Future Free Agents: Tight Ends

With the makings of a strong wide receiving core, the Oakland Raiders tight ends have left a lot to be desired. The group combined for 65 catches in 2006 – not quite the number any team would hope for from its cumulative group of tight ends.

Randal Williams led the pack with 28 catches for 293 yards and he is set for unrestricted free agency. That was the top total over his four-year career that began as an undrafted free agent. Light for a tight end, Williams dropped quite a few passes this year and should be exiled.

Courtney Anderson, a seventh round pick in 2004, caught 25 passes, one more than he netted the year before. He has the size and is a good route runner but the Raiders have to expect more.

John Madsen showed flashes in his rookie campaign, catching 11 passes but wasn't used consistently. He should get more of a chance to contribute in the coming year, especially given his ability to exploit the matchup created when a linebacker or safety attempts to cover him.

None are particularly dangerous, however, and the Raiders need to add to the arsenal, if for no other reason than to provide an outlet for the quarterback that may again be running behind a suspect offensive line.

The need for a tight end is pronounced, but the free-agent market isn't very enabling, especially since Tony Gonzalez signed a rich (read: five-year, $31 million) extension last month with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here are the tight ends scheduled for free agency on March 2:

Daniel Graham, New England Patriots – Talks haven't heated up between Graham and the Patriots, according to reports out of Boston, and a franchise value of $4.31 million has been established for tight ends. That might be overpaying for a tight end who has 120 catches in five years and has missed nine games in the last two seasons.

Eric Johnson, San Francisco 49ers – Johnson has missed two full seasons to injury, but in the 16-game season he did play in 2004, he produced 82 catches for 825 yards, showing his potential when healthy and on the field. However, he also missed three games last year and produced only 34 catches for 292 yards. Any team, including the Raiders, would be paying on potential and rolling the dice that he could stay healthy.

Jerramy Stevens, Seattle Seahawks – With a knee that bothered him much of the season following surgery to repair cartilage, Stevens only managed 22 catches for 231 yards in 2006. The previous season, playing in all 16 games, Stevens caught 45 passes for 554 during Seattle's NFC Championship season. The speed is definitely there to create matchup problems, but he needs to catch the ball more consistently.

Ben Utecht, Indianapolis Colts – With the Colts reportedly in one of the worst cap situations in the league and needing to dish out the dough to defensive end Dwight Freeney, Utecht will be restricted, but he is a tight end that teams might look at hard. He had a breakout season in 2006, catching 37 passes for 377 yards in his third NFL season.

OTHER FREE AGENT TIGHT ENDS

Richard Angulo, Chicago Bears
Kyle Brady, Jacksonville Jaguars
Dwayne Blakley, Atlanta Falcons (restricted)
Mark Bruener, Houston Texans
Michael Gaines, Carolina (restricted)
Kendall Gammon, Kansas City Chiefs
Ben Hartsock, Indianapolis Colts (restricted)
Will Heller, Seattle Seahawks
Zach Hilton, New York Jets
Robert Johnson, New Orleans Saints (restricted)
Doug Jolley, Tampa Bay (could opt out)
Brian Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars (restricted)
Bennie Joppru, Seattle Seahawks (restricted)
Reggie Kelly, Cincinnati Bengals
Brian Kozlowski, Washington Redskins
Ryan Krause, San Diego Chargers (restricted)
Donald Lee, Green Bay Packers
David Martin, Green Bay Packers
Billy Miller, New Orleans Saints
Dave Moore, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Richard Owens, Minnesota Vikings (restricted)
Brett Pierce, Dallas Cowboys (restricted)
Gabriel Reid, Chicago Bears (restricted)
Sean Ryan, New York Jets (restricted)
Blaine Saipaia, Detroit Lions (restricted)
Mike Seidman, Carolina Panthers
Visanthe Shiancoe, New York Giants
Trent Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Ben Steele, Houston Texans (restricted)
Jerramy Stevens, Seattle Seahawks (could opt out)
Tony Stewart, Cincinnati Bengals
Fred Wakefield, Arizona Cardinals
Aaron Walker, St. Louis Rams (restricted)
Randal Williams, Oakland Raiders
Todd Yoder, Washington Redskins


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