The Vikings were hoping they had found their tight end of the future last year when they committed to a surprising five-year, $18.2 million contract for former New York Giants tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe spent the first four years of his professional career with the Giants as a backup to Jeremy Shockey and was known mostly as the blocking tight end in the Big Blue offense.
But Vikings coach Brad Childress had experience with Shiancoe. Besides Childress' Philadelphia Eagles playing against the Giants twice a year, Childress had worked out Shiancoe before the 2003 NFL Draft, but the Eagles ultimately decided to select L.J. Smith in the second round while the Giants tagged Shiancoe in the third.
Wanting to become more than just a blocker, Shiancoe was all smiles when he signed with Minnesota, looking for his breakout opportunity. But 2007 brought a bundle of pass-catching and offense-learning struggles for him. Despite unwavering confidence off the field, he looked unsure of himself on the field, especially when trying to catch the ball. He finished the season with 27 catches for 323 yards and a touchdown, but for the expectations he and the organization had, he dropped too many passes that should have been caught.
Meanwhile, Jim Kleinsasser continued to provide a solid blocking role and seemed to gain the appreciation of Childress as the season wore on. Garrett Mills, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots before the season began, ended up inactive for the first 15 weeks of the season and then had a solid two-catch game in the season finale to show some promise for 2008.
It all leaves the Vikings with the possibility of signing a tight end, but it's unlikely they will spend big for one in free agency when looking at the overall crop and keeping in mind their contract with Shiancoe. The most interesting part of the free-agent possibilities is that Smith is a free agent, but the Eagles may decided to put the franchise tag on him if they can't work out a new deal before the start of free agency.
We list the unrestricted and restricted tight ends scheduled for free agency in March, with their years of NFL service in parentheses.
Courtney Anderson, Atlanta Falcons (4)
Dwayne Blakley, Atlanta Falcons (4)
Michael Gaines, Buffalo Bills (4)
Matt Murphy, Buffalo Bills (5)
Christian Fauria, Carolina Panthers (13)
John Gilmore, Chicago Bears (6)
Stephen Alexander, Denver Broncos (10)
John Owens, Detroit Lions (5)
Ryan Krause, Green Bay Packers (4)
Mark Bruener, Houston Texans (13)
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts (5)
Mike Seidman, Indianapolis Colts (5)
Richard Angulo, Jacksonville Jaguars (4)
Eric Johnson, New Orleans Saints (7)
Billy Miller, New Orleans Saints (8)
Sean Ryan, New York Jets (4)
L.J. Smith, Philadelphia Eagles (5)
Bennie Joppru, Seattle Seahawks (4)
Marcus Pollard, Seattle Seahawks (13)
Jeff Robinson, Seattle Seahawks (14)
Aaron Walker, St. Louis Rams (4)
Keith Heinrich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)
Jerramy Stevens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6)
Ben Hartsock, Tennessee Titans (4)
Ben Troupe, Tennessee Titans (4)
Brian Kozlowski, Washington Redskins (4)
Tim Euhus, Arizona Cardinals (3)
Ben Utecht, Indianapolis Colts (3)
Billy Bajema, San Francisco 49ers (3)
Bo Scaife, Tennessee Titans (3)
2008 Free Agents: Tight Ends
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