Free-agent exam: Vikings vs. the tight ends

The Vikings are in need of added depth at tight end after the retirement of Jim Kleinsasser and scheduled free agency for Visanthe Shiancoe. We review the top possibilities, including some names that have little chance of signing in Minnesota and some lesser-known names that could add quality depth and fill an important role.

PURPLE REVIEW

Last year after the draft, the Vikings were sitting comfortably at the tight end position. This year, there is work to be done on the depth chart after the retirement of Jim Kleinsasser and the scheduled free agency for Visanthe Shiancoe.

If Shiancoe leaves – he told Viking Update after the last regular-season game that the team and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had preliminary discussions earlier about a new contract – it would leave only 2011 second-round pick Kyle Rudolph left among tight ends who were on the 53-man roster the entire season. Rudolph showed flashes of his athletic ability in his rookie season, making several spectacular catches, but he still finished the season with 26 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns.

Behind him are Allen Reisner, who spent his rookie season on a yo-yo between the 53-man roster and practice squad, and Mickey Shuler, who was signed late in the season and added to the 53-man roster for the final game.

The Vikings will obviously need some reinforcements, especially when it comes to a blocking tight end. Free agency provides several different varieties of starters. We start with a few of the bigger names that are unlikely to sign with the Vikings before hitting on some lesser-known possibilities.

FREE-AGENT TEs

Jermichael Finley – The ultra-talented Green Bay Packer is also ultra-inconsistent. His athletic ability is undeniable, but he was also a source of frustration because of dropped passes. He tied his career high with 55 catches in 2011 and set a career high with 767 yards and eight touchdowns, but, despite being only 25 years old when the season starts, he likely isn't the type of player the Vikings are looking for because of his lean build and lack of blocking prowess. He is also likely to receive the franchise tag if the Packers can't work out a long-term deal with him before the start of free agency.

Fred Davis – In only 12 games, Davis' numbers are comparable to Finley's, but the question is whether he would be a good enough blocker for the Vikings to be willing to invest what it would take to win his services. The answer would appear to be no. He is expected to receive the franchise tag, despite being suspended for the final four games of the season after failing multiple drug tests.

John Carlson – The Minnesota native and former Notre Dame star is the most interesting prospect for the Vikings among the free-agent tight ends. In addition to being a solid receiver – he had 647 yards receiving as a rookie in 2008 and seven touchdowns in 2009 – he is a serviceable blocker. The drawback with Carlson is a history of injuries, from hip and concussion issues during the 2010 season and postseason to a torn labrum that ended his 2011 season before it began.

Scott Chandler – The former Iowa Hawkeye has had his share of stops since entering the league in 2007 – Chargers, Giants, Cowboys and Bills – and didn't have much of an opportunity to prove himself until last year with the Bills, when he caught 38 passes, including six touchdowns. Still, he is viewed as a solid blocking tight end, too, and he likely wouldn't cost too much. The Bills would like to re-sign him, but it remains to be seen if they get that done before the start of free agency on March 13.

Daniel Fells – The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder has bounced from Atlanta to St. Louis to Denver during the first four years of his journeyman NFL career, but he holds a couple of desirable free-agent characteristics for the Vikings. He is becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, meaning he has a lot of years left, and he is considered a strong blocking tight end, a key after the retirement of Kleinsasser. He also has the ability to play some fullback, just like Kleinsasser did. While receiving isn't his calling card, he did have 41 catches in 2010, proving he is capable. Fells battled through hand, ankle, knee and concussion issues in 2011.

Kellen Davis – Davis offers many of the characteristics of Chandler. He is 6-foot-7, nearly 270 pounds and 26 years old. His forte is also blocking, and he would offer the added bonus of potentially weakening a division rival, as Davis has spent all four of his NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears. Last year was also his best season receiving, with 18 catches, including five touchdowns, both career highs.

