stepping into fantasy irrelevance. NFL teams are looking to bring in new talent to step into the role and become a go-to receiving threat at the tight end position.
Teams in Need
From @NFLGameDay: As #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski mulls retirement this offseason, it doesn't sound like the WWE is in his future. Perhaps movies, though. … This is very important news. pic.twitter.com/S4obsWijRv
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 20, 2019
Rob Gronkowski has been the tight end to own in fantasy for years coming into 2018. To say that this past season was a let down is an understatement. Gronk has been flirting with retirement for a while now. With only a $2M dead cap hit in 2019, this is the opportunity for the Patriots to let their over-sized frat boy go. Dwayne Allen is the Patriots only notable tight end remaining. It is very likely we will see a move from the Patriots this free agency period.
A year removed from a trip to the AFC Championship, and we are back to wondering what the hell they are doing in Jacksonville. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has claimed he will not be with the team in 2019 so there is a glaring need at tight end. This will need to be filled to help whoever steps in at quarterback to replace Blake Bortles.
It does not seem like it has been four seasons since Jimmy Graham’s ten touchdowns was a downgrade from the year before as the Saints’ tight end. Since Graham was traded, the Saints have been actively searching for his replacement. The Coby Fleener experience was a flop between Ben Watson’s stints with the team (2013-2015; 2018). Although Watson has been a quality receiving option, he is heading into retirement. The Saints will aim to give Drew Brees yet another target at tight end alongside Josh Hill for possibly his last year in the league.
The tight end situation in Detroit could not have gotten any less fantasy relevant in 2018. Matthew Stafford is a gunslinger and his arsenal of receiving weapons was as limited as it gets. Along with targeting a wide receiver in the draft, the Lions should be looking towards the veteran pool of free agent tight ends. This would give their franchise quarterback a reliable target in the middle of the field and in the red zone.
Dallas has a lot going in their favor with their current offensive roster. A need that stands out, however, is replacing the now eloquently tongued Monday Night Football commentator Jason Witten at the tight end position. The current tight ends under contract for the Cowboys will be playing for the AAF sooner than later. Addressing this hole in the offense could be the difference-making decision that will bring them to the next level in 2019.
Free Agent Tight Ends
The Raiders would be unwise to not give Jared Cook a competitive offer or even slap a franchise tag on him prior to the start of free agency. That being said, Jon Gruden has proven that his view of his players is significantly different than other teams see them. As the fourth-ranked tight end in 2018 in both total yards (896), as well as touchdowns (6), Cook will be entering next year as a 32-year-old, highly coveted fantasy asset. His final landing spot will speak volumes as to his fantasy projections for 2019. As his career gets closer to retirement, I will be looking for signs of his priorities moving forward. Some players will chase a championship while others will go after the big payday.
It is not too often that a playmaking 6’7” tight end is available. Height mismatches with defensive backs would be a huge asset in the red zone. Also, James’ quickness will pay dividends versus many NFL linebackers. The only thing that held him back in Pittsburgh is the fact that Vance McDonald was the starter. James leaving will help boost McDonald’s target share with the Steelers as well so look for both of the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends to take a step up the fantasy ranks in 2019.
The football gods blessed Eifert with a beautiful mullet and an amazing tight end size and skill set. With all these athletic blessings, they forgot to upgrade his injury attribute. There have only been two seasons that Eifert played nine or more games (2013:15 and 2015:13). He also has yet to play a full season. This inability to stay on the field is worrisome, to say the least. I will be letting other owners take that risk unless he falls extremely late in drafts. If healthy for an entire season, Eifert has the potential of being a fantasy superstar. As for the Bengals, keep an eye on who they re-sign between Eifert, C.J Uzomah, and Tyler Kroft. Money talks so whoever the team invests more into is who they consider their number one tight end.
ASJ is another available tight end who is seemingly unable to stay on the field. When healthy, however, his ability to create space and win the 50/50 ball is priceless. Seferian-Jenkins would thrive in a high powered offense with top talent over the top at wide receiver to open up bigger spaces for him underneath. Teams like the Saints and Patriots would be ideal fits as both teams have a future Hall of Fame quarterback with the ability to spread the ball around and find the open target.
While some tight ends are vertical receiving threats with their speed and playmaking ability, Heuerman is more of the traditional tight end with a primary focus on run blocking. This opens up touchdown potential in the red zone with the play-action as the defenses will stack the box on the goal line. Heuerman should be a very late draft pick or possibly even undrafted in redraft leagues but could prove to be a decent depth pick up in 2019.