Tight end and place-kicker remained two uncertain positions for the Buffalo Bills heading into today’s opening of the free-agent shopping season.
The Bills’ top two impending free agents after safety Jairus Byrd are tight end Scott Chandler and kicker Dan Carpenter. Both are coming off career-best seasons.
The Bills have expressed an interest in re-signing both, but at what price? Buffalo could turn to other options currently on the roster at both positions.
The unrestricted free-agent signing period begins at 4 p.m. today.
A deal with Carpenter figures to be a bit easier to execute. The Bills were not allowed to sign Carpenter before today’s start of the new league year, because he played last year on a one-year veteran minimum deal that gave the Bills salary cap relief.
Chandler ranked 13th among NFL tight ends in catches last season with 53, for 655 yards. That was despite the fact he missed all offseason work recovering from knee surgery.
Chandler played out a two-year contract that paid him an average of $2.75 million a year. That ranked 21st among NFL tight ends.
Tennessee’s Delanie Walker ranks 15th on the tight end pay list at $4.3 million a year. He caught 60 passes for 571 yards last season.
Chandler has outperformed two guys right behind Walker on the pay list — Philadelphia’s James Casey ($4 million) and Tennessee’s Craig Stevens ($3.6 million).
Both of those players were valued for their athletic potential over production at the time of their signings.
Chandler turns 29 in July. This is his best career chance to get a pay raise, which he has earned.
The Bills have options on the roster.
Tony Moeaki, signed in December, is capable of being as productive as Chandler when healthy. But Moeaki has missed two of the last three seasons to injury. Chris Gragg is entering his second season, and Lee Smith is a blocking tight end.
Carpenter, a six-year veteran, had an outstanding season in 2013. He made 33 of 36 field-goal tries and was 4 of 5 from 50 yards or more.
The 10th-highest paid kicker in the NFL is Graham Gano, who last week re-signed with Carolina for an average of $3 million a year. Gano made 24 of 27 field-goal tries last year. He also had touchbacks on a league-best 78 percent of his kickoffs.
Carpenter had touchbacks on 42 percent of his kickoffs, which ranked 25th in the NFL. The league average was 50.6 percent touchbacks. The 10th-best team in touchbacks averaged 58.5 percent.
The Bills would like to take pressure off their coverage unit with more touchbacks. They have strong-legged Dustin Hopkins on the roster. He was a sixth-round draft pick last season but spent his entire rookie season on the injured-reserve list.
Meanwhile, the Bills announced the hiring of Thad Bogardus as a defensive quality control coach.
Bogardus spent the last three seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Ball State University. He’s a 2011 graduate of Elon University in North Carolina.