OTHER FREE-AGENT TEs

Other scheduled free agents: Bo Scaife, Martellus Bennett, Dante Rosario, Craig Stevens, Randy McMichael, Donald Lee, Kory Sperry, Alex Smith, Billy Bajema, Anthony Becht, Kris Wilson, Stephen Spach, Garrett Mills, Leonard Pope, John Gilmore, Reggie Kelly, Matthew Mulligan, Justin Peele, Anthony Hill, Jake O'Connell.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Last year after the draft, the Vikings were sitting comfortably at the tight end position. This year, there is work to be done on the depth chart after the retirement of Jim Kleinsasser and the scheduled free agency for Visanthe Shiancoe. If Shiancoe leaves – he told after the last regular-season game that the team and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had preliminary discussions earlier about a new contract – it would leave only 2011 second-round pick Kyle Rudolph left among tight ends who were on the 53-man roster the entire season. Rudolph showed flashes of his athletic ability in his rookie season, making several spectacular catches, but he still finished the season with 26 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Behind him are Allen Reisner, who spent his rookie season on a yo-yo between the 53-man roster and practice squad, and Mickey Shuler, who was signed late in the season and added to the 53-man roster for the final game. The Vikings will obviously need some reinforcements, especially when it comes to a blocking tight end. Free agency provides several different varieties of starters. We start with a few of the bigger names that are unlikely to sign with the Vikings before hitting on some lesser-known possibilities. Jermichael Finley – The ultra-talented Green Bay Packer is also ultra-inconsistent. His athletic ability is undeniable, but he was also a source of frustration because of dropped passes. He tied his career high with 55 catches in 2011 and set a career high with 767 yards and eight touchdowns, but, despite being only 25 years old when the season starts, he likely isn't the type of player the Vikings are looking for because of his lean build and lack of blocking prowess. He is also likely to receive the franchise tag if the Packers can't work out a long-term deal with him before the start of free agency. Fred Davis – In only 12 games, Davis' numbers are comparable to Finley's, but the question is whether he would be a good enough blocker for the Vikings to be willing to invest what it would take to win his services. The answer would appear to be no. He is expected to receive the franchise tag, despite being suspended for the final four games of the season after failing multiple drug tests. John Carlson – The Minnesota native and former Notre Dame star is the most interesting prospect for the Vikings among the free-agent tight ends. In addition to being a solid receiver – he had 647 yards receiving as a rookie in 2008 and seven touchdowns in 2009 – he is a serviceable blocker. The drawback with Carlson is a history of injuries, from hip and concussion issues during the 2010 season and postseason to a torn labrum that ended his 2011 season before it began. Scott Chandler – The former Iowa Hawkeye has had his share of stops since entering the league in 2007 – Chargers, Giants, Cowboys and Bills – and didn't have much of an opportunity to prove himself until last year with the Bills, when he caught 38 passes, including six touchdowns. Still, he is viewed as a solid blocking tight end, too, and he likely wouldn't cost too much. The Bills would like to re-sign him, but it remains to be seen if they get that done before the start of free agency on March 13. Daniel Fells – The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder has bounced from Atlanta to St. Louis to Denver during the first four years of his journeyman NFL career, but he holds a couple of desirable free-agent characteristics for the Vikings. He is becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, meaning he has a lot of years left, and he is considered a strong blocking tight end, a key after the retirement of Kleinsasser. He also has the ability to play some fullback, just like Kleinsasser did. While receiving isn't his calling card, he did have 41 catches in 2010, proving he is capable. Fells battled through hand, ankle, knee and concussion issues in 2011. Kellen Davis – Davis offers many of the characteristics of Chandler. He is 6-foot-7, nearly 270 pounds and 26 years old. His forte is also blocking, and he would offer the added bonus of potentially weakening a division rival, as Davis has spent all four of his NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears. Last year was also his best season receiving, with 18 catches, including five touchdowns, both career highs. Other scheduled free agents: Bo Scaife, Martellus Bennett, Dante Rosario, Craig Stevens, Randy McMichael, Donald Lee, Kory Sperry, Alex Smith, Billy Bajema, Anthony Becht, Kris Wilson, Stephen Spach, Garrett Mills, Leonard Pope, John Gilmore, Reggie Kelly, Matthew Mulligan, Justin Peele, Anthony Hill, Jake O'Connell. 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