With free agency set to begin in March, Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda and Jake Kring-Schreifels preview the 2017 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus is on tight ends.
Tight end Vernon Davis returned home last offseason, signing with the Washington Redskins on a one-year contract which the 32-year-old knew would give him the option to prove himself in front of his friends and family. And he did just that, bouncing back from a challenging 2015 campaign by more than doubling his production in a variety of categories.
Playing in all 16 games, Davis caught 44 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns, becoming an extremely helpful blocking and receiving option for quarterback Trent Williams and the Redskins offense, especially when starters went down.
Tight end Jordan Reed missed several games with a concussion and shoulder injury throughout various points of the year while Niles Paul was lost to Injured Reserve halfway through the season with a shoulder injury he suffered in London.
The Redskins relied on Davis in the starter’s role and the veteran proved he could still make an impact, something he will market in the next couple of weeks when free agency opens.
“This season has been one of the best seasons I’ve ever had,” Davis said following the last day of the season. “I mean, a lot of surprises and not just surprises, but it’s been unbelievable to be able to play back at home. I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I didn’t know what anything was going to be like. I went in and I stayed positive about everything and most importantly I enjoyed my teammates, I enjoyed playing with these guys every Sunday. It’s been a treat and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My only thing now is just trying to figure out the next steps. I know that I want to continue to play football, because I still love the game and I’m enjoying myself and I’m having fun. I’m like a kid out there.”
Davis is currently the only unrestricted free agent tight end on the Redskins – and the team expects to have a full season from Derek Carrier – but the Maryland product said he would be extremely excited to return to Washington.
“Oh yeah, a second year, third year, fourth year, you name it,” Davis said. “Whatever they want to do, whatever they want to do I’m all about.”
If the Redskins choose to part ways with Davis, there remain some enticing players on the market.
Here is a list of the tight ends currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. ET March 1, via NFL.com:
Matthew Mulligan](http://www.nfl.com/player/matthewmulligan/2507405/profile), Detroit Lions * Timothy Wright, Detroit Lions * Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers * Ryan Griffin, Houston Texans * Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts * Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins * MarQueis Gray, Miami Dolphins * Dominique Jones, Miami Dolphins * Dion Sims, Miami Dolphins * MartellusBennett, New England Patriots * John Phillips, New Orleans Saints * Larry Donnell, New York Giants * Kellen Davis, New York Jets * Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders * David Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers * Jeff Cumberland, San Diego Chargers * Jim Dray, San Francisco 49ers * Brandon Williams, Seattle Seahawks * Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks * Brandon Myers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers * Anthony Fasano, Tennessee Titans * Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins
Coming off a Super Bowl victory, Martellus Bennett still has some tread in the tires after he turns 30 this March. He caught 55 passes for 701 and five touchdowns, helping fill the void left by tight end Rob Gronkowski for the majority of last season.
Bennett benefited greatly in the Patriots’ offense and by being the primary tight end option, bouncing back after a 2015 season in which he caught nearly the same amount of passes but almost 300 fewer yards.
Tight end Jared Cook is another option, though the Packers have reportedly expressed their interest in re-signing him. Green Bay traded for Cook last offseason and got a great investment in return. Cook caught 30 passes for 377 yards and a touchdown in 10 games, proving to be a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers into the team’s postseason run.
While Dwayne Allen might still be the more notable tight end with the Colts, Jack Doyle had a breakout year for Indianapolis, providing some security for quarterback Andrew Luck when Allen was injured.
At 6-foot-6, 267 pounds, Doyle set career highs with 59 receptions for 584 yards and five touchdowns, and the Western Kentucky product hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons.
Another tight end that was limited in a backup role but is capable of producing is Luke Wilson, who had 15 catches last year for 129 yards and two touchdowns with the Seahawks.
2017 Free Agency Outlooks